Semesa – first Workshop



The first SEMESA workshop took place at the Kenyatta University Conference Centre, Nairobi, Kenya, from the 7th to the 11th of December 2015. This workshop allowed the research teams from the 3 partner institutions (University of Brighton, Kenyatta University and Moi University) to meet and discuss the next stages of the project. It was also a fantastic opportunity to meet our mentors from the 12 selected schools in the Wareng and Ruiru districts in Kenya. Mentors, research teams and our mentor trainer Doina had an excellent time discussing mentoring, while creating lasting bonds.


Semesa Gender Equality Strategy


This teacher mentoring research and development (R&D) project is primarily concerned to advance the professional learning and development of early career primary and pre-primary educators in general and women educators in particular. This, in turn, is intended to positively impact the learning, education and life chances of both girls and boys in Kenya. Gender equality issues are thus central to our project aims, which are consistent with the DFATD and AKFC Gender Equality Policies on seeking to promote equality between women and men, and more specifically to:

(1) Promote the equal participation of women with men in decision-making;

(2) Support women and girls so that they can fully exercise their rights; and

(3) Reduce inequality of access to and control over resources.

Gender dimensions are mainstreamed insofar as gender equality is a priority that is integrated into all stages of our project, from our research aims above, through projects inputs and processes, to project outcomes and outputs.

We elaborate below on how gender education and gender inequality issues are being and will be addressed throughout the lifetime of the project.


At the outset of planning the project we sought to ensure that we were able to constitute an inclusive, gender sensitive research team. The Principal Investigator, Professor David Stephens, has conducted a number of research projects in sub-Saharan Africa on issues of gender and education (Stephens, 1998). Between 1994 and 1996, David was Education Adviser for the Department for International Development (DfID) education improvement project in Ghana, during which time he managed a range of government funded projects relating, for example, to girls dropping out of school, which pioneered innovative gender analysis approaches.

Dr Patricia Castanheira, who is the project manager and Gender Ambassador, is an experienced researcher who has specialist knowledge of and has published on gender in leadership and other aspects of education (Castanheira & Costa, 2008).

The project also benefits from the expertise of an internationally renowned mentor trainer (Doina Fleanta), and mentoring and mentor training expert (Dr Angi Malderez). Doina will act as a role model for women teacher mentors, who in turn will serve as role models for women teacher mentees, who themselves will provide role models for female pupils, whilst also educating both girls and boys and strengthening perceptions of gender equality in schools.


Gender dimensions are incorporated into our processes for designing, planning for, enacting and evaluating our teacher mentoring intervention in many ways, some of which are outlined below.

Participating Educators

We have deliberately selected a larger number of female than male mentees and mentors in order to:

  • In the case of mentees, ensure that female teachers have opportunities for professional and career development
  • In the case of mentors, ensure that skilled practitioners with the requisite skills to be successful mentors are both provided with opportunities for their own career progression and seen to be holding influential roles within the education system.
  • Avoid a common gendered pattern of male teachers acting as mentors to female teachers.


As part of their training and development, mentors will be trained in seeking to identify and address any gender-related barriers to educators’ learning and development, and there will also be a focus on gender issues relating to educators’ work in schools and classrooms.

During the planned ‘micro-workshops’ between the two phases of the mentoring intervention, the mentees themselves will also receive mentor training which will include the emphases on gender issues referred to above. This will help to ensure a lasting impact of the project in terms of benefits for other early career educators as well as mentees’ pupils, beyond the end of the project.

Gender ambassador

All participants associated with the project will be informed that they may contact our named gender ambassador for the project, Dr Castanheira, should they have any information or concerns relating to gender issues. This enables the research team to identify and deal with, as appropriate, any potential concerns about prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of gender, and to educate participants as a means both of avoiding this and dealing with it if and when it arises. Our gender ambassador will lead a session on gender issues with mentors and other stakeholders at the first workshop (December 2015), and with mentees at the second workshop (July 2016).

