Monday, 10 February 2014

Education in Kenya

Today we were invited to Sylvia, our educational scholarship recipient’s, family home. We had to abandon the car and walk across country to reach it.  Sylvia’s Mom did not speak English but greeted us with pride and appreciation.  Her father was deaf and mute and had tears of joy in his eyes, as he came in from the fields to meet us.  They had known over the years that their daughter was able to attend highschool because of the contributions from a group of young cousins in Canada.  They had seen pictures over the years, but had never met the cousins After four years of supporting Sylvia through medical bills and school, Ally and Meg would finally meet Sylvia and her family.
The girls and Sylvia
Grandma sewed Sylvia a new skirt and blouse.  She was not able to keep them at school, but we took
them to her home to leave with her Mom and Dad.
Sylvia was the first child in her family to have had the opportunity to attend highschoolAlthough she has struggled with some health issues, she has made it to her final year and will graduate this time next year. Primary education is free in Kenya, however every child must have a uniform and each month, a small bill is due.  Often the cost of the uniform (less than five dollars) and the additional monthly fees of about a dollar a month, prevents young children from attending school.  Sylvia’s two older siblings had dropped out, her thirteen year old younger brother was in Grade two and her niece was attending school but with much difficulty.  High school is not free, and each child pays about six or seven hundred dollars a year to attend.  Many are lucky to make it to the end of grade eight and very few continue on to highschool.  Unfortunately, a family never quite knows the extent of expenses when their child enrolls in school, and oftenadditional fee requirements prevent many from continuing.  A payment was due today in the primary schools.  It was the end of the month, and the additional teachers required in the schools, which the government does not fund, needed to be paid.  Every child from grade one to six was sent home to collect sixty shillings (about 77 cents) and was not to return unless the fee was paid.  

These are the school uniforms being sold in the market.  They are made from very poor quality
cotton and therefore rip and wear out quickly.  Each uniform costs less than $5.00.
Many uniforms do not fit or are tattered and torn.
The typical class size is about a hundred students, and if the school has good parental support to pay for additional teachers, there would be two teachers as opposed to one in each classroom.  Children crowd around the desks, share resource materials, and have very long days.  I am quite proud to be a teacher.  I love my job, I work hard and take on additional responsibilitiesbut it really doesn’t compare to the job description of a teacher in Kenya.  Their dedication, commitment and ability to teach in such desperate conditions is truly remarkable.  We had the opportunity to meet with the teachers and administration of the four public schools near the village, and the girls attended class. All four schools were overcrowded and faced financial hardship, but all were making a difference in as many children’s lives as possible.  The students receiving educational scholarships were selected from these four schools. 

Ally attending Grade 8.

Meggie joins the Grade 7 class.

Some of the children attending Mauko School.
The Early Education children are provided a mid-day meal of porridge.  The porridge is prepared by a school
cook, over an open fire, in a small hut on the school property.
The educational system here, is like nothing I could have dreamt about.  One of our scholarship recipients had been sent home right before his national exams to collect funds required to pay for the funeral expenses of his classmates.  There had been traffic accident involving the school’s bus and several students were tragically killed.  The accident made national news, but nowhere was it mentioned that students who failed to produce the additional funds to bury their classmates were not permitted to write their final exams.  Exams, which counted for one hundred percent of their final grades! To many, the additional fifty-dollar fee was the end of hope of ever graduating.  After parents had poured every ounce of effort into producing four years of school fees, a tragic accident prevented many from passing.  Luckily, our scholarship recipient was in his first year and was able to continue.  We visited him at his school and all he asked from us was to speak to his friends, so they too could be motivated to continue with their studies, as he was.
Rashid had lost both of his parents and is another well deserving scholarship recipient.
His best subject was Geography, so Mark and he had a great chat.
We have been asked over the years why we provide support in Africa when there is poverty in our own country and province, and we can easily answer that question.  In Canada when they say education is free, they mean it. No child would be prevented from graduating because they had to bury their best friends. No six year old would be sent away from class if they failed to produce the seventy-five sent monthly fee.  And never have I seen children so desperate to attend school than I have here in Kenya.

Despite the hardships people face here, it was rare that anyone asked anything of us, but instead showed their gratification for the projects we were supporting in the village.  Everyone we met welcomed us and shook our hands, many bowing with respect.  The same was the case at Sylvia’s home.  I wept as Sylvia’s mom presented the girls with a bushel of ground nuts (peanuts) and a live chicken, in appreciation for supporting Sylvia through school.  These people, living in such hardship, gave freely of the few posessions they had.  I was overcome with emotion as the girls accepted the gifts, on behalf of the Cousins for Kenya.  It would have been quite disrespectful to refuse.  
Auntie Marilyn and I in tears as the girls accepted a basket of peanuts and a live chicken in
appreciation for supporting Sylvia through high school.  It was an emotional day.
The girls with Sylvia's Dad.  He is deaf and mute, but there was no problem
understanding what he was trying to convey to us.
Sylvia is the hope of a brighter future for her family.  It is up to her to use her education to secure a job,  where her earnings will be directed back to help support her family.  It is the way of life in Kenya.  Auntie Marilyn came to Kenya to teach for a short while and she and six retired teachers were inspired to start a charitable organization to fund educational scholarships.  Their group has grown and along the way Auntie Marilyn shared her experiences with Ally and Meg.  Soon afterwards, Cousins for Kenya was born.  Contributing to an educational scholarship was one of their early initiatives. The educational scholarships are working well in the village. They have provided fifteen children the opportunity to attend highschool, we were able to meet five of them. The Cousins for Kenya have made a difference here as well and hope to add more scholarship recipients to their list.  Afterall, there is no motivation like receiving a live chicken to inspire them to continue their work.

Meggie and Sylvia's Mom carrying the basket of peanuts.
Thank you so much to all of you who have supported the girls and their cousins in their fundraising efforts.  Please know that 100% of your funds have made it to the village and are certainly making a difference. Should you wish to contribute to an educational scholarship or any of the village projects, please let us know! There is so much potential here, and we have only just begun.

1 comment:

  1. I think we have all heard the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." In this case, we see that "A child can raise a village." Bravo Cousins!!


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