Safe Inclusive Schools team arrives in Kenya

SIS TEAM 2019 ARRIVING IN KENYA

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Arriving in Kenya on a Farmers Helping Farmers (FHF) project is heart warming.

We arrived – Carolyn Francis, Carolyn (Carly) Thorne, and Liz Townsend – in Nairobi late evening on March 6th about 24 hours after leaving PEI.

We’re here to advance the Safe and Inclusive Schools (SIS) project with educators in the two main districts where FHF works: Mukurwe-ini and Meru.

Following SIS workshops in 2017 and positive evaluation by Kenyan interviewers in 2018, we will engage educators once again in workshops and school visits.

Discussion on safe schools will be about reducing corporal punishment; discussion on inclusive schools will be on on using learning materials and making schools accessible and more disability-friendly.

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We were met by Henry, Susan, & Peter from Sportsmen Safaris, and taken to the Nairobi Anglican Guest House for a welcome night’s rest and breakfast. Peter  drove us to the Mukurwe-ini home of Gerald and Grace Kariuki whose mixed farm includes cows, hens, banana and macadamia trees, coffee plants, and more. Gerald will be our driver for meetings and two days of teacher workshops.

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What a joy to step into warm Kenyan weather after leaving our ever-changing windy, snowy PEI weather!

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Learning a new school routine

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By Brett Roche 

My first week teaching at Mitoone Primary has been great.  I am learning so much from the staff and the students about the school system here, and I am embracing and enjoying the differences in routines, practises, and cultures.  I have been assigned to a Standard (Grade) 7 class,  and I am teaching Christian Religious Education, English, and Physical Education.  It is very different for me to be teaching CRE,  as it is not included in our secular public school system,  but I am enjoying it, as the students are very keen to learn and get involved.

I am trying to use as many interactive and fun activities for students that are hands-on and inspire creativity, as most of the lessons here seem simply involve lecturing, taking notes, and responding to questions.  I want the students to be able to enjoy the lessons and show their creative side while I am here.

I am thoroughly enjoying teaching PE so far as the kids all love being active and they seem to really strive when they are competing in sports, especially football (soccer).

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There where many highlights from the week. One would have been actually finally entering the classroom, after our first week around the community, as I was very excited to meet the students and the staff.  I promised all of my Grade 7 students that I would have their names memorized by Friday,  and they were very excited when I successfully went around and named each student at the end of class.

Another highlight would be playing football with the students at break along with a couple of the other teachers and facilitating PE class. The students are all very competitive and eager to play, and I love how our school puts physical activity so high up their list of priorities.

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Finally, we were lucky enough to be invited to Jennifer Murogocho’s house  for lunch on Saturday, where she made us a delicious stew with chapatis (a food I have grown very fond of quickly.  Jennifer has been nicknamed our Kenyan mother, as she is extremely kind, generous, and helpful.  Jennifer, as well as the rest of our local contacts like Mwenda, Tony, Julius, Bony, and Alfred, have been invaluable in helping and teaching us about the language, culture, and community. Ever since we first landed, I have been blown away by the hospitality, selflessness, and feeling of welcome we have been offered from all the Kenyans we have been lucky enough to meet.

I am very excited to see what else the next few weeks have in store for us!

An impromptu lesson in rugby

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By Brent Woodside

This week I had the opportunity to visit the zones for this semester’s sports teams. At the zones approximately 25 schools come to compete with almost 1000 athletes.  The activities include handball, athletics (track and field), rugby, and basketball. In second semester they have football (soccer), volleyball, badminton, ping pong, and netball. In the final semester they concentrate on the arts with music and drama.

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Upon walking into the yard we had an opening ceremony which was incredible to experience.  You could feel the energy of the athletes as they prepared for their matches meeting with coaches and going through warm up drills.

I was introduced to a man named Dr Mukasa who studied English literature in South Africa for his PhD.  I spoke with him about the games and informed him that I had a great passion for rugby playing for four years and now coaching in Canada.  He told me about his time playing professionally in the highest league in Kenya.

