The Search for Positive Deviance Schools in Kenya

Since February 2017, Dr Sheila Wamahiu has been leading a team of Jaslika researchers in documenting Positive Deviance (PD) schools in Kenya. Commissioned by Twaweza East Africa, the PD approach is relatively new in the region and to the field of education. Applied largely to the health and nutrition sectors, it is built on the premise that “deviance” is not necessarily negative all the time. There are “deviant” groups and individuals within communities and organisations who not only do things differently, but act outside the usual norms and practices to trigger positive changes. In the context of the Twaweza supported PD study, the focus is on ordinary, day, mixed public schools. It is expected that the study will be completed by September 2017.

Dr Wamahiu’s engagement with Twaweza is not new. Apart from being a former Advisory Board Member of the Kenya Uwezo Learning Assessment, she was contracted to build capacity of its partners in Kenya on qualitative research in 2014/15. In 2013, the UWEZO Regional Office commissioned a study to document the views of “insiders” on the triggers, motivations, and types of actions that citizens are taking to improve the quality of education. The following excerpt is adapted from a report based on interviews of District Coordinators, who are the primary implementers of UWEZO. It focuses on how this group of “insiders” views the effect of their work and their role in the implementation process, as narrated to another group of “insiders”, namely the Kenya-based UWEZO staff.