TEACHING-EMPOWERING-MENTORING-BUILDING OPPORTUNITY Mission: to partner with individuals and communities in Western Kenya to support entrepreneurial activities, education and health through training programmes, scholarships, water and sanitation projects

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Read for the Top and power

Yesterday (Monday) was a long day visiting rural schools to confirm their participation in the new Read for the Top session.
First we called on the new County Education Director (there are no more Provinces under the Constitution) who received the information about Virtues and Read for the Top with great enthusiasm. he is himself an educator, not a bureaucrat, which makes for easy communication. He will allow us to take a non-teaching day for Virtues in the schools in his district and wants us to run a session for new secondary teachers recently assigned.
Five new schools will run the Read for the Top contest, thanks to a new Rotary District Grant. One school in Kakamega will likely join us, but will provide their own books. We went to Ebusakami which hosted the teacher seminars for the last two years and where they did Read for the Top in gr 6 two years ago. The head teacher tells us these pupils are now in their last year and they are the best class he has seen, thanks to their English and reading skills. We were also able to confirm that the teachers here will train in Virtues in the new year.
The clergy seminars on child sexual abuse will take place over three days next week. I want to show a powerpoint and videos, so we're hoping for power to stay on all day. We have had one full evening without power on Sunday and intermittent breaks most days.
Thursday we shall be training the PTA in Virtues at the secondary school I've mentioned before. Fingers crossed for power there!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Assertiveness and responsibility for boys

Although Friday was the turn of the boys to receive their assertiveness session, we began the day by showing East African videos to the girls concerning the responses to sexual abuse. It is clear that when a community understands the problem, everyone can be vigilant to protect their girl children. The next step is to show the same videos to the parent group.

We then met with 150 boys in the first three years of Secondary School. They were wonderful to work with, becoming more confident and relaxed as the session went on. They shared their concerns about peer pressure and we finished with some frank talk about sexual promiscuity and responsibility. Kenyan laws are quite clear and severe, (offering penalties for sexual relations between classmates)but the problem is as always getting the information to the community.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Clean water



Rod visited 5 communities this week that need a clean water supply. We think we will have funding to do three of the five. It costs between $800 and $1000 to protect a spring to serve about 400 people. The protection consists of building up the area around the spring, placing a concrete wall and pipes and protecting the surface behind the wall with rocks, sand and earth, to prevent run-off from latrines and fields.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Assertiveness for girls

A recent case where a 16 year-old girl has been jailed for 25 years for killing her father who tried to rape her, only underlines the need for awareness training of the problem at all levels of society. There are many protests at the harshness and injustice of this sentence and hopefully something will change.

I spent the morning talking to 130 secondary girls. First on the agenda was the re-usable sanitary pad project. These girls know me after the eco-san toilet training and the Read for the Top, but they were still embarrassed by the topic for the first while. Only three of the girls said they had parents who would buy them pads each month. We calculated easily that each of them misses at least one month of school every year. 95% indicated they could bring the 40 shillings (50c) needed for a small pouch of four re-usable pads. Canadian benefactors will subsidize about $1 per pouch. The girls spent some time practicing how to attach them to underwear with much giggling.

Then we progressed to Assertiveness training. We used some materials from the old BC personal development program and some Virtues cards. We did role plays on simple situations and shared with partners situations where the new skills could be used.

Then came the big topic: saying NO to pressure for sexual relations. We used a recent article from the Daily Nation about teenage pregnancy and discussed how our new assertiveness skills could help these young women from cutting short their education. We cannot do anything about early marriage and rape, but hopefully will reduce the number of school-girl pregnancies in this area.

On Friday I'll show some African videos on the problem of sexual predators and incest and then we'll do the same training with boys with the emphasis on respect and responsibility..

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fears for children

There are children everywhere, trotting to school (some as young as four of five) along the side of the road with a book bag on their back. Others play in the gutters while mother minds a vegetable stall. We have always noticed how free children are here to go alone to school, to a shop, wander and play. But in the last few weeks a new fear for children's safety has surfaced in Nairobi. Four or five children have been snatched from a bus, from a Sunday School class and elsewhere and in some cases ransom money demanded. While some are found, one little girl is still missing although the parents have paid up. The boy who rode a bus to go 300 metres because his mother didn't want him to cross a busy road, disappeared yesterday.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Project planning

Teacher training for Read for the Top
Thanks to the generosity of Rotary District 5020 we have a small grant for Read for the Top in five more schools. The teacher training day will be held in November. We are setting our budgets for this,for some cleam water, for eco-san toilets and for Virtues training in schools and communities.
In addition we have almost enough funding for the clergy training on the response to sexual abuse. The clergy are very important peole in their communities and this training will give them tools and strategies against this very prevalent problem. We shall also be using some assertiveness training for young women (and men) in a pilot secondary school. One teenage girl in three becomes pregant in Kenya, often meaning the end to her education.
Finally, we have some funding for the re-usable sanitary pad project in a pilot school which will start in the new year.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Oops, I miscalculated! The MPs awarded themselves a departing bonus of $100 K each

Friday, October 12, 2012

The end of a week

Yesterday was cool and rainy with the temperature barely reaching 20 C. And it was laundry day so we have a line of clothes on the balcony. The power was off most of the afternoon and in the evening we had intermittent breaks of a minute or so. Very frustrating! But this morning we woke to bright sunshine. We shall meet with some members of Kakamega Rotary Club to look at the springs they have protected with the remainder of the global grant.

