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 Education  Kenya Project #28738

Educational opportunities in Kenya & Uganda

by Education Partnerships Africa
Educational opportunities in Kenya & Uganda
Educational opportunities in Kenya & Uganda
Educational opportunities in Kenya & Uganda
Educational opportunities in Kenya & Uganda
Educational opportunities in Kenya & Uganda
Educational opportunities in Kenya & Uganda

After an intense week of training, Monday 8th July saw the 2019 Kisii project workers (PWs) engage in a fruitful and informative Head Teachers Conference. Invitees included our partner schools’ Head Teachers as well as those who we have previously worked with. Prompted by various activities, the sessions aimed to voice the Head Teachers’ personal opinions on the most pressing issues facing their schools and to reconcile these with EPAfrica’s five goals: facilitating learning, strengthening school organisation, realising post-secondary opportunities, improving health and supporting student welfare and rights. 

A trio of PWs welcomed the Head Teachers, with an icebreaker activity loosening the atmosphere before Project Manager Emily Grotto began her introductory speech, which outlined EPAfrica’s five goals and the role PWs and Head Teachers would play in achieving these.

The importance of partnership to EPAfrica was exhibited with the first session – the diamond nine. Grouping the room into four teams, including at least one EPAfrica facilitator and two Head Teachers, the aim was to discuss and rank the barriers to education in their schools on a scale of importance. The teams showed encouraging enthusiasm, with the Head Teachers explaining to their groups why they prioritised certain issues over others. While a general consensus was achieved, importance placed on some barriers varied somewhat across schools. This epitomises the benefit of EPAfrica’s approach to development, as PWs can offer appropriate investment in accordance to their schools’ needs.  

Next, a short break for Chai and Mandazi saw the rest of the PWs join the group. In session two, all PWs got the chance to learn about their partner schools and together with the Head Teachers, brainstormed some personalised solutions to the problems brought up in the last session. This was a success and gave the PWs an insight into the projects they may wish to carry out throughout the next nine weeks.

After these informative discussions, Head Teachers were asked to complete a questionnaire on the general state of their schools before a traditional Kenyan lunch marked the end of the conference. PWs were then taken to their respective schools by their Head Teachers, ready to begin their work.

Overall, the first week of training was of great benefit to the PWs, culminating in this productive conference. They are now equipped with the necessary skills to implement a sustainable summer project.

Water tank at St Benedict
Water tank at St Benedict's

This summer in Mbarara, Uganda, I had the privilege of being the second half Project Manager. This role entailed a lot of running around town to sort out logistics for next year’s summer, as well as squeezing in those final few school visits we had planned. Hectic as it was, I knew it was coming. I’d even pre-planned a to-do list for it all. But something slightly unexpected for the Summer Team was a new pilot investment scheme to come our way. Something very girly indeed.

In a nutshell, what EPAfrica envisioned for this pilot scheme was an upgrade of existing girls’ toilets in previous and existing partner schools. This included focusing on a range of things, from installing lighting (to allow girls to change their sanitary pads at night) to ventilation (to prevent bad odors). This would be a first for the Summer Team – creating an “EPAfrica standard” for all girls’ toilets in partner schools, to be hopefully standardised in future across our Kenyan and Ugandan sites. But, why girls?

The majority of research tells us that it is girls who pay the biggest price for poor sanitation. This is because periods are a bloody pain and in several sub-Saharan African cultures, the only acceptable time for women to excrete is after dark, so no one notices. As well causing general discomfort, this fosters a whole range of other issues – one being assault. Changing a pad in an open toilet, at dark, in the middle of a communal space, unfortunately invites a lot of unwanted attention inside and outside of school. And this lack of a clean, safe space in which to excrete and change sanitary pads is a significant factor that contributes to drops in female school attendance and enrollment. Some schools in Uganda are forced to close altogether due to poor sanitation (https://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1474189/leaders-blamed-lack-latrines). So we can see that girls’ toilets aren’t just a girls’ issue.

Accordingly, the Summer Team embarked upon a mission to find the most suitable graduate school (secondary school that has previously received EPAfrica investment) for this project. And we didn’t have to look very far to find St Benedict’s Technical Institute; the school I’d invested in last year as a Project Worker! This conveniently meant that we could assess previous EPAfrica investment, alongside bracing the school for a unique kind of investment. Starting work promptly-ish, we reached a shared vision for the school.