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After we continued our discussion he spoke about giving back to his community and wanting to establish a better rugby program locally so he went on to coach at the university he was teaching at.  Currently only two of the 25 schools have rugby teams in the area. We also learned that one of the rugby teams had not shown up to the tournament so the local team did not have anyone to play against.

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Dr Mukasa invited me to help coach a session for the boys so it would not be a lost day. We worked on ball handling skills as well as technique and strategy for approximately two hours. The next day we also continued coaching for another two hour session where we could see incredible improvement in the players.

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After visiting and participating in the games it was possible to see the importance of having organized sport in the area.  It gives students a purpose and helps to build self confidence. It also helps to work on skills such as teamwork and communication.  This journey has helped me to realize how important sports have been in my life and the importance of giving back to your surrounding community.

Bonjour Kenya!

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Our first week at Michogomone Secondary School

By Maude Bertrand

My colleague Brent and I spent an amazing first week at Michogomone Secondary School. It is a school for students of Form 1 to 4 (grade 9 to 12). There is around 150 teenagers, and each of the four classes have between 35 and 50 students. The Kenyan curriculum at that level seems to be very science oriented, so most subjects are related to sciences (biology, chemistry, physics) or maths. There are however periods reserved for Swahili and English (which are both additional languages for the children, most  of them have Kimeru as a mother tongue). The time table also includes a few periods geography, history and business studies.

The first week at Michogomone Secondary School was full of surprises, to say the least! On Monday, my colleague Brent and I arrived at the school, both excited and nervous at the same time. Everyone was extremely welcoming. At first, the staff believed we were just visiting for the day, and no one seemed to know that we were coming to teach for the next 4 weeks! Fortunately, Kenyans are very good at “going with the flow”, and teachers happily rearranged their schedules to give us some teaching time. I was assigned EAL and geography.

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The days are stress free and time seems to be relative : lessons can start on time, or not, and may last the prescribed 40, or longer. It is also normal for teachers not to go to class. For instance, some educators were busy with other assignments last week, such as preparing the exams or coaching the school handball and athletics team, and could not attend their class. But teacher or not, students go to class and study. When Brent and I are not teaching, we spend time in the staff room preparing for our lessons, drinking tea (multiple cups!) and talking with the other teachers of Kenya and Canada.

I really enjoy my time spent in the classroom. It is such a pleasure to teach at Michogomone! The students are curious and engaged. It is always with great joy that I teach, or interact with the students outside of the classroom.

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The students learned that French was my mother tongue and they became very curious of the French language. I try to save a couple minutes  every lessons to teach them the basics (I often hear some “bonjour” and  “comment ça va” when I walk on the school grounds). They LOVE it! I also really enjoy when they teach me Swahili and Kimeru.

Last week, we had to chance to experience extra curricular events, such a the inter county handball and athletics tournament. These days were rich in cultural exchange and allowed me to get to know my students better. I can see the positive effects of those days outside the classroom : The students are more comfortable with us and both the students and us learned immensely from the other culture. I am very excited about next week. Each day is full of surprises and beautiful conversations.

Sharing a love of music

hailey 1By Hailey Hennessey

One of my favourite parts about teaching in Kenya has been the children I have had the pleasure of meeting. Rugatene Primary is the school that Krystal and I were placed at and we have had a great time getting to know our students. There is so much school spirit and positive energy coursing through the air. We leave everyday with smiles on our faces as we make our way home.

One way in which the children demonstrate their happiness is through singing and dancing. We have had multiple encounters where children have come up to us and broke into song as a group. The grade six class even stayed in at their break to show us a song and dance. Two students sat in the corner and started a beat with a bucket and some sticks. The rest of the students bunched at the back of the class and started singing and dancing simultaneously to an upbeat melody. I could tell by watching them how much fun they were having and how free they felt in expressing themselves in this way.

Another encounter with singing we have had is the students asking us to share songs from Canada with them. Krystal and I sang O Canada to the whole school which definitely was out of my comfort zone but it was really nice to share a part of home with them. They then returned the favour by singing their national anthem to us. Overall, their love of music is clear and I hope to continuing experiencing their lovely voices.

