Nov 19, 2018

Our lovely new toilets

Such a lot to report after five weeks in Kenya. It was so great to see everyone enjoying the new facilities. The cooks with their lovely kitchen and the children continue to be thrilled with their new toilets! The teachers are still doing a fantastic job and this time we have our first set of candidates. This is the name given to the children who take their Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). We just have to hope that they do as well as we are hoping. I know for certain that they will all be offered a school, you need 40% for that, but it would be great if some of them got the marks to go to the highest level of secondary school which requires in excess of 75%. The government moves the goal post on that one as there are only so many places. Unfortunately, whatever their grades most of them will end up in the local secondary school because they will be not be able to afford the fees at the others. Such a pity. Irene, our headteacher and I went to visit that secondary school and there were 80+ in a class, not enough seats or desks and they taught to the highest achievers. Fortunately, our brightest girl, from a single parent family, has a donor to enable her to go to one of the better secondary schools.

As usual we have our gripe about the Kenyan government and this time it opened a whole can of worms. The government decreed that all primary schools, including private schools, (which ours is), to close on 26th October until 2nd January. A disaster academically but an even worse disaster nutritionally. We knew that many of our children only ate the food they received in our school and we knew that children lost weight during the holidays but we hadn't taken the further step of thinking that nine weeks holiday could spell disaster. Then, emaciated parents started coming to Irene (the head teacher) in desperation to see if we could help. A donor gave us £250 to help with this problem but once we started investigating we realised that those we had first seen were just the tip of the iceberg. I try not to get closely involved with individual families because we need to be focussed and build the school but I was there when one of the fathers came. An educated man speaking very good English whose business had collapsed. He was so grateful for the food we were giving, not in a gushing way, more a relieved way, but I just wanted to give him a hug. I could barely stop the tears. 

But on a more positive note our family came out to Kenya for a couple of weeks in the middle the stay and all volunteered their services at the school including my young grandchildren. Some did creative activities whilst others helped improve the teacher’s and children’s Lego skills. Four teachers were taught how to follow a plan for one of the kits and found it quite challenging but ultimately rewarding. The young adults also had a great time playing with the children at playtime. There would be a photograph but the camera went missing!

The teachers then had a week with no children and no me. I had set homework for them and they did it brilliantly. The teachers of children from 3 - 9 years now have the new Kenyan curriculum. Very wordy and understandably they were hoping we would just pay for new curriculum text  books to save them the effort of working it all out. However, they worked in pairs on one subject per pair and did a brilliant job and were very clear about what was needed. It would appear that the curriculum really is now very similar to the British curriculum at this level, which is what we thought. The exception being Swahili and not just for the obvious reason. They will definitely need curriculum books for Kiswahili because they now realise that the Swahili they had been teaching was a language cobbled together from English, Arabic, tribal languages and Swahili.

Then another problem arose. Apparently cooks cannot clean in Kenya. It does not matter if they wear separate aprons or do the work at a different time you simply cannot employ the same person to cook and clean. Our cooks were both cooks and cleaners so we have had to resolve the situation. When all the children are in the same building it will not be a problem but at present it is not possible for one cook to cook alone and so we need four cooks and two cleaners. Two new staff to pay for. 

This all reinforced quite how desperately we need to build six classrooms on the upper storey to bring all the children under the same roof. It will save the salary of two cooks and a night-watchman plus rent, utilities etc and save us more than £4,000 a year! This will make us so much closer to sustainability. We have lots of fund-raising activities coming up as we so hope that next year, in our tenth anniversary, we shall be able to make this happen. Do keep an eye out for news of how you can help.

Thank you so much all of you who have helped us to reach this stage. We could not have done it without you.

Completed ground floor
Completed ground floor
Older girls have separate toilets
Older girls have separate toilets
Teachers learning to follow a Lego plan
Teachers learning to follow a Lego plan
Collecting school lunch
Collecting school lunch
Craft session with our family
Craft session with our family
Jul 31, 2018

What a difference your support has made

Boys with food supply
Boys with food supply

Lots of good news as always. You may remember in the last report I told you about our volunteer Charlie who had made such a difference to our children and teachers earlier this year? Well, this morning Charlie joined at our trustees, meeting as a trustee. She was so impressed by the work we are doing that she agreed to become one of the board. And a very welcome addition she is. 

In October, when we shall be in Kenya we have another volunteer coming out but this time a professional photographer. It will be great to get some good photographs. I always intend to take some but I am always so busy that it gets forgotten and then there is a problem when it comes to writing reports! 