Head Teacher Benon’s ideas automatically married up with the charity’s pretty well, as he’d already attached importance to girls’ sanitation issues by planning to improve the girls’ toilets following the construction of their new dorms. Which, may I add, all the male students in St Benedict’s kindly helped build. Perks of working with a technical school… The only problem Benon faced was a lack of funds. Thus, the Summer Team complemented St Benedict’s well, by offering £100 (498,000 Ugandan Shillings) for this scheme. In partnership with the school, we invested in: 

  • 4 doors with latches on the inside. Privacy for girls is everything in a school which is dominated by male students. Now cubicles can be locked properly, allowing for a safer space when girls need the toilet.
  • Hydroelectric power lights. This was done by connecting wiring from the toilets to the girls’ dorms, which were already well-lit using hydroelectric power. Now, girls can switch on the lights from inside their dorms before going into the toilet, to see when changing pads.
  • Handwashing stations and a water tank. This was kindly donated from the school’s budget. So now, there are facilities for handwashing, using a private and clean water source.

Girl-friendly toilets was one of many pilot projects run by EPAfrica in Summer 2018. Alongside hygiene, technology was a key focus of EPAfrica volunteers, with pilots being run on projector training, bulk SMS and solar panels amongst others. We are taking part in Global Giving's Little by Little campaign next week, during which we're raising money to take these technological pilots to the next level. Please keep an eye out or get in touch for how you can support! 

Toilets during refurbishment
Toilets during refurbishment
2018 Kakamega PWs
2018 Kakamega PWs

Just five days before this summer started, unforeseen circumstances meant EPAfrica took the decision to locate all Kenya Project Workers (PWs) in Kakamega. As a result, we operated the biggest ever EPAfrica site in Kakamega this year! Calum and Anna, our intrepid Pre-Summer Team busily visited schools, arranging accommodation for trios and giving the very welcome, if last-minute, news to some pipeline schools that this would be their first year of EPAfrica investment. We are very grateful to our partner schools for taking the change of plan in their stride.

On Wednesday 4th July the first-half Summer Team met 28 eager and nervous PWs at Jomo Kenyatta Airport.The group responded well to an intense training week, breaking only for World Cup matches and to cook for 32 people. They finished off the week by running the Head Teachers Conference, departing Kakamega in their HT’s cars, ready to explore their partner schools.

We partnered with 10 schools in Kakamega this summer. Having eight trios meant that most of these schools received a bigger investment than any other years. This gave the PWs more room to try different investment options, working towards our five goals in new and exciting ways.

One common issue that emerged from the discovery phase was malnutrition. Some PWs witnessed a student having a fit, which could be linked to the lack of variation in her diet. Others found that in their school surveys, one of the biggest complaints for students was lunch. With a bigger group and more people-hours, one PW led a working group, exploring these issues in more detail and compiling a database of nutritional information for common Kenyan foods.

The Innovation Seed Fund applications showed that PWs had clever ideas of how we could resolve this problem, and funds were awarded to initiatives introducing a fishing pond to one school and building vertical gardens in another. We will carry the learning over to next summer.

Some of our partnerships worked on a few, high value investments, such as water projects. This wouldn’t have been possible were it not for the larger budget trios afforded. It is clear from our work with partner schools and from Summer Team’s school selection that access to reliable, clean water remains an issue. Beyond securing a safe water source, there are many more ways water can help improve education: having running taps in the science, laboratory, for instance can help with: conducting experiments; maintaining equipment; and health and safety.

During the summer we ran a Project Worker Instagram Takeover across both sites. This was held on a Global Giving Match Funding Day, which helped us to fundraise extra money for the schools we worked with this summer. At St Mary’s Mukhuma, this money was used to renovate the science laboratory. They built new benches, installed gas and sinks and improved storage of the equipment. The local MP was so impressed with EPAfrica’s investment that he came to open the laboratory in person – another first for us! 

Project Workers weren’t the only volunteers investing money this year. A central-pot pilot was run by the second-half Summer Team in Kakamega, helping us to engage with pre-selection and graduate schools on another level. This was the first time Summer Team have been given an investment budget to manage and they explored a broad range of solutions to problems that had emerged from school visits. You can read about them all on our blog. From Period Parties to Projector Skills, Solar Power to Girl-friendly toilets, the pilots demonstrated the variety of issues faced by Kenyan schools today, as well as the ways they can be tackled in partnership.

The volunteers in Kakamega pulled off a great feat this year. They dealt with a lot of new challenges, facing them with the typical solutions-focused attitude. Our schools were very grateful for the investments made, and future projects will build on the firsts dealt with this summer in future projects. It seems we benefited from the larger group of volunteers – we had more money, came up with more ideas, made more friends and had more people to play mafia! 

New water pump at St Michael
New water pump at St Michael's Ingusi

Solar energy: A sunny solution to boarding school blackouts

Anyone who has spent any time in Kenya knows that power cuts are frequent and disruptive. The effects of  these outages are particularly dire in boarding schools, where students are plunged into darkness every time there is a power cut, severely inhibiting their ability to revise or do their homework outside of daylight hours (7am to 7pm). The cuts are unpredictable and can last several hours or even days.

