(Above photo – parents waiting to see the teachers)
Another school year; another class of 26 children. This brings the school numbers to 186. The vast majority would not have an education without this school and their sponsors. The £40 per term charged by the ‘free’ government schools is just too expensive for many Maasai.
We have our first male teacher, teacher Nicholas. You may think that this is not a big thing, but to some of the boys it really is. Some of the poorly performing boys in his class are now doing much better and asking for extra work. Maasai society is male dominated, where the men make all the decisions and hold the purse strings. I guess that even the young children soon pick up on this.
Some of the parents have been to school but most are illiterate. This is the first generation of education for many families and it brings its own problems. The teachers notice a big difference in ability between the children of literate and illiterate families and absenteeism can be a problem with illiterate families.
For us, absenteeism is be be discouraged but for the government schools, it appears to be encouraged. We meet a government school child wandering the bush. She has been sent home because she does not have a plastic ruler, costing about 15p. She is given one, so she returns to school.
It’s the Kenyan elections soon so the promises are rolling out. Our rural school was recently contacted for a free connection to the country’s electricity supply, so sometime over the next year we may become connected to the electricity grid through many miles of wire running across the bush. However, we probably won’t use it as the Kenyan electricity supply is very intermittent. Our school solar electricity system is much better and has been 100% reliable. How can a teacher give a lesson involving the internet if it is likely to disappear halfway through?
We built the community clinic in the school grounds in 2014 and initially it was run by a USA charity. We have now taken over the running and funding of the clinic. A consultation costs 35p ($0.50c). Children from the school get free consultations and medicines for £2 per term. Our doctor, Sylvester, comes from the city and is struggling with the bush problems and mentality. If the sibling of one of our school children is ill, the parents often ask the school child to see Sylvester, pretending to have the illness – anything to get a free consultation and medicine! Also, a course of antibiotics is rarely finished; once someone is better, the drugs are kept until the next time someone in the family is ill. Many parents have to rely on their literate children to help with the drug dosage.
It’s parents’ day, when parents come and speak with the teachers about their child’s progress. Not much chance for privacy with this setup.
The orphanage and girls safe house is almost finished with just a few more plumbing issues to complete. The first 4 or 5 children will be starting here soon.
Another cornerstone for our Charity, clean water, is progressing well. Over the past 6 months, another 42 hand pumps have been repaired across Kenya. These are pumps that were installed by other charities but then left. Some have been unused for many years and just needed a simple rubber seal to be replaced; others are more difficult but still serviceable after a few hours work. Eric and his team have taught the local communities how to keep the pumps working so we hope for at least another 5-10 years from these pumps. We estimate that another 10,000 people now have access to clean water.
The solar pump we installed in November 2015 is working well. Many women are walking 3 miles less each way to reach water. The 1 acre food growing plot is now being prepared ready for 80 families to start growing food.
We were fortunate enough to have Jo, a teacher of Steiner methods, perform two afternoons of teaching at the school. As you can see from the photo of Teacher Nicholas’ class, individual learning by rote is the norm in Kenya. So it was great for the children to be immersed in group based, hands on learning. Their project was to produce a map of the school compound thereby teaching measurement skills, scale, coordinates and mapping.
One of Jo’s messages to the teachers was that every task should be viewed as a teaching opportunity and the children should be encouraged to take pride in their school and environment, so we were happy to see these children cleaning classroom windows.
And for 2016? Shortly, we will start the construction of the next 2 classrooms and we will start fundraising soon for additional teachers’ accommodation to house the extra teachers. Four more classrooms and 4-5 more teachers and the school will be finished.
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Helen & Roger March 2016