Nova Academies' different approach to school curriculum - Daily Nation

How Nova Academies strive to produce innovators

Tuesday January 3 2017

From left: Top students in innovation at Nova Academies Adrian Ndiritu, Nigel Mutuku, Gilbert Kwame and Alex Osado at the school's Kikuyu campus in Kiambu County on December 5, 2016.

From left: Top students in innovation at Nova Academies Adrian Ndiritu, Nigel Mutuku, Gilbert Kwame and Alex Osado at the school's Kikuyu campus in Kiambu County on December 5, 2016. PHOTO | ANTHONY NJAGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Anxiety is high among students who will be joining Form One starting next week. Many of the students are already exhibiting deep-rooted fears about their experiences in secondary school.

The fear ranges from change of diet, meeting new friends and leaving behind the old ones, meeting new teachers and being in a new environment.

However, this need not be the case, as exemplified by Nova Academies Boys High School and Nova Academies Girls High School where the students are made to believe that they are masters of their own destinies.

At the boy's school located in Kikuyu, Kiambu County, students are trained not only to be leaders but also innovators.

The boys are encouraged to introduce new methods, ideas or products, to meet and solve challenges by coming up with solutions and thinking creatively.


The students in Nova Academies are taught to think beyond academics and examinations and this has seen them come up with amazing innovations outside the classroom, just in their first year of high school.

Nigel Mutuku, a student at the school, has come up with a solar-powered bicycle made from scrap metal. The bicycle is easy to ride and makes cycling fun, according to Mutuku.

“It (the bicycle) can be very useful especially in hilly areas or over long distances," says Mutuku.

At the centre of the Nova model of education is Nova founder team member Christopher Khaemba, the former principal of the Alliance High School and founding principal of the African Leadership Academy in South Africa.

During his time at Alliance High School, Mr Khaemba enriched a model of instruction that placed students in positions of decision making, discipline, leadership and problem solving.


In this model, students do not always have to look up to teachers and other adults in seeking solutions; they are encouraged to be part of the whole process.

This is the same model that the Nova team of Mr Khaemba (Kenya), Oliver Sabot (USA) and Chinezi Chijioke (South Africa) have embraced.

Speaking to Young Nation this week, students at the school said they are proud to do research and dig for information as they strive to find solutions to challenges.

They said the school administration gives them technological tools and other resources to exploit their potential in an environment that encourages innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership.

If one is good in a certain subject, sport or creative art, one is encouraged and guided by teachers to be better at it.

Gilbert Martial Khame, for example, who is good at sports and music, has been encouraged to put more effort in the two disciplines.


Though just in Form One last year, he was encouraged by his teachers to participate in the 2016 Kenya Music Festival, where he won an award.

Working hard and recording continuous improvement in academic work is the minimum expected of each student at Nova.

“I like it here because I can do what I like most while studying at the same time. I hope to be a professional musician after school,” says Adrian Ndiritu.

Ndiritu has started Nova TV, a project where students research on various topics of interest, record their findings on video, edit the material and then air it for their fellow students at the school.

While it is not a real television channel, Nova TV allows students to showcase their talent and encourages them to research on interesting topics. The videos are viewed during the students’ free time.

“It is a hobby, a leisure activity. In the future I hope to be a broadcaster, which is why I have started early. It does not interfere with my classwork,” says Nderitu .


Gilbert Martial Kwame has focussed on leadership and sports, with a bias for basketball. He says that at Nova Academies the students are taught on how to make a difference in the world.

Alex Osado concentrates on Chemistry, and is the chairman of the school’s Chemistry club.

"The Nova system fits well with the new curriculum, which is why we started another school so that even girls can benefit," said Dr Joy Kiano, the of principal Nova Academies Girls High School.

At Nova Academies, all students are taught to not look up to the teachers or parents for guidance on everything, according to Oliver Sabot, the Nova Academies managing director.

The boys, who work in groups in class, are encouraged to help one another in their class work as a way of instilling the spirit of teamwork.

“If I have a question concerning a certain subject, I can go to the teacher or to a fellow student who is strong in that subject,” says Osado.


Mr Khaemba's team is also involved in the South Africa Schools, where Chinezi Chijioke, the global CEO of Nova/Pioneer Schools, champions this 21st century educational project.

At the South Africa Pioneer Schools, students are trained to handle demanding tasks on their own.

Pioneer Schools, which opened their third campus in Johannesburg last week, have invested in building a culture on campuses that is defined by leadership, innovation, collaboration, excellence and entrepreneurship.

Nation visited the schools in Johannesburg, South Africa, and discovered that the school exhibits a great difference between the Kenyan traditional method of learning and the new model.

In Johannesburg, Young Nation sawstudents and teachers mingle freely as they discussed a wide range of topics. This creates a friendly learning environment.

Mr Khaemba adds that the purpose of the Nova project is to support the work of the Kenyan government through the Ministry of Education.

It is for this reason that the Academies are offering the 8-4-4 system of education that is innovation-driven.