Granddaughter Sophie with teacher Sophie
I can't tell you how proud we felt at the start of our six week visit to the school at the end of September. The school is so successful now. Irene is an excellent head teacher, respected by all and extremely competent. As I said in the last email our exam results are fantastic but of course exam results are not everything. The commitment shown by all the teachers was exceptional and I could tell that this was not just because we were there but because they wanted to do their very best for the children.
It was an exciting visit for a number of reasons. Not least because my own children and grandchildren came for the first time and one of my daughters, Nicki, has just become a trustee of the charity. The children and staff were delighted to meet our family and the feeling was mutual. Our grandchildren took part in lessons and played with the children at playtime. Irene was particularly pleased to meet Nicki, 'Now I see the future of the project. I can be content'.
Hope, our first deaf child has reached a turning point. She can sign to read but does not sign to communicate and we realised that the time has come for her to move on. But to where? There is a government school for the deaf in Mombasa and Irene and Joyce (Hope's mother as well as being our teaching assistant) went to visit. They were happy enough with the standards of education but there was grave concern over the pastoral care. The head teacher said that Hope would have to board and could not go home at all for the first term. When Joyce said that Hope would not understand and would unhappy he replied, 'She's a big girl. She'll be fine!' She's a very protected 9 year old! Luckily, one of the sponsors who has contributed towards Hope's education so far, agreed to continue to sponsor her in a small private school for the deaf run by Grace the teacher who gives sign language lessons to our teachers. Irene and Joyce visited the school and instantly felt this was the place for Hope who will be starting there in January 2017.
I was also able to tell some of our parents that a sponsor will be paying for their child's school fees for the next year. Siti, a single parent was one of these people and she broke down and sobbed. 'I can't tell you how good that makes me feel. I was so desperate'. But it turned out that as well as Leila she had two other children who were not in our school. One is Halima who is four years old and has cerebral palsy. In Kenya, most disabled children are hidden under the bed when visitors come so that they cannot be seen but this was not true of Halima. Her mother had sought all the available help and Halima is a smiley, engaging little girl who has made very good progress. Thanks to a sponsor, she will go to a school for children with cerebral palsy in Mombasa in January. But Siti also has a third child of two years. I could not understand why someone in her situation would have another child to add to her burden. Then I heard that this was in fact her sister's child. Her sister already had three and did not want another so she was going to throw her away! Siti stepped in and with no money, no breast milk and no powdered formula she managed to raise the child on cow's milk! It's very humbling working in a community like this and meeting people like Siti.
The day before school closed was graduation day. In Kenya children graduate at age 6 from KG3 to Primary one following a graduation ceremony. We have never done this before but parents and teachers were keen so… The whole thing was organised by the teachers and they did a splendid job. After certificates there were speeches and then the children from each class performed. The older children did group poetry which is hardly surprising when you hear that on their first attempt at a national competition this year they reached the semi-finals. One poem, in Swahili, got tremendous applause from the audience. Apparently it was written by their poetry teacher telling what a great school Miche Bora (Mustard Seed’s school) is. It told how the children are not taught by rote but are taught to think. Then there was a line explaining how good their exam results were, WITHOUT CHEATING! Sadly, that cannot be said for many schools in the area.
In January there will be 125 children in the new school with only three toilets. (the other 125 will remain in the rented building). We desperately need your help to complete the toilet block. If another 50 people donate to the Christmas appeal on Global Giving we can access most, if not all, of the £4,500 prize money on offer AND have the opportunity to bid for further funding. Please pass this email on to your friends and family and tell them what a difference their donation can make to our children, teachers and parents this Christmas time.
Have a good Christmas.
Head teacher Irene
Two proud graduates
Siti and Halima
Hope and sponsor Clive