Karen and David drove me up to NGecho Secondary School in Chokereria. This was my main reason for coming to Kenya – to visit this school. We had a bit of difficulty finding it so rang the Principal, Robert Mwangi and he gave us directions. The Principal was very impressive, he was dressed very smartly and had a strong handshake. He came highly recommended by Andy Berry of Touraid. We sat in his office and over a few hours discussed all the details for the gap year placement: he would like 4 gap year students/people on career breaks to coach sport from 400pm till 500pm Monday to Friday but also to assist the teachers in the classroom between 800pm and 400pm. He would like them to stay for a whole term 12/14 weeks.
I had a tour of the school and met some of the teachers who were all impeccably dressed. The Principal strongly encourages a smart dresscode and all the pupils looked very smart too.
The buildings were only a few years old and I was shown the plans to build another two long buildings – one to be more of an administration centre and the other a sports hall/assembly hall/dining room. This new phase is just about to start. Some new toilet blocks are just being finished off at the moment together with the sewage system. There are also plans for a rugby pitch with a running track around the edge as well as a hard court for netball, tennis and basketball. It appears that there is a board of trustees that are donating the money for building all of this which will make this school quite unique as it is situated in a very rural area and will eventually have unrivalled facilities. Most of the children come from very poor families, many leave home very early to get to school and arrive home very late. The Principal said that he had about 25 orphans at the school and some of the children could not afford the lunch fees but were not denied the meal. I had a look at the temporary dining room and kitchen – that day they had ugali (not my favourite staple) and these vegetables called “sukuma wiki” which means “last all week”. They are a kind of greens and I had already had them with every meal since arriving. There may have been some meat, but I didn’t see it.
The sporting facilities are very non-existent at the moment. There is a huge field at the top of the hill with fabulous views all around where you can play football or rugby but the ground is not flat and you will need to mark out the pitch. There are two poles either end which mark the goals. The netball is also on the grass and not flat. This is Africa and improvisation is the name of the game. There was also a volleyball net. At the moment, I do not know when the new sporting facilities will be started or finished and during that stage there will be a lot of disruption and sport will have to be very flexible!
I suggested that the gap year students could also teach rounders and cricket as this would be relatively easy. We will need to get out the equipment to them for this. The Principal said that they need help with kitting out the school with football boots/rugby boots for the boys to wear at matches as none of them can afford to buy some. This is something that the gap year students could do – collect up any old boots and take them out when they go.
The other immediate need that the school has, is for some football/rugby kit for the school team to wear when they play other schools (which they do) which will belong to the school. Some thought needs to be given as to colours and design. This will need to be discussed with the Principal. I would imagine the same is needed for the girls when they play netball.
The school has been waiting for some years to be connected up to the national grid and so even though they have lots of computers, they are all covered up awaiting the Big Day. The science labs are impressive and they have a generator that they use when they need power. The gap year students will need to help either with the sciences, maths, English or maybe they have a special skill that they could teach such as music or drama.
In the afternoon we visited several houses and finally decided on one bungalow where a lovely lady called Anne lives whilst her husband is working overseas. I believe she is a head teacher herself and is used to having people living with her. She has two bedrooms to let out, each one has two single beds and these will be for the students. The rooms have cupboards and all the bedding is supplied by her. The bathroom has a bath with a shower over, basin and proper toilet. All the other accommodation I saw was true African -the bathroom was a small room with a hole in the floor for squatting over. The shower was immediately above. I would not want that for myself for 12/14 weeks.
Anne seemed to be the perfect landlady – there if you have a problem and happy to give advice on safety but not too overpowering. She stressed that when the students go out in the evenings, they must get a taxi back and she can recommend some taxis. It is not safe for a white person to be walking around on their own after dark and this is something to keep in mind at all times.
The best way to get to school everyday will be to catch a matatu – a local bus. These are relatively cheap and the teachers who live in Gilgil will also be on them.
The Principal took me around the town and showed my all the places where the students should not go and recommended others such as a restaurant where we had lunch called Butors and a hotel called Freci that has a nightclub called “Tipsy”.
Through Dudu, I met Robert who told me that there are some gap year students at Pembroke School nearby and that they take out a temporary membership for 2,000 Kenyan shillings a month at the Gilgil Golf Club so that they can use the tennis courts, bowling, golf and clubhouse facilities. I think if they do this, then they will not only experience the local African way of life through school and getting to know the local teachers and the pupils but also have access to the local white Kenyans who have a very different lifestyle. Most of the ones that I met appear to be involved in farming, safaris and teaching at the private schools. Also, meeting other gap year students working at Pembroke School will provide a wider circle of friends and more opportunities to go off at the weekends together and explore the local attractions together.
Wanted! 4 volunteers to assist teachers and coach sport in school in Kenya
This secondary school in the hills above Gilgil in the Kenya’s Rift Valley, has vacancies for 4 volunteers to start in January 2011 and assist their teachers with English, Maths, Sciences, Geography and R.E. between 800am and 400pm, and coach sport daily from 400pm til 500pm. Volunteers will stay for a whole term and may chose from the term starting in January, May or September. Terms last for 12/14 weeks. Cost for a 12 week term £1,950 to include airport transfers, accommodation, transport to school daily and all food. Additional weeks £120 per week. Volunteers with any special talents such as music or drama as well as sports would be most welcome.
For more details, phone 01483 331551 or 07833 208 158 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and check out recent blog entries on Kenya.
Full details of this placement will be going up onto the site http://www.volunteervacations.co.uk in the next couple of weeks (October 2010)