The Search for Positive Deviance Schools Continues: Jaslika in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL)

The search for positive deviant (PD) schools in Kenya, commissioned by TWAWEZA EAST AFRICA and spearheaded by Dr. Sheila Wamahiu with a team of JASLIKA researchers, found its way to one of the ASAL (Arid and Semi-Arid Land) regions in Kenya early September, 2017.


Because the PD approach seeks to unearth the wisdom hidden within the most marginalized and vulnerable even unusual suspects with the aim to amplify the same for sustainable organizational and community transformation. The approach strategically looks for “positive deviants”. These are individuals or groups, who in comparison to their peers, employ uncommon strategies and behaviours to find better solutions to problems even when facing serious challenges. Such individuals are ordinarily invisible to others in the community and especially to change agents (Singhal, 2013).

Children in ASAL region displaying their work.
Dr. Purity Nthiga conducting a focus group with students in ASAL region.

The PD approach gathers ideas from different players in an organization, institution or community. Thus, part of the search by JASLIKA involved listening to and learning from children – ordinarily a group that is ignored by many when it comes to generating ideas for solving problems. A lot was learnt. The study report is expected to be out soon.

Interacting with those children truly brought home the meaning of resilience. In the midst of hunger, thirst, walking long distances to school, and myriad other challenges the children can still smile, play and do much better in examinations than many of their peers in other more friendly regions swimming in all sorts of comfort. This goes to show that resilience is about attitude and attitude is a key driver of success. With the right attitude resonating across the three key stakeholders in education, namely, teachers, pupils and parents/community then they can overcome any hurdle to bring transformation to their community through education. From this experience, it is clearly evident that with the right attitude and support every child can scale great heights of success regardless of their circumstances.


Singhal, A.(2013)  Transforming Education from the Inside Out: Positive Deviance to Enhance Learning and Student Retention. In Roger Hiemstra & Phillips Carre (Eds) A Feast of Learning: International Perspectives on Adult Education and Change(P 141-159), Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing