(Up date July 2016) The Lake Chelan Rotary Club’s International Project for 2015-2016 has been Nkoilale Primary School in Kenya. Why Kenya and why the Nkoilale School. The story began this way:
“There is a school in Africa” (in fact many schools), where the thirst for education cannot be quenched. The Nkoilale Primary School in Narok County, Kenya is one such school.
In February of 2014, I was one of seven Rotarians who spent twelve days in Kenya and Tanzania. The highlight of our twelve-day odyssey with Kosen Safaris of Wenatchee was not the animals or the scenery, but the people of Kenya and Tanzania. In particular the Maasai people who live and work as they have done from time immemorial. They are herders of cattle, goats and sheep. They dress in traditional costume and in most cases live in small primitive homes built from mud, straw and sticks just as it always has been done. The people are as happy or happier than we are. Their traditions are their way of life.
Hillary Kosen, a Maasai now living in Wenatchee, is owner and founder of Kosen Safaris. Kosen not only knows how to organize an amazing safari adventure but he also knows how to use social media. Through Facebook, Kosen was able to locate Grace Namunyak, a school friend of his sister whom he remembered from his days growing up in Kenya. Grace is now a primary school teacher at the Nkoilale Primary School in a remote village in the Maasai Mara.
We had the opportunity to visit Grace’s school and the village of Nkoilale. A cornerstone of Kosen Safaris is the commitment to enrich and uplift the lives of people and communities in around the area where he grew up. Kosen’s purpose in finding Grace was so that he would have a knowledgeable and reliable person on the ground ensuring that donated help goes directly to benefit those in need.
Today the Nkoilale Primary School has 907 students between the ages of seven and fourteen. Five years ago there were only 260 students at the school. Two hundred of the students live at the school with the rest walking to school each day. Being dropped off at school by a parent in an air-conditioned car is not an option. Some students walk up to five miles to school and five miles to get home again.
A few days before we arrived a number of students were late arriving for school – Elephants had blocked their path. This sounded like a valid excuse to me. The headmaster of the school explained that loosing students during the year to animal attacks was not unusual. He also explained that far more students remain at home than go to school.
The thirst for education is quite extraordinary. Classrooms hold as many as 103 students who sit four to a desk. The desks often look like they have been made from wood bought from the local lumberyard. Discipline and respect in the classroom are quite remarkable. When the headmaster or a teacher enters the room everyone stands up and greets them. Surprisingly, though there was no teacher in the classroom that I visited, the classroom was quiet with all the students working on their class assignments.
I spoke to some of the students and they explained that this was a biology class and they were learning about platelets and how they work in the body. All of the students speak English, Kiswahili and their local language fluently. The academic expectation in the school is high. The school has won a number of awards for academic achievement and music.
Our purpose in visiting the Nkoilale Primary School was three fold. For me the main purpose was to see firsthand how we might be able to help the school and the local village, second was to establish a local contact and establish a degree of credibility with the school and third was to leave something at the school that would be useful and help in some small way. To this end, twenty-three students received new uniforms, nine students received boarding scholarships and nine houses in the village now have solar powered lighting. For the Nkoilale village and primary school and many rural places in Kenya this is a drop in the bucket. Much more is needed.
Since our initial visit we have been able to provide 6 new pit toilets, 150 new desks, 24 tables and 50 chairs. In addition, we have installed solar lighting in 24 village homes. The solar lighting allows the students to do there homework after dark, and provides light for the Mama’s to continue doing handcrafts after dark.
Solar powered lighting for the homes in the village is very helpful. Most of the students who do not live at the school have nowhere to do their homework after dark. Solar lighting in a home enables them to read and do their homework after dark. In addition, light in a home helps the women to do their bead work in the evening. They are busy doing other jobs during the day including looking after the animals and fetching water. An unexpected benefit of solar light has been to cut down on the number of creditor attacks against a families cattle and goats.
The children who cannot afford to go to school need financial support for scholarships. A scholarship of $50 per term (there are three terms each year) will help pay for tuition, school uniform and school supplies and if needed board and lodging at the school. Each student is required to wear his or her school uniform during class time. Children whose parents cannot afford a school uniform often do not go to school. School uniforms are important to a student and cost approximately $60 per student. A uniform may last a student for two years and can then be passed on to a brother, sister or to another student in need. They only wear their uniforms during class time changing into casual clothes as soon as their classes finish.
Rotarians involved in these projects are optimistic that the Rotary Clubs of District 5060 and beyond will see an opportunity here. If any of our fellow Rotarians would like to contribute to the Nkoilale Brighter Future Project School you can donate to the Lake Chelan Rotary Community and International Fund. This Fund. The Fund has 501(c)3 status and therefore your contribution will be Tax Deductible under US IRS rules.
I believe that you are all doing fine. I am doing well too. We had a nice break. It has been raining since we closed. The place is now very beautiful.
I would like to inform you that we held a meeting with the parents and the kids last week. I am so grateful that they all managed to come. As we all know, these kids came to school against their parents’ wishes. There is always need to monitor the relationship between them so as to make sure that these kids get support, love and encouragement from their parents. The only way to establish this is by having a one-on-one forum with them. In our meeting, we discussed the following issues:
- parental guidance and support
- self motivation and hard work
We had a wonderful time together and everyone participated in the discussions. They are all thankful for the support they are getting from you. All parents have now changed their attitude towards education and promised to be 100% supportive towards their kids education.
Marcia Meyer is a retired teacher from Portland Oregon who wanted to volunteer as a teacher in Kenya. I thought she will be a great fit for Nkoilale primary and her and Grace will make a great team and as you can see in these pictures, they have become BEST friends, In fact they are roommates.
I spoke to Marcia earlier this morning and she told me that she felt so natural being in Nkoilale she spoke very highly of Grace, and she LOVES the Kids. She has been their only 10 days and she having a great time with the kids and visiting the village and meeting the locals. She is planning on staying and volunteering at Nkoilale until April next year. She will be sharing her story with us when she gets settled.
(Grace Wrote this) Today I took Marcia to Seiyio’s home. She was very happy to see her at home. We had a very long talk and I took a video. I will see how it will get to you. We also passed through Nickson’s home. Good news is that, Marcia met Nickson’s sister who is ten yrs old and has not been enrolled to school. She asked me to ask her if she would like to go to school. She was so sad that she started crying and that touched Marcia’s heart that she decided to sponsor her to school. We are going to visit the family on Sunday in order to meet with her father. We would like to talk to him to allow his daughter to join school in January. I hope all goes well and Sinore joins school in the New Year.