To balance out my last but one post, one of my fellow volunteers Johnny, came away with different feelings about his time in Kenya. He’s a carpenter, so had plenty to do round the school, and had had a month living in the village as the only volunteer so had had the chance to get to know our hosts much better. Here’s his take on his time in the village, and our attempt to raise enough money to enable Samson, one of the most inspiring teachers at Kimuka Primary School to finish his teaching degree, helping him stamp out caning and improve the kids’ learning and future.
(If you are interested in helping out, please read on, we still have a small amount of money left to raise. If you would like to help, details are at the end of this post. No obligation though, please do read on even if you cannot spare anything, I hope you’ll find it an interesting situation regardless!).
As you are all probably aware I have spent the last 9 weeks doing volunteer work in Kenya at Kimuka Primary School. My time here as been one of the most amazing experiences of my life, being able to help out those less fortunate and meeting some of the most inspiring people that I have ever come across, has filled me with enthusiasm and energy. It is definitely the most satisfying work I have ever done.
During my time here I have been able to see first hand how the school operates and also what areas the school needs help with. Often when looking through problems within an institution, it’s best to start from the top down. Here, the Head Teacher (Joshua), has unfortunately like many of the Maasai men, let alcohol take control of his life. As a result he is rarely present at school (especially when there are volunteers present to pick up the slack). If he is at school, he is drunk. His behaviour is no doubt affecting the school, especially the kids. There is a lack of trust between the Head Teacher and his staff and also with the kids. The most frustrating aspect of this is seeing a perfect replacement stuck working underneath him.
Teacher Samson is an amazing teacher. One who shows unyielding passion for his job. Always going above and beyond for the children, to ensure that they can have any opportunity available to them. He is in charge of all the school projects i.e ‘The Chicken Coup’, ‘The Rabbit enclosure’ and tree planting around the school [which give the kids responsibility, self respect, and teach them non-academic skills]. These tasks are carried out with great care and organisation, and always match his high standards.
Samson does all of this despite having to pick up the majority of the work left by the Head teacher’s absence. He has spoken to me directly about his personal dreams for the school. Listening to him talk about it, you can feel his enthusiasm, passion and drive to help improve the quality of the children’s lives.
I suggested, or rather demanded that he put his hand up to take over as Head Teacher, telling him he would be perfect for the role. He explained to me that it wasn’t as simple as applying to the school board and putting his case forward. Strangely the current Head Teacher is adored and well respected within the community here. As far as I could work out this is because:- A. He is a local Maasai man, one of ‘them’, which Samson is not.- B. Despite the fact he is a drunk, the school is performing the best in the area.
So in the eyes of the local community members, despite how much he drinks, they see it as not a major problem, he is seen to be achieving good results so why change?
In reality, the school is only performing better than the other schools, not necessarily achieving high marks. Many children struggle with basic English and Maths. The room for improvement is huge! In Kenya, strong education is not just important but essential. If the children want to live a life above the poverty line, a solid education is the key. That is why it is so important to have strong leadership and a strong team at the school, so it can grow, and help the children really achieve something for their futures so they can make decisions, if they wish, that will lead their communities out of poverty.
In order to stand a chance of persuading the school board that he is the man to lead the community’s teachers into more efficient ways of working, Samson needs to complete his teaching degree (most teachers in Kenya need only a certificate in teaching to work at primary level). He has already learned valuable skills and methods which he is putting into practice, the pupils regard him highly and parents bring him gifts of valuable goats and traditional jewellery. I have seen him teach and he has a genuine talent for connecting with the kids and engaging them all, not just the brightest or his favourites, and they all trust him.
But his money for the degree fees and required residentials has run out, the small credit limit the government allow teachers has been reached, and if he can’t complete his final year he will have to take up to between 2 and 3 years out until he can get a new loan before continuing with his course. Which leaves Kimuka’s kids being looked after by a drunken Maasai Head who is, along with many of his colleagues, pro-caning and uninterested in what the kids learn, only in the grades they get (and all too often those are achieved by copying or memorising, without understanding of any of the concepts, through fear of caning upon asking a question).
As Samson is not a village elder, nor even a Maasai, he is going to have to show the school board he has ambition and qualifications, how valuable he is to the school – and what would happen if he left. Of course if that happened, all the projects would stop, it would leave only one other teacher who doesn’t teach through the use of caning, and grades would undoubtedly drop as there is no-one else there to fill in for the head. Finishing his degree is his best chance of sealing his ambition to make Kimuka a great rural flagship school and help his beloved kids make a future for themselves.
Johnny has made a brilliant fundraising effort, and he has nearly all of the £850/AUS$1300 Samson needs to complete his course. At the time of writing, we still have £165/AUS$250 to go. If you would like to help and can spare some cash, however little, then please email me on ellyoracle AT gmail DOT com and I will send you details.