Where were you when you first heard of social media? Did you even understand what it was? Personally, I took it with a pinch of salt. I thought it was a passing cloud and never could I have imagined that could transform the world as much as it has. It is almost impossible to think that there was a time when Facebook was not a part of our lives. The age-old question remains, has the hold that social media has had on us being to our detriment or has it been a blessing? I say it is a blessing. Facebook’s #SmallActBigImpact campaign reaffirms my opinion because it has opened my eyes to individuals who are doing really impactful things on their social media spaces. One such story is of Samuel Mwaniki, who is a visionary teacher.
Samuel Mwaniki is a primary school teacher from a small village called Ndeiya. He joined the Meru Teachers College in 2010 and graduated in 2012. He is currently teaching English, Social Studies and Creative Arts at Rongai Primary School in Limuru. He is a young man passionate about moulding the lives of his students using education. Back in 2013, he created The Teachers Notice Board, a Facebook group in which he invited his fellow teachers to interact, network and share job opportunities. What started as just a group for friends has transformed into a movement of close to half a million members.
Sam didn’t always want to be a teacher. He had had dreams of going to university and pursuing something completely different. His parents, however, were not in the financial position to cater for his education. They instead suggested that he pursue the less demanding teaching course, which he obliged to. A bit apprehensive about the idea of becoming a teacher, Sam went into college feeling uninspired but that would soon change.
“In college, I met brilliant lecturers who were able to nurture my passion for teaching through music and drama. I, therefore, started attending and participating in drama and music festivals which I really enjoyed. Through the experiences I had in theatre, I was able to make a lot of friends and create networks with my fellow teachers who were also in college.”
Setting Up the Teachers’ Notice Board
After graduating from college, Sam wanted to continue staying connected with the friends he had made in school. Facebook was becoming increasingly popular in the country so he decided to create a Facebook group that could incorporate all his diverse friends to hopefully present them with job opportunities and above everything else, he wanted to create a space that could nurture social and professional networking.
As the admin of the group, he has always kept a close look at the content, to make sure that the group serves its intended purpose.
“The content keeps on changing as does everything in life. Lately, I have seen the direction leaning towards national issues such as the recently adopted Competency Based Curriculum. The members who are mostly teachers who are also parents, discuss the new curriculum, highlighting its future, strengths, and challenges. There are such constructive conversations on the group that the media highlights most of what we talk about.”
The Notice Board often generates conversations that go beyond the realm of the group and Facebook. Sam recalls how members of the group recently sparked the issue of de-localization of teachers which points to how the government always sends its teachers to work halfway across the country from their home counties. This affects the teachers in a social aspect because they are constantly separated from their loved ones by work. Due to the spirited outcry, this issue made its way to the National assembly, giving teachers around the country a steady voice.
A melting pot for all stakeholders
The Notice Board is a group specially designed for teachers and has 80% of its membership in the teaching profession. But the group is not closed off to other professionals who have a shared interest in the education and the welfare of the teachers themselves.
“We have noticed that there are a couple of staff members from the Teachers Service Commission who are part of the group, journalists, print and mainstream media. We have banks and financial institutions that market their loans and services to the teachers. As you can see, our members cut across the board, but the higher number comprises of teachers.”
Motivation and milestones
“I would say it boils down to the greater sense of belief in others. I started the group back in 2013 purely as a networking platform where new teachers would be aligned with job opportunities and share with their fellow colleagues. As the group has grown, I have seen the members take on the group as their own and everyone is free to express their thoughts. Knowing that I created a space that so many trust and feel safe in, is my number one motivation”
The Notice Board is a free open forum for teachers who are looking for work and employers who are looking for staff. Most job vacancies are shared by teachers who are members of the community and within minutes of the vacancy being posted, members looking for work make the necessary applications, whether is through calling or emailing. Sam has personally received calls from employers asking him to recommend teachers to them. Members also share information when the TSC is doing its annual call for applicants so that all teachers are aware of the opportunities. He describes the success rate of teachers getting work on the group as being very high.
Recognition from Facebook
Sam is one of the two individuals in the country who has been handpicked by Facebook to benefit from the Community Accelerator Program which aims to offer valuable training to individuals like him who have vibrant and visionary ideas to change their communities using Facebook as the vessel. 13 Facebook community leaders were picked out of 13,000 applicants from all of Africa. The accelerator program will include a six-month training and funding of up to five million shillings.
“I am absolutely proud of the fact that an organization as influential as Facebook acknowledges the work that we have been doing. It has been eight years now of running the group and I have not seen anyone else giving us such recognition. With the funding, we hope to partner with Facebook to create an online library and resource centre for the teachers.”
A man shooting for the stars
“I see the Notice Board going global. Facebook is the first sign that we are bound for success that goes beyond our borders. For us to get to where we aspire to be, we need support from other organizations and institutions for partnership because education affects the lives of every single. A good way of empowering our teachers.To my colleagues, I would say that there is no limit to the things we can achieve. As long as you are persistent, consistent, and passionate about what you are doing, everything you want you will receive.”
If you are a teacher and would like to join the group here is the link to the Facebook page.
If you would like to find out more about the Facebook Community Accelerator program which helps leaders harness the power of their community to turn impactful ideas into action go to this link – Community Accelerator.
Brian Muchiri is a passionate writer who draws his inspiration from the experiences in his own life and of those around him. He is candid and he seeks to inspire society to be more pro active and vocal about the social issues that affect us. Brian is also actively involved in pushing for awareness and inclusion of people with disabilities through his foundation; Strong Spine.