Today was a combination of old and new, all of it wonderful!
We returned to Ngeya this morning to teach the first through fourth graders about the eReaders (Kindles). We decided to start with the first graders. As you can imagine, they were too cute for words. First grade at Ngeya is mostly spent