‘We’ve had a busy few days…on Tuesday we took 12 of the children to the Lake Nakuru National Park to see the animals and birds. We got within 50 ft of a mother black rhino and her baby and she remained there for a good 10 minutes. The children were ecastatic! We also saw pelicans, a jackle, giraffe, water buffaloes (many!!) and maribou storks. A sponsor of some of our children provided me some money to treat all the children so on the way home we used some of this money to buy chocolate and strawberry ice cream for all the children. What a treat it was for them – along with cookies. All of these children had never seen the game park so showing them the native animals of Kenya was pretty special.
January 6, 2011… The First Day of School
Yesterday was the first day of school for the children. We made the decision to have them complete the first term in their current school and move into the new home at the end of March, as there is still a lot of interior work remaining. There was much preparation yesterday to get ready, which the children all do almost entirely on their own. Uniforms were retrieved after the month and a half long Christmas break, and washed and hung on the line. School shoes were lined up and polished by the children of all ages (school shoes are mandatory black leather of all shapes and sizes). The back packs were sorted out and one allocated to each child…back packs that bear the names of “Xerox” and “Kenya Airways” and “Microsoft” and in many cases are far too big for small children. But they never seem to notice. Each child was allocated one pencil for the day.
The two cooks are in the kitchen by 5:00 to light the stove and boil water to prepare breakfast. The children woke up at 5:30 and took turns bathing. By 6:30 even the small ones of 5 and 6 years of age were ready and raring to go. Breakfast was millet porridge, some mendazi (a pastry dough that is deep fried) and passion fruit, which tastes fantastic! (Today breakfast was a whole cooked sweet potato and a banana.) The two new boys Colins and Peter did not appear so I asked where they were and was told they couldn’t attend because they didn’t have a uniform. We sorted that out and soon enough they appeared as well with big smiles on their faces. For Collins, who is about 10 years old, it was his first time to go to school ever.
We set out for school at 7:30 – my Mom and Dad and me accompanying them. We all had a child on each hand and more beside them. We sang the ABC’s and played word games as we cut through farmer’s fields on the way to school. It was a beautiful Kenya morning with a slight haze, dew on everything and a brilliant sun beginning to rise.
For the remaining small children and two mentally challenged young girls, we have Teresiah, a recent high school graduate, provide lessons in the morning including story time, singing, learning their letters and numbers and structured play. So everyone got to participate in school!
Education here is almost entirely based off the British system and curriculum. There is a headmaster and “forms” instead of grade levels and it is taught almost exclusively in English (except for one class in Swahili). You can imagine the challenge for these kids to learn a foreign curriculum, with little cultural context in a new language. For example, one of our children Leah was asked to write a composition about her Christmas vacation – this from a child who has no family except her siblings at Nyota and no presents or trips like our kids would enjoy or recount. Their success at school is in no small way determined by their proficiency in English. For some of the children of Nyota it’s a particular challenge as their past has not exposed them to formal schooling and in some cases English. However they are hugely motivated and for the most part are doing well, especially the young children who have the benefit of starting early. Last night we helped them with some of their homework and off to bed by 8:30. Doug and I fell asleep to the giggle of the girls next to our room – feels like being at camp!