Today was our first day of school visits. We traveled over incredibly bumpy, washed out roads that Canadian drivers would never venture down unless they had four-wheel drive vehicles. But there we were in our Kenyan matatu van venturing where no van should be going.
Our first school visit was to Ngetiti Primary School in Gilgil. After a adventurous drive and a wrong turn or two we ended up at the school. Joseph Karanja is the head teacher of the school and has participated in Education Beyond Borders workshops in the past.
The school has 237 students which travel from a radius of 4 kilometers. There are approximately 30 students in each class which we are told is quite low for a typical Kenyan class especially in the younger grades. We discussed how the EBB workshops have helped him and how he promotes the ideas to his teachers. Joseph has begun a lending library in his school which is something different for Kenyan schools as they are usually a place for textbooks or studying. Joseph has received a donation of fiction and non-fiction books for the library but would like books that are more focused on Africa or particularly Kenya. Joseph has also created a guidance room for students that provides a
space for teachers to help students with problems outside of school. The school has received funding from outside donors which has resulted in a school with large, bright classrooms and space for all of the students.
In the afternoon we visited Gitare Secondary School which was started five years ago by parents who wanted a nearby school for their children. Principal John Mwaura has been at the school since last fall when the Ministry of Education assigned a principal and an assistant. The school has 125 students but has grown considerably over the last year and projections has it adding more students in the new term. The students also come from a 4kilometer radius to attend school. The school has no electricity and the cost of 56,000 Kenyan shillings to bring electricity to the school is very prohibitive. The school is very short on resources and classrooms. There is 1 student book to every 4 students and with the school growing they will need more classrooms. We were asked to participate in the term closing ceremonies, which was an exciting end to the day.
There are many similarities between our schools. We discussed the concerns about high numbers in classrooms but Kenyan primary classes can have up to 100 students in a room with averages of 70 which makes our complaints seem silly. The teachers were also concerned about resources and facilities which are a concern at home as well. I’m sure we’ll have many more discussions about the similarities and differences between Canadian and Kenyan schools as the weeks go by.