Research design

The interview and focus groups methods of data generation will include specific questions and prompts on the potential influence of gender issues on the success of the mentoring programme, and gender will be one of the issues explored via the research team’s thematic analysis of all datasets. Whilst selecting a majority of female mentors and mentees, we are selecting a sufficient number of male mentors and mentees to facilitate meaningful comparisons and enable us to examine potential influences of gender on the success of mentoring relationships – e.g. other things being equal, are same sex pairings more effective than mixed pairings?



Through the various activities outlined above, all participants in the project – and those whom they teach in schools – will be enabled to be more gender aware and sensitive, e.g. to considerations of power relations, equal opportunities and inclusivity, and potential discrimination.

We intend and expect that our R&D project will have a positive impact on the educational and social environment in general and the life chances of female educators and pupils in particular, in Kenya and (via our dissemination activities and plans for scale-up) further afield.



Castanheira, P., & Costa, J. A. (2008). “O presidente do conselho executivo como líder pedagógico e gestor administrativo. Reflexões sobre o quotidiano de um professor gestor”, In J. A. Costa, A. Neto-Mendes & A. Ventura (org.). Trabalho Docente e Organizações Educativas. Actas do V Simpósio sobre Organização e Gestão Escolar, Aveiro, Universidade de Aveiro, ISBN 978-972-789-281-5


Stephens, D (1998). “Girls and Basic Education in Ghana: A Cultural Enquiry”, International Journal of Educational Development, Vol. 20, No.1, pp. 29-47

What is Semesa?

This research and development (R&D) project is funded by the Aga Khan Foundation under the SESEA program. This R&D project will focus upon SESEA components 1 (Professional Development of Educators) and 2 (Strengthening of Education Support Systems and Institutions). In doing so it will address research priority theme 2 (Teacher Development), which will also realize benefits for theme 1 (Teaching and Learning). International research evidence shows that effective teacher mentoring has a positive impact on teachers’ capability (Lindgren, 2005; Hobson et al., 2009), and that high quality teaching and teacher education contribute to raised levels of student learning (Bramwell et al., 2014).

This study seeks to develop new theoretical understandings of the relationships between pedagogy, culture and effective schemes for mentoring new pre-primary and primary educators. At the same time it provides a pedagogic model for the identification, development and support of effective mentoring practices by establishing a research partnership between the University of Brighton and two leading Kenyan university schools of education. Despite the improvements in student enrolment and attendance in East Africa and worldwide, many children are still not achieving desired learning outcomes (UNESCO, 2013). In recent decades, a convergence around learner-centered pedagogy has been observed at a global policy level, with numerous low-income countries initiating reforms to adapt pedagogies imported from the West. Nevertheless, there has been relatively little attention paid to how teachers in low-income countries can be supported and mentored to improve the quality of their teaching (Stephens, 2007).

The overriding aim of the proposed study is to design, implement and evaluate a contextually appropriate research-informed teacher mentorship programme which would: strengthen existing methods of preparing primary and pre-primary educators; enhance newly and recently qualified teachers’ knowledge, pedagogy, effectiveness, wellbeing and retention; have a positive impact on the learning of pupils taught by mentees and mentors; bring lasting systemic effects through developing the capacity of both teacher educators and researchers across Kenya and East Africa.

Twelve school-based teacher mentors will be appointed and trained (by a leading international mentoring and mentor development authority) to mentor 48 pre-primary and primary educators in schools in two zones in Kenya which reflect differences in location i.e. urban and rural, and socio-economic status.

The project will positively impact five groups of beneficiaries: mentors and mentees working in the project schools; the children taught by those mentees and mentors; the participating two Kenyan universities through informing their initial teacher education programmes and building research capacity; the Kenyan Ministry of Education and donor communities through policy contributions to raising the quality of teacher education and development (Hardman, F; Ong’ondo, 2010); and the research community in providing a robust evidence-base for the development of teacher mentorship theory.

Research outputs will include: a curriculum for a mentoring course for inclusion in Early Childhood Development Education programmes in participating ITE institutions; a strengthening of the existing teacher mentoring course at Kenyatta University, a good practice teacher mentoring guidebook; several journal articles and policy briefs; and a developed plan for scaling up the project nationally and internationally across East Africa.