Track and field, Kenya style

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By Krystal Woodside

March 1, 2019

Today marks the end of our first week of teaching here in Kenya. The experience although quite different from Canada has been amazing thus far. My first impression of Rugatene Primary school was that everyone was so welcoming. Both the staff and the students were genuinely excited to have us at their school and I was just as excited to be there.

I have been so impressed by the dedication and ability level of the students. I am fortunate enough to be working with many different grade levels here in Kenya from grade 2 all the way up to grade 8. I have found that it doesn’t matter what class you are in the students are all so engaged. They seem genuinely happy to be learning which makes my job much easier! They listen attentively and are always ready to answer any question you ask them. They are also eager to hear stories of Canada or share their own experiences with me. They are especially interested to hear about the snow and cold temperatures in Canada. Everyone here in Kenya is surprised that I can wear short sleeves as many of the teachers and students are bundled up in sweaters or winter coats.

This semester Rugatene is participating in athletics which is almost identical to track and field in Canada. This means that I was able to watch and be a part of the team selection. In Kenya everyone gets a chance to try out for the team as participation is mandatory and the selection is held during school time. The students are divided based on height instead of based on age like in Canada.

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The students patiently waiting for the teachers to measure their height so they can be divided into groups for the athletics.

Although the events are similar to here in Canada it was amazing to see the work that goes into preparing for the events. The students are involved  in everything from carving poles with a machete for the pole vault to marking the running track off with wood chips. Although they do not have a lot of the equipment we have in Canada they are still able to participate in all the events.

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When the students actually began participating in the events I was amazed by the ability level. I have never seen students that could run so fast or jump so high. I was also impressed by their work ethic. When they fell or were unhappy with their performance they were quick to pick themselves up and try again.

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A few of the senior girls competing in the high jump event while their peers watched 

It was also great to see how much support the students had from their peers. Because athletics is a school wide activity it meant that for some events there were over 100 kids cheering their classmates on. That level of excitement is contagious.

By the end of the day I was sunburned and tired from cheering on the students but it was definitely worth it. Seeing the hard work and pride on the students faces is something I will not forgot. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to work with these amazing kids and I look forward to what the next 4 weeks will bring!

A sense of community

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By Brent Woodside

In our first week, we had the opportunity to visit one of the farms in the local area.  Tony was our driver for the day and came to to pick us up at the house to take us to Julius’ farm.  This was our first encounter with the Gypsy, a vehicle with two normal bucket seats upfront and two bench seats that face each other in the back where we all piled in.  After a bit of a bumpy ride, we arrived at the farm.

The farm was large for the local area having 18 dairy cattle and 2 full time staff and 1 casual employee.  However as they were currently in silage season, they had increased their labour force to include an additional 5 workers.

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The people on the farm were extremely welcoming showing us the cows and calves then the maize, and finally how they do silage.  Being from a farm it was very interesting to see how different their silage process is from what we do back in Canada. Almost all of the process is done by hand with the exception of the maize being mulched to be turned into silage.

Around dinner time, Julius arrived and as I went to speak with him he asked if I could help him with an errand.  As I jumped in the truck we drove to his hotel that he was in the process of building.

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Upon arriving, we picked up large jugs filled with water and drove them to a local farm.  On the way Julius informed me that the owner of the farm was a friend of his who was a doctor in Nairobi that had helped him in the past. The farm was recently built and did not yet have running water and that we were dropping the jugs off so that the livestock and workers would have water.

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It is incredible to see how everyone interacts here in Kenya.  When one person struggles, others in the area come to the rescue.  Also there is a sense of community that is overwhelming as people are always greeting each other and always making time to share their culture and language with anyone who takes an interest.

Making friends on the run

By Maude Bertrand
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Our house is in Naari. To find us, take the main road all the way to the Kirua market, then, turn left on the dirt road. You can’t miss it, it is the one where the lady sells bananas. Continue on that path for about 3 kilometres. Keep left at the crossroad, pass the sheep eating by the road. But be careful, there are a lot of rocks and holes! You will find us pass the big cattle field, behind the blue door. We live in a very rural setting, surrounded by fields and roads leading to other villages. This kind of setting is perfect to interact with the people of the community surrounding us.

