Africa really is a different world. I’ve been in Kenya for 3 months and have gradually learnt to adjust to cold showers, prolonged water shortages, rice for nearly every meal and excessive attention from locals who shout, ‘Mzungu (white-person), Mzungu, how are you?’ The biggest shock of all though is the bustling, congested, polluted and crime-ridden city, Nairobi.
Here the two worlds of the ‘North’ and the ‘South’ meet. Government officials drive around in their gleaming Mercedes trying to break through the jam of run-down Matatus (small public buses), while men pulling wooden carts laden with foodstuffs or building materials also fight for space on the roads. In the City Centre, women sitting on the roadside selling tomatoes and oranges are over-shadowed by towering office blocks, and cripples begging line the dusty, litter-strewn pavements. On the outskirts of the city poverty becomes even more apparent.
Slum communities stretch for miles, with the biggest one, Kibera housing over 2 million people. The fight for survival is at its peak in such areas. Here, a family of 6 live in a small mud-walled room together, where they sleep, cook and wash. Malnutrition, disease, unemployment and illiteracy have reached shocking levels and yet these people live on with an unfailing hope that life will get better.
It is these underprivileged families, particularly the children that I have come to serve and I hope with God’s grace, to enable them to realise their dreams. I believe education is a key tool for unleashing human potential in the slums, which is why I have been teaching Geography in a secondary school and helping in a nursery in Kibera. It’s painful to see the dirty, ragged and starving little children crammed into a small, dark mud classroom, but what is even worse is the number of small children running around, who aren’t in school. There are numerous reasons, but neglect and poverty are the predominant barriers to education.
I had been thinking for weeks how I could better help the inhabitants of Kibera, when Judi and Matroba, the two nursery school teachers came to me with a request. For years they have had a vision to start their own pre-school and asked whether I would support them in this project. I whole-heartedly agreed to assist them, as it seemed a brilliant idea. We discussed in detail how this project could be accomplished and came up with an action plan.
A short video of Sarah Junior School
Mashimoni, an area in Kibera that has few schools seemed the perfect place to establish the new junior school, especially as a recent fire destroyed much of that community. We have managed to find two small adjoining rooms to rent and some local carpenters are busy making chairs, tables, cupboards and a black board. Our aim is to open the school on 4th September, which is the start of the next term. Time is short, but I have faith that God will be with us in the setting-up process and in the opening of the school. I feel honoured that Judi and Matroba have decided to name it “Sarah Junior School”. They thought “Shucksmith” was too hard for Kenyans to pronounce!
Seeing as our heart is for the poorest children to be enrolled, the school fees are going to be half the standard rate, at just 100Ksh (80p) per month. This includes lunch, which will probably be the most attractive factor of the school, because many parents struggle to feed their children. In fact, in the majority of cases the food we give them will be their only meal of the day.
Obviously running the school in such a way is not financially viable, which is why I have promised to support them in the long-term, as well as for the set-up process. The total cost per month will be between £150 and £200, which includes the rent of the classrooms, food, a salary of £60 each for Judi and Matroba and £10 for the cook. Hopefully the small amount of income from the students’ school fees will be enough to pay for renewing teaching resources, such as books and pens.