The news yesterday informed us that the Ministry has decided to go back to the normal time for school opening. So schools will open on Jan 7, but primary school exam results will not be available until the end of January. This will delay the integration of first year high school students into secondary.

Last week the MPs voted themselves a severance package of about $25K each after the government announced new taxes to pay for teacher and doctor increases in pay. Add to this that the new Constitution does not allow anyone to set their own remuneration any more. The President did the right thing and refused to sign the bill. The community-oriented MPs are now threatening to 'go slow' on legislation. Letters and comments show how furious people are.

Our proposed grant from Rotary has been withdrawn. This would have covered Read for the Top in 10 schools, Virtues training in ten schools and 20 communities, professional development for 80 more  teachers , plus job training for about 20 young people.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Today is the International Day of the Girl Child. Some stats: Educating girls is one of the strongest ways not only to improve gender equality but to promote healthy development of families, communities and nations (World Bank) When 10% more girls go to school a country's GDP increases on average by 3%; children born to educated mothers are more likely to survivie past the age of 5; one extra year of primary school boosts girls' eventual wages by 10-30%; in the developing world 1 in 7 girls is married before her 15th birthday; 77 million girls worldwide are not enrolled in school; when international development funds are allocated less than 2 cents of every dollar is directed specifically to girls.
Article in our Kenya paper today co-authored by Desmond Tutu against child marriage.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Finals of Read for the Top

Form 4 is the last year of High School. English exams require reading six set texts: three English, three Swahili. Having this contest has encouraged the studenst to read and comprehend the books. we are looking forward to improved marks in the examinations next month

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Read for the Top

A session of Read for the Top is always a learning experience. We went on Friday to the second High School running the contest for their senior (exam) class. A friend in Victoria built us an electronic board to use that lights up for an answer. We had to learn a couple of new tricks to adapt to it and the contestants had an even steeper learning curve. We soon settled down to an enjoyable contest and we go back on Monday for the finals.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

News from a secondary school

Earlier this year we put in Eco-San toilets (adapted for equatorial Africa) for the girls in a Secondary school. They are working well and the schools is processing the urea to use on their crops. (Most schools do some farming for instruction and to supplement school lunches.) The school is very proud of the well-maintained toilets and their very green and healthy crops. They no longer purchase urea as fertilizer and might soon start selling the product locally. They process the urine by standing the full drums in the sun for about a week and mixing with water.
This school which is struggling so hard to improve was seriously compromised a few months ago when eight senior girls were found to be pregnant (one by a senior teacher). The teacher has been indicted and his teaching licence revoked. The abuse of girls by teachers is a very real and prevalent problem and one reason why the clergy here have asked me to run a seminar for them to discuss the issue and what communities can do. We have been talking to the school Principal about various awareness strategies both for boys and girls  A girl's career virtually comes to a dead stop when she gives birth, while boys continue happily sometimes avoiding all responsibility.
Situated in a very poor area, the school sees frequent absenteeism from girls who cannot afford to buy sanitary pads. We looked a while ago at the possibility of providing re-usable pads but never really settled on a pilot project. Maybe with the relationship we have with this school, this would be the place to start.

On a happier note, this school is the second to run Read for the Top in their senior (examination) class. We shall hold heats for 66 students on Friday and the finals next Monday.

Monday, October 1, 2012

In Nairobi

Our journey to Nairobi went smoothly and we arrived on Tuesday evening. ByThursday afternoon  the sun had at last appeared and warmed the chilly air. Hard to believe we are near the Equator and not in BC.
Wednesday we went to Immigration to collect our new resident cards that we ordered last March. No sign of them! The fellow put a ‘trace’ request to see what might have happened. The good news is we have our old ones, plus the receipt for the new ones, and someone else can collect them for us at some unspecified future date.
We dropped in at Nakumatt the big supermarket for Rod to buy a cap (he forgot to put one in the luggage!) There we met two young men from Kakamega who, as always, beamed with joy to describe their ‘home’ when they learned we know the area.
Wednesday lunch BBQ at the United Kenya Club offered goat and chicken and many local vegetables. Breakfast gives us large slices of pineapple, papaya and delicious passion fruit.
Our vehicle is here thanks to our network of willing friends and left early Saturday expecting to arrive in the late afternoon. Of course there is something to be fixed, so stopped by our reliable mechanic in Kisumu. Hopefully it will be easy to put right.
As far as the grant goes, we are toiling up the long, slow slope of approval. It looks as if the East Africa District will give the ok but I have to do some work with the local club to ensure they qualify for this kind of grant. (Yes, this could all have been done weeks ago!)
The public school teachers have been on strike for three weeks and are now back at work after receiving a lump sum payment. This means that the very important exam schedule has been thrown out of sync and delay in their administration will mean a delay in opening of school in the new year. This in turn could radically affect our teacher seminar plan which is a major part of the grant proposal.
We never come back to Africa thinking things will be easy! But it is so good to see all the smiling faces and to receive so many welcoming phone calls, that it’s hard to stay frustrated for long.