Photo above – children outside their hut. It is impossible to go for a walk in the bush without children rushing up to us. Many in the area go to our school so they are used to our white faces. They say to us ‘please go and greet my sponsor’ not realising just how spread out the sponsors are in the UK, USA, Europe & Australia. Greeting someone is very important in Maasai culture.
Sadly, one of the boys (Joseph at the front of the photo) staying in our orphanage died a few days ago. Initially, he was diagnosed with meningitis but eventually the diagnosis was changed to rabies. Joseph was bitten by a cat in August when he returned to his relatives during the school holidays. After the bite, the family took him to a clinic but they only had enough money to pay for one injection – a full anti-rabies treatment is a course of 4 or 5 injections. When he fell ill, our school took him to hospital and then a further 3 hospitals for his treatment. Sadly he died after 4 days in hospital. The total hospital bill came to £4100 – enough to bankrupt most Kenyan families. Just to put £4100 into perspective, it is about 2 years salary for a junior teacher. The hospital will not release the body until the bill is paid. The community are organising a fundraising to try to collect enough money for his hospital bills and funeral costs.
Because of the high cost of medical care, treatments tends to be a mix of Western medicine and traditional methods. A Maasai new mother is given a large cup of liquid sheep fat, one month after birth, to help her rebuild her strength. This is often mixed with pumpkin seeds or a little salt to help – and I quote from Lemaiyian “to stop her puking it up”.
The girls are getting older and this brings its own challenges. Last year we built a new toilet block for the older girls and this includes a sanitary pad changing area. We have recently built an incinerator for the used sanitary products, visible on the right of the photo. Sanitary pads are expensive. A sponsor recently donated some reusable sanitary towels so we will trial them soon.
Next year (November 2020) is the first year that the school will sit the official end of primary school exams. Up to now, our children have been too young to go to high school. We are expecting some good marks – remarkable when you consider the backgrounds of most of the children. They are unable to do any school work at home due to a lack of light and evening chores. To help the exam class, the entire class will be boarding for their final year (January to October 2020). We have tested boarding for one term and have seen some good improvements in the children’s marks.
Kenya has recently introduced a new curriculum. The old curriculum was based on learning facts; the new curriculum is based on learning skills. We currently have a mixture of both curriculums at school, the older children on the old curriculum and the younger children on the new. It does mean extra work for the teachers and we are having to buy subject books for the older classes that we know will be obsolete in a few years time. Although Kenya has introduced the new curriculum, it has given minimal training to the teachers about how to teach skills. Scottish head teacher Margaret has spent about 2 months this year in Kenya helping with the transition from old to new. She has also built and equipped the library shown in the photo above and has helped the youngest classes adapt to children learning through play as this short video shows.
Dr. Martin Hine, an Ipswich based head teacher, spent a week in Kenya training the teachers on how best to use the school’s 54 Chromebook laptops. The use of computers in Kenyan school is new so even newly qualified teachers have had little instruction in how best to use computers in lessons. The new curriculum relies heavily on computers. Our computer system is very slow by Western standards but it is vastly superior to other Kenyan schools. To access the internet in this rural location we have had to build a solar powered satellite link.
The school lunch is the highlight of the day for most children due to little food at home. We try to grow as much as we can at school to stretch the budget. Greens are a nutritional part of the diet and grow easily with sufficient water. In the photo above, the greens are eaten with ugali – a traditional African staple made from maize flour.
Another day, another pump repaired. Many of these pumps have been broken and abandoned for 10+ years. So far this year, Eric and his team have repaired more than 190 broken pumps. We aim for 200 repairs per year but this year we should easily exceed our target. The average cost of a repair is £250-£300 each, so much cheaper than a new pump and well. The Eagle Foundation kindly funded this year’s repair costs.
Finally, a few videos about the school (just click on them to view)
There are additional videos about the 2019 school closing ceremony here.
You are welcome to leave a comment below. Thanks everyone for your support as without you, this work would not be possible.
Helen & Roger November 2019