Electricity bills in the secondary schools we work in average at almost £700 a year. We have also found that monthly bills are wildly inconsistent both within and between schools; one Head Teacher told us that she paid 10000Ksh one month, and 2700Ksh the next, with no conceivable explanation.

This year, the Kakamega Summer Team, whose main job is to support PW’s and oversee their projects, was given its own pot of funding with which to run a number of pilot projects. The purpose was to see how we can utilise our extensive network of schools and Summer Team’s  collective experience in delivering projects. This gave us the freedom to explore broader issues than can be tackled by Project Workers working in just one school, and to take on more ambitious endeavours.

Madame Azibeta Odongo

The perfect school

We made solar energy one of our main focus areas early on, and our coordinator, Catherine Donzé took the lead. She started by making a shortlist of viable recipients, for which she painstakingly called round and visited a great number of schools from our partnership network. She eventually came  back from a visit positively glowing: “I have found the perfect school!” she announced to us.

St  Elizabeth Bumia Secondary School is located in a small village outside of Mumias and has 140 boarders. Madame Azibeta Odongo, its fantastically proactive and tenacious  Principal, told Catherine of how her students struggle to go about their lives during blackouts, and was greatly enthused by the idea of having solar power.

Together, Catherine and Mme Azibeta interviewed suppliers and technicians, collecting quotations and installation plans.

As is often the case when working for EPAfrica, a lot of very niche knowledge was developed by Summer Team; we all felt like solar energy experts as we listened to Catherine explain her research on lumens and inverters and helped her make endless calculations to sense-test the quotations she was receiving.

Solar panels are costly and we wanted to be certain that we would be funding quality work with a really long-lasting impact. Catherine got detailed quotations from five different suppliers, settling in the end for Hassan from SIMNet. The Principal was confident in his ability and level of experience. As she told me later “he knew exactly what to do and how. Many others had to call someone for advice, but when he was here he was taking calls to give advice to others”.

Together, they decided to install three solar panels on the roof of the school, powering five classrooms as well as the admin block.

Engineers installing the panels on the roof

Work is complete

Within a couple of days of the final quotation being drawn up and paid, the solar panels were up and functioning.

Mr Francis Saka – PTA Chairman

The school started using them “from day one”, the PTA chairman told us. “We could not believe it when we received our electricity bill this month! It was 23Ksh (~20p). We thought they had made a mistake.”

The project has been successful; the school is saving a large amount of money every month and it no longer has to rely on Kenya Power’s patchy supply. The solar panels themselves come with a 20-year warranty, and there are two watchmen on duty every night, meaning that the risk of theft or vandalism is close to none.

Even I was surprised by how quickly the school started benefiting; when I was told what their electricity bill amounted to I was just as amazed as the PTA chairman. I really hope that as we move forward, we can replicate this project across more schools in our network.

Links:

Headteacher of St Mary
Headteacher of St Mary's and Will discuss projects

Set up for 2018 in Mbarara began last week with Will arriving to start checking the project workers’ accommodation at second year schools Rugando College, Rwampara Farm Institute and Laki High School. Ellen joined a couple of days later, and the set up for what should be a highly successful summer truly kicked off. 

Securing the central house, in a lofty location on the city’s golf course, was the first task, followed by taking EPAfrica’s belongings out of storage from last year. The next couple of days involved buying supplies and resources, and conducting the remaining accomodaiton checks.

St Mary’s Kababaizi was a real highlight – the female headteacher and majority female students make the school an unusual one for Ugandan government schools, and the positive learning environment for female students was clear to see. The school is small by Ugandan standards, with around 300 students, and is in need of investment, lacking a library and sustainable water facilities on site. However, the engaged staff place this school in an excellent position for future improvement. The project workers will live next door to the headteacher, and are sure to enjoy playing with her 18-month-old son after a hard day’s work at school.

Tuesday 3rd Will and I head off to Entebbe in preparation for meeting the project workers off the group flight. Following a stay on the outskirts of Kampala at Red Chilli Hideaway, the group of 18 project workers will travel to Mbarara for first week training. This training merges reminders of the charity’s aims, exploring personal reasons for embarking on the summer in East Africa, practical advice for successful projects, and acclimatising to being in East Africa for those with more limited experience in the developing world. With a mix of genders, ages, and experience, the charity anticipates a dynamic and exciting ahead for the network of schools we are building in Mbarara.

We hope you enjoy continued updates about our projects in Mbarara throughout the rest of the summer! 

 

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Organization Information

Education Partnerships Africa

Location: London - United Kingdom
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Epafrica
Project Leader:
Anna Spinks
London, United Kingdom

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