The Teaching and Learning of Poetry in English in Secondary Schools in Kenya: An Ethnographic Study of Two Schools in Voi Division
Mwawasi, M. B.
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Concern over teaching and learning in Kenya's education history was first voiced by Binn's Report (1952). In post independent Kenya, the same concern was taken up by the Ominde Commission of 1964 and lately the Koech Commission of 1998. Available literature on poetry reveals that many students in secondary schools find poetry difficult and mysterious. According to Amateshe (1988), many students in our secondary schools have in fact tended to shy away from any discussion related to written poetry. Poetry is usually described as the most difficult genre to understand (Alembi 1998). Teachers and pupils alike experience fear of poetry and this makes it inaccessible, dry and difficult. In many Kenyan schools, love for, appreciation and popularity of poetry continue to wane (Ministry of Education 1992 (b), Hargreaves and Robin 1981). The main objective of this study therefore was to investigate into the teaching and learning of secondary school poetry in English in Kenya. This is an ethnographic study of two schools in Voi division of Taita-Taveta district. Coast province. Being an ethnographic study, the two secondary schools were purposively selected for the study to obtain qualitative data from two (2) poetry teachers and sixty four (64) form three students of the selected schools. Information on the teaching and learning of poetry in schools was obtained through observation, interviews for teachers and a questionnaire for students. Observational data and information obtained by interviews was analyzed descriptively. Simple descriptive statistics involving frequencies and percentages were employed to analyze data was then presented in narrative form. The study revealed that although the two teachers studied were generally of sound academic and professional qualifications, they were found lacking in classroom preparedness. Another finding was that, poetry was not taught and learnt well. At the same time both teachers and students faced a number of problems during the teaching and learning of poetry. This study thus concluded that there were various factors that hinder the teaching and learning of poetry. This study thus concluded that there were various factors that hinder the teaching and learning of poetry in English in Voi division. The study therefore recommends continuous supervision and in-service training for all teachers of poetry. The study also recommends collaborative teaching in schools as a means of sharing experiences by teachers among other recommendations. Among other suggestions, the researcher suggests that further research be conducted with a larger sample in geographical regions other than Voi to determine the extent to which poetry teaching and learning objectives have been achieved in Kenya secondary schools.