Saturday, March 31, 2007

Schools and First Impression

Well! The group of five island teachers has arrived in Mukurwe-ini. We are settled in at our residence unwinding from our second day at our schools. The house is quite comfortable and we are adapting quite well to the African food. Although the bugs are much bigger here than they are in Canada!

We went to the market on our way to our homestead. What an experience! The children were just as overwhelmed by us as we were by our new surroundings. The market was really busy – there are people everywhere! All the children pointed and laughed, then followed us around waiting to shake our hands and touch us. They spoke English greetings to us and were delighted when we replied.

Although we have seen pictures we were still overwhelmed when we walked onto our school grounds. Not many Canadian schools have banana trees or views of mountains and farmland. It is amazing to see how much can be done with so little – and we all wonder why we feel the need to have so much in our classrooms at home.

We were all very surprised to see how well behaved the students were and how attentive they were to their work. The competitive nature of the schools was also very surprising. It is certainly different to assign student work and know that every student in your class will complete it. Kenyan schools are extremely competitive because their marks determine the next step they will take. Their primary exams determine what secondary school they will be eligible for. Moreover, secondary exams will determine where they will go to university or college. It is not only strange for us to be in their school environment – it is strange for them to have us there. They are fascinated by us. Every time we walk into a classroom or assembly and it is not unusual for us to have many shining eyes watching us from classrooms and windows, roadsides and from behind market stands.

The community lends a hand to its schools by cooking meals for the staff, cutting grass, hauling water, and even funding teachers salaries when the school falls short. Even with their primary education being free families still have difficulty finding the funds for their children to achieve proper education. In many cases the cost of uniforms and school materials are too much for the family to afford and they are left with no money for transportation to get their children to distant, better resourced establishments where they can compete to get into secondary schools.

Canadians are held in high regard here. The Prince Edward Island community makes an especially positive impact on each of the schools we teach in. At Mwati the teachers are happy to tell us how the building where the staffroom is located was built by Farmers Helping Farmers. As well, the Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty has recently supplied doors and windows for two classrooms which enable them to safely store their books and materials. At Gathukimundu there are many reminders of the connection the school has to Canada, along with many resources that have been cared for carefully because they have been donated by various groups from home. Just this month, there has been a new laptop donated by Maitland MacIsaac on behalf of the Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty who supplied funds for the purchase. The computer will be of great help to administration for keeping marks and records on file. They also anticipate getting internet service soon, which will help them with educational resources. Staff members at Kihuti have mentioned to Danna and Sara about donations they have received that have helped to buy resources for the school.

Last year’s teachers are remembered fondly and there is still a connection between them and this community. Meredith’s letters that were sent over to friends and past students were received with pride. As well, letters received from twinning schools were received with great pleasure and interest. When there is mention of FHF volunteers (Patsy, Teresa, Ken, John, and past teacher and veterinarian volunteers) our new friends get a look of joy that shows us how much they appreciate the kindness of Islanders.

Although we have only been here for less than a week we feel as though we have experienced it all – but we know that there is still so much to see, to learn, and to experience. This be will the adventure of a lifetime and we look forward to all that lays ahead.

Love from Kenya,
Cynthia, Sara, Danna, Heather, and Ashley J

Monday, March 26, 2007

Quick Update

Greetings from the five teachers in Kenya!

We're sorry that it has taken so long to fill you all in on the wonderful time we're having. Between our weekend excursions and technical difficulties, we've found it hard to find the time to send this update. We are placed in two primary schools and one secondary school and we are all so thrilled by the student's behaviour and the welcome we have received both inside and outside our schools.

We do have a detailed post written, but unfortunately we lack the ability to upload it at this time, so keep checking because we have a lot of interesting things to tell you. We just wanted to let you know that we do occasionally think of home between bargaining at the markets and playing with the children. Stay tuned for more from the temporary Kenyans!
Much love,
Sara, Heather, Danna, Ashley, and Cynthia