The Importance of Reading.

“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray
Go throw your TV set away
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall…”
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roadl Dahl

Over the years, parents ask, “What can I do to help my child improve in school?”  The answer has always been, “Get them to read more. Less screen time, more book time.” 

It is a known fact that watching a film or playing a computer game is like eating junk food. The images and story are already formed – the imagination sleeps – and craves more of the same – like we do sweets. However, when reading a book, the imagination is alive. The characters form in our minds along with the settings, the colours and tones of conversations, and we actually feel alongside our characters. The benefits of this intellectual endeavor are countless. Not only are our imaginations alive and working, but we are also improving our spoken and written language. We all spend far too much time on our phones – texting,  whatsApping,  sending messages on Facebook and on other social media, like Snap Chat. All of this erodes our writing – which isn’t always ‘gr8’….!? Spelling is degraded and vocabulary erodes into a plain about as varied as a Martian landscape.

Reading also teaches us empathy and develops analytical skills. We walk in other worlds, creating empathy, searching for truth. As Malorie Blackman, a well know British children’s author says,  “Reading is an exercise in empathy, an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while.” 

Students are encouraged to use good, old fashioned dictionaries, rather than a quick google search, because it is a bit like fishing. Along the way, one stumbles across other words caught in our search net. This again helps to increase our vocabulary. 

With this in mind, BISA has extended the library and we encourage our students to read. Students in the sixth form retreat to the library to study. KS3 is allocated reading time. Tutors encourage their students to read and we take an interest in what books they are reading. Many spend long hours on a bus, a perfect time to finish a chapter instead of lining up different colour sweeties in a game of Candy Crush!

It is important to ask your child what he or she is reading and take an interest. “Oh! What’s your book about?” At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter the genre – whether it is the Guinness Book of Records, a good comic like Asterix and Obelix  or a riveting Jane Austen – as long as at least 30 minutes a day is spent reading. It becomes very obvious in a classroom which children read. They are far ahead of others who don’t, academically and empathically.

As teachers and parents we must encourage reading – the doorway to imagination and creative, intelligent thinking. For the little ones, reading a bed time story is one of the best ways to end the day – leaving them with stories for dreams and a feeling of security and safety. For the older ones (including us teachers and parents), there is nothing quite as lovely as jumping into bed with a good book. If it means having to switch off the internet (to stop those midnight sessions of Fortnite (note spelling!?)) then do it. The benefits of reading are countless and your children will thank you for it. It is, quite simply, a gift.

Some links:

A brilliant talk by Rita Carter on the importance of reading:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muuWRKYi09s

A lovely talk on how books changed a life:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ibCtsHgz3Y

A Tribute To Mr Mokua

It has been a very sad way to begin out new year at BISA by saying a final farewell to our much loved BTEC teacher, Mr Alex Mokua, may he RIP. 

On Thursday 29th August, the school held a memorial for him. It was lovely to see so many parents and some ex BISA students attending. It was a very emotional and poignant tribute with many students standing up and sharing stories about how beautifully he affected their learning and their lives. 

After all the spoken tributes, the school gathered around the table tennis area, and planted a mango tree for Mr Mokua. The students also buried some symbolic trinkets with the tree: a ping pong ball, as we all know what a star Mr Mokua was at the game and how he would spend many hours playing with the students, improving their games; a coffee mug remembering how Mr Mokua would come into the classroom on cold mornings with his shuka wrapped around his shoulder, clutching a hot cup of coffee; a Manchester United badge, for obvious reasons and a letter of gratitude from KS4 students. 

Ms Rogers also read out a beautiful tribute, shared below. This was also read by Mr Magambo who travelled to Kenya for the burial. 

