Following the recent incident in Nairobi, Kenya, we have had a lot of messages from worried volunteers – past and present – concerning our partner projects in Nakuru and its surrounding areas. Please see below an open letter from our director, Dan, regarding the situation with the Kenya schools, and what is being done as a result at our partner projects.
We have received lots of messages from volunteers recently, with questions about some of our partner schools in Kenya, so I wanted to write a blog with some news from my recent visit.
What happened in Kenya?
For context, you may have heard about a tragic incident that happened in Nairobi, Kenya in September, where a two-storey school building collapsed, leaving seven students dead and dozens injured.
It was widely reported that the building was constructed from timber and iron sheets, with a concrete floor separating the two levels. The school did not have permission to build the newer first floor and it is highly unlikely that permission to build such a structure, using those materials, would have ever been granted – it was an avoidable tragedy waiting to happen.
The incident caused widespread public anger at the poor standards in some schools across the country, which intensified pressure on national and local government to act. In response, the education ministry launched a nationwide campaign of school inspections, with a view to closing any schools that were deemed to be inadequate or unsafe.
How do our partner projects fit into this?
Thousands of ‘private’ or community schools – like the ones African Adventures supports – have been set up across Kenya in the absence of enough public (government) schools. A chronic lack of funding and accessibility has exacerbated the problem, particularly in urban areas, which are more densely populated. Whilst primary school education is free at the point of access, there are some ancillary costs that are unaffordable for many families, so these ‘private’ (or as we term them, ‘project’) schools provide an education to children from particularly poor backgrounds, without charging any fees. They are often set up by members of the community who want to help but do not necessarily have the financial means that one might expect a conventional private school to have. Facilities at these schools are, therefore, often basic, and one of the reasons African Adventures exists is to provide support to such schools.
What does this mean for our partner projects?
Inspectors visited all our partner schools in October. Each was considered safe, but they insisted on several improvements that needed to be made, in order to grant the school registration certificates which permit them to open for the new academic year in January. Unfortunately, they offered no funding towards financing these infrastructure upgrades, which left us with the rather mammoth task of raising the funds ourselves, at a time of year when we do not host lots of groups of volunteers.
What is the current situation and what is being done to help?
Thankfully, with generous support from several of our regular travelling groups – including Springfield School – and individual volunteers, and by allocating some of our own funds, African Adventures and African Adventures Foundation have provided funding for six new permanent classrooms, two sets of new toilets and school registration applications for our partner projects. As a result, I am delighted to confirm that The Walk Centre, Chaddy Mission School, Ungana Academy, Mama Kerry Hope Academy, Destiny West End Children’s Academy, and Cherish will all open at the beginning of the new academic year in January.
We are awaiting confirmation on Jubilee Academy’s opening, which is due to be confirmed this week.
Bygrace Academy is, however, currently looking for a new home because the improvements requested would be more easily achieved at a new site with better quality buildings. We can then work with the project in the medium term to develop a site that the school can operate on for years to come. Our Kenya team is working with Grace, the Headteacher at Bygrace, to help her find a new plot over the Christmas break. If, for any reason, a new home for the school is not found by the beginning of January, when the school term begins, our other partner projects will step in to offer places to as many students from Bygrace as possible.
Considering that an estimated 45 schools have been closed down in Nakuru County alone in the last six weeks, the fact that almost all our partner schools will be opening in January is a testament to the valuable work our staff and volunteers have carried out throughout 2019 – otherwise, the list of requirements would have been greater.
The sad reality is, however, that thousands of children from other Kenya schools face being reschooled or, worse still, not having a new school to go to.
A final note…
We would like to have provided a more detailed response to individual queries before now and we appreciate some of you have been worried for weeks. However, we wanted to make sure that we were absolutely clear about what work needed to be done, the costs involved, how we could help, and what we needed to organise to ensure the schools can operate without worry in 2020.
Our work is far from finished; volunteers travelling in 2020 will be involved in vital building work as we aim for all the Kenya schools to become fully registered.
If you would like to help contribute towards the costs of future work needed at a project you have volunteered at, or want to get involved in our Christmas Meal Appeal which was launched last week, please do get in touch and we would be happy to provide more information.
Thanks for your support,
Dan and the African Adventures team
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