Our group often goes on walks. It’s our way of getting exercise and discovering our surroundings. I must confess that even after one week, I still struggle to understand on what side of the road I am supposed to be walking. The Kenyans drive on the left…unless they are driving a very loaded motorbike (which is often the case) on a very rocky and uneven dirt road like ours. In that case, they might drive on any side, often having to horn at our large walking party.

People seem to be curious when they see us pass, but only a minority will wave, smile or say  “how are you”. Some individuals will even decide to walk with us, and we will get the opportunity to learn about their daily lives, and maybe learn a few Swahili words.
While most children are shy, some kids will happily run to meet us with grand excitation, or wave with a broad, beautiful smile :  “Mazungo, Mazungo!” or “the white men!”

One of my most magical moment since we arrived in Kenya happened on that dirt road. I am lucky enough to share my passion of running with Boniface, one of the staff member at the house. Every afternoon, when the air cools and the sun lowers, we go on a quick jog.

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Many women that we pass seem to find our work out ritual very funny, but once, one young lady that we were passing  started running with us. Without talking, she just tagged along and ran by our side (in crocs!!). It really lifted my heart to have the chance to run with local Kenyans and especially with that young girl who just seemed to enjoy the moment so much.

Every walk or run brings special moments. I am very excited to continue our daily walking ritual on the dirt road and meet more members of the community.

Making connections

By Hailey Hennessey

Today we were picked up by Mwenda, who is a part of the Kenyan staff with Farmers Helping Farmers. We went to the farm of Julius, who is Jennifer’s brother.

We were going to his farm with the intention of helping out on the farm by doing some silage. One of the machines was unfortunately broken so we were unable to help but this opened us all up to having the time to converse and make connections with some of the individuals who lived on the farm.

There were 2 women named Mary and Kristy, a man named Tony and a little girl named Lynn. We spent time with them for a few hours. Mary brushed and styled my hair along with my other female classmates. Once Mary was done I asked if I could do her hair, to which she accepted and I did a French braid in her hair.

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We also listened to music and Mary and Kristy showed us some of the common ways to move to their music. They asked us to show them some of our traditional dance moves. Maude and I demonstrated to them some popular dances that have been seen in Canada, such as some step dancing and square dancing.

We all chatted about things that were typical in our home countries and shared laughs over the many differences.

Overall, this experience is the perfect example of adapting to whatever situation you are put into. We went with the expectation of doing one thing and were pleasantly surprised to spend the afternoon in a completely different manner.

The taste of Kenya

by Erica MacLean

February 22nd, 2019

What an amazing time it has been so far! With such a warm welcome into our home, community, and schools, it is easy to feel at home within the Naari community!  I, as well as the rest of my team consisting of pre-service teachers, have had the great privilege of enjoying the local foods, fruits and cuisine!  It is such a great way to learn about local culture, customs, and traditions. In Canada, a good meal with great food always brings people together and Kenyan culture is no different.

While staying at our house in Naari, we have been blessed with the company of two local Kenyan men who are quite talented in the kitchen.  They help prepare our daily meals and make sure to keep us fueled for our new daily experiences.  As I love cooking and learning new recipes I have had the chance to help, watch, and learn some of the delicious Kenyan recipes!  A favourite by most of the team were chapatis.  Made of wheat flour, oil, spices, and milk, these ingredients created a dough which is then cooked to perfection.  It is delicious to eat with stews, curry, beans, or simply by itself with tea!

 

Ah, Kenyan tea! Made with fresh milk, tea leaves, and water, this warm drink is so simple but so soothing whether drank in the morning with breakfast, or in the evening as a light before super treat!  It brings everyone together to share about their day and enjoy the delicious taste of Kenya!  I have yet to be disappointed with the food and company at each meal, and have a feeling this will remain a highlight of my Kenyan stay and experience!!