At school this is an exciting year. This is the first year that we have the entire age range in school. The first group  of children taking their KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education). There will be news of this when the results come out next year. This is also the year when the older children and their teachers are benefitting from a completed ground floor with electricity, running water, good toilets for boys, girls and teachers and a kitchen with a modern ecological stove. Hopefully we shall have the funds to start the upper floor soon. We are so proud of what has been achieved with your help and this seemed like a good moment to let the users tell you what they thought. Below are direct quotes from everyone either in English or translated by the teachers or secretary into English.

Teachers

The electicity has made teaching more effective due to use of laptops and projectors during teaching lessons

The 24 hour tap water supply has improved the living condition in the school in terms of hygiene and health matters.

There are enough separate toilets for both teachers, boys and girls unlike before

The school is now well equipped with a modern library which has created an ease for revision and learning process in the entire school

The classes are spacious thus easy to teach and also creating a high standard of hygiene

The school is giving a high quality education to the pupils from Mgongeni slums and the community at large.

 

Pupils

We are happy and proud of the new toilets

Happy with the balanced diet food cooked at school.

The library is assiting us to do our studies well and also has improved our revision mode to which we have improved in our academics.

The new jiko (energy efficient stove) has enabled us to have lunch in our locality unlike before when we used to walk to the old school for porridge and lunch. This has really saved our time

We are very happy for the chairs and tables which are not found in any other school in the entire community because others use desks

Cooks

Mustard Seed has done a tremendous support fot the new modern kitchen and more so for the steel jiko which has made our work more easier and efficient.

Parents

A big thanks for the feeding programme. Sometimes children lack something to put in their stomach for breakfast and even for lunch. But no worries ever because Mustard Seed has catered for them.

Thank you for the stationery facilities provided at school because our earnings could not cater for that. 

General comment

Thanks for the Mustard Seed Project for the great effort towards all these developments

A recent visitor from the UK

I was very impressed with the work they were doing. Even my driver - who has kids of his own at a fairly expensive private school  and took a surreptitious look around out of personal interest - said he thought they were doing really good work.

And from all at Mustard Seed Project

It is a priviledge for us to do the work we are doing but we could not have done it without your support. A big thank you to all of you who have made such a big difference to our people in Kenya. We really appreciate your help.

Happy teachers in new school building
Happy teachers in new school building
Apr 18, 2018

The ground floor is complete

What an exciting trip to Kenya where the ground floor of our school has been completed. Such beautiful toilets and kitchen. Taps with water coming out of them, separate toilets for our older girls and the building looking absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much to those of you who donated towards this. I only wish you could see what has been achieved and realise what a difference you are making to the people in Kenya.

I would have written about it before but a nasty Kenyan mosquito gave me chikungunya which is affecting my hands and feet quite badly. My brain is OK though so everything will continue as usual, just a little more slowly. Could take 6 months to recover apparently.

The initial illness is very painful but a video made by Irene the headteacher periodically put a smile on my face. Donors have been supporting Halima a little girl with severe cerebral palsy. She lives close to the school and her two sisters attend Miche Bora. 18 months ago she could not sit unaided and now, she can walk! She is going to a special school for children with cerebral palsy and they have done a wonderful job with her. 

In fact we had good news about the other children who have donors supporting them at a special school. Our deaf children are all doing well and Hope, the eldest of these, is doing so well that the headteacher has said that she has no doubt that she will get into the National school for the deaf. This is the highest level of secondary school in Kenya.

Of course it is what goes on in a school that matters and our latest volunteer was just great. Charlie had decided to take a year out and do the things on her bucket list. One of these was to support a charity. We were a perfect match. She did lots of research and found us. We are very fussy and took her. The teachers thought she was wonderful and they were right. She was working with the teachers in upper school, children aged 11 - 14 helping the teachers and children with English. And the best thing is that she was equally impressed with our school and the teachers. She has made a real difference and the teachers really miss her. Amazingly she is still supporting them through WhatsApp. 'We only want another volunteer if she is like Charlie' they told me. So if there are any teachers out there who would like to volunteer, please do. 

The clinic in the new school is looking great too. We have appointed an assistant nurse to work both in the school and in the community. Such a lot of clinics have sprung up in the community but what they do not do is preventative nursing in the community. The prevalence of 'old wives tales' is huge. Even intelligent, educated people believe incredible things. At least they are incredible to us. 

The school is now complete. We have 275 children, the complete age range and are fully staffed with fantastic teachers. Now we 'just' need to build the upper floor. It would be so lovely to have all the children under one roof and it would enormously cut down on our monthly outgoings. We have great contractors ready and waiting for when we have the funding. Let's hope this is the year. 

Our beautiful toilets
Our beautiful toilets
Our happy cooks
Our happy cooks
Charlie in school
Charlie in school

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