ALEX MOKUA

Alex joined Braeburn 8 years ago from Premier Academy and immediately impressed our Head teacher with his knowledge and passion for learning. Anyone who knew Alex would agree with us that he was a walking encyclopedia! He talked knowledgably about such a wide range of topics from Kenyan Politics, Philosophy, Ethics, Technology and sport, to name just a few. Not surprisingly, he was then able to teach a wide range of subjects to a very high level including Geography, Environmental Management, Economics and Business. But it was with Business that he really made his mark in our school: He set up and developed our highly successful BTEC Business programme to further hands-on and practical learning. Through this programme he nurtured many young men and women who had begun to lose confidence in their ideas and their ability. He motivated and inspired them to believe in themselves and find success. Many of these young men and women left us to become successful business men and women, inspired in part by his belief in them, and as a result his students are now scattered across the world. Huge numbers of these young people join with us today in spirit to mourn the loss of an inspirational man, knowing  that their success was, in part, as a result of his training, his encouragement and his mentoring. Furthermore, his knowledge of Nairobi and his incredible networking skills also enabled him to set up our extremely successful  work experience programme that had a positive impact on so many and was often one of the highlights of being in the sixth form. 

But Alex was so much more than just an inspirational Business teacher: He was a wonderful story teller – telling tales of his numerous adventures in Nairobi, that would capture the imagination of both students and staff alike. He was proudly patriotic and wanted us all to see how amazing and advanced Nairobi is. He was also hugely competitive, whether in debates or in playing games like chess, snooker or football – but the game he made the greatest impact on in our school – was ‘Table Tennis’. He spent all his breaks, lunch times and after school playing and coaching students in the game and they loved him for it. I think it was Mercy who once described our school as ‘a school of second chances’ and Alex absolutely believed in giving young people a second chance. He would get alongside students who were going through a difficult time and who were displaying challenging or difficult behavior and through patience, wisdom and kindness, he would encourage them to get back on board and to engage. As a result, whilst he was in charge of our upper school, not one child got into serious trouble. He managed to pre-empt and deal with every issue before it ‘exploded’ or got out of hand. And our young people recognized his belief in them. When asked what they loved about Alex, a number said: “He listened and always gave us a chance.” He got alongside young people, instead of condemning them, and diffused difficult situations with his wit and good humour and this in turn earned him the school’s respect.

He also made a huge impact in our boarding house: Not only did he help students with their homework once a week but he acted as a surrogate father to the 15 and 16 year old boys, taking them out to watch football or eat nyama choma to give them some fatherly advice at the same time. Alex was loved because – in the student’s words: ‘He was so real.’

To the staff of our school Alex was supportive and fun. He was a great member of our team who freely gave of his wisdom and experience and we all are so grateful we had the chance to know him, to work with him and to see him as our brother.  Alex left us at the height of his career in education: celebrating the best Business results we have ever had; being recognized by our exam board as the best Business teacher in the world; winning $1000 for the school through his work with the Young Enterprise group that he set up. He has certainly had a positive impact on our school.

One of our parents told us: ‘Death can never take a good man away, for, in the hearts of the people he inspired, the legacy remains and continues throughout generations’ and that is true of Alex – He has had a positive impact on so many people across the world. 

There is a huge Alex Mokua hole in our school now that will never be filled. Yet we have recognized this week that he will always be remembered: We see him in the bright red shukas outside of the school gate; we hear him through the laughter and banter round the table tennis table; and we hear of the impact of his teaching through the messages we get from our students in numerous businesses across the world. His positive presence is felt in his room, and across the school and the effect of his kindness is seen in all the children who made it over the world – in spite of all the challenges they met on the way.

Like all of you here, in our little school in Tanzania, we joined with you in spirit in mourning the loss of a very good man, who meant so much to all of us. There has been a lot of sadness and tears but whenever we start sharing our memories of Alex, there’s inevitably been a lot of laughter too. And this is how we at school remember him: Alex lived life to the full, he enjoyed his work and he loved being around young people. He was approachable, wise and real. He didn’t squander the life that he had in grumbling and negativity but he made the absolute most of it, seeing the best in young people and hope in the future, and perhaps this was his departing message to us all.

Great Success for BISA LAMDA Candidates Again!

In June 2019 72 BISA  primary and secondary students took part in a variety of LAMDA exams, which included Public Speaking, the Speaking of Verse and Prose and Acting. These exams all help to develop communication skills, which are invaluable in today’s global world.

In the primary school, 100% passed with merit with 92% gaining a distinction. Fabulous! We have taught LAMDA for a number of years across the school, and our teachers are experienced with a real passion for the programme. Our students consistently get great marks but we prefer to place emphasis on the process rather than just the result. We never pressure our students to the point where drama, presentation and public speaking stops being enjoyable and enriching.

Our warmest congratulations go to these students who achieved a 100% pass rate. As you can imagine, it takes a team of teachers to support students in their preparation and thanks go to Dalinda Juma and Linda Shamalla in Primary whilst Elvinah Obuya, Janelle Doria, Emma Morton and Miranda Rashid were instrumental in Secondary.

LAMDA certificates will be handed out in assembly for Secondary students on the 6th September 08:00 on the amphitheatre and for Primary students at 2.45pm. Parents are welcome to attend.

We had sixteen bronze medal students (grade 6), three silver medalists (grade 7) and seven gold medalists (grade 8). Grade 6 and above qualifications count for university entrance in the UK, in some instances, and are considered favourably by all universities and future employers. Special mention goes to Derick Lawuo 95% and Marion Mtei 92% in the gold medal category and Vaidehi Soni with 97% in the bronze medal category.

The categories will be analysed separately:

Public Speaking 24 students:

13% Pass

33% Merit

54% Distinction

Speaking of Verse and Prose 32 students

Merit 23%

Distinction 77%

Acting 16 students

Merit 69%

Distinction 31%

 

Fond Farewells and Welcoming New Faces!

After a busy and fruitful year at BISA, the time has come to say goodbye to members of our teaching staff who are moving on to new chapters. This year, we are bidding a fond farewell to the following members of our team:

(Clockwise from top left)

Mrs Elle Peterson, our much-loved Primary Music Teacher, is moving on this year andMr Edgar Weche, who has been a member of our Secondary Geography Team, is also bidding farewell to BISA this year. Our Primary 3 Teacher, Mrs Lea Kinzer, is leaving us to go to the UK to take up her Masters studies and Mr Asher Sijenyi, one of our longest serving members of the Secondary Team, is returning to teach in Kenya. Mrs June Odhiambo, our FS2 teacher in Early Years, is also heading to Kenya to teach in one of our sister schools there. Mrs Allison Wallace and Mr Rob Wallace will also be moving on to new adventures this year after long careers in teaching. Luckily for BISA, Mr Rob Wallace will be teaching Geography for one more term before leaving. Ms Lynsey Logan, a member of our Early Years and Primary Team, is also leaving us for pastures new this year as she heads to Vietnam.

The BISA Family will miss you all and we wish you all the best on all your new adventures!

With every goodbye, comes a hello! In Academic Year 2019/20, we will be welcoming five new members of staff to our school.

(From left to right)

Ms Tania Travas will be joining our Early Years Team teaching Creche. Ms Alice Newling will be joining us from the UK and will be teaching Year 6 in Primary. We are also welcoming Ms Sarah Griffiths, also from the UK, as a member of our Secondary Science department. Ms Ruth Namara-Karati will be coming across the border from Uganda to take up the position of Primary Music Teacher. Ms Shabana Sumra will be joining us from the UK in January next year to take up the role of Geography Teacher.

End Of Year Secondary and Primary Prize Giving

It is always with pride, that at the end of the year, we have our academic and sports prize giving in assembly. It is wonderful to see how well our students have done all round. Here at BISA we believe in a diverse range of achievments, not only academic. We also recognize progress and encourage each and every individual to always give of their best.

Within Secondary, it is amazing to see how far we have come in the sporting world. Literally the majority of students were called up to be recognized for their sporting contributions  - putting BISA on the map in the inter schools competitions. We have won the inter school cross country for two years running now, an achievement of which we are hugely proud!

We also reflect on the year that has been, celebrating the mountain climbs up Mt Meru and Kilimanjaro, the achievements of the International Award Students (hiking for 80kms in the hot Babati hills), the KS3 trips to Sagana (white water rafting and rock climbing) and Zanzibar (learning about the fascinating history of our special Tanzanian island and enjoying the paradisical beaches and ocean).

In Primary, our children celebrated by presenting some of their favourite things they had learned over the year. From poetry to traditional dances to a full Roman re-enactment, it was amazing to see the broad spectrum of learning that had taken place over the year in Primary. Prizes were presented for achievement, progress and commitment and effort throughout the year. Some fond farewells were also said to classmates moving away from Arusha and also a big thank you to some members of staff who have made our year so successful.

All in all, it has been another action packed year here at BISA and we all feel very satisfied, happy and proud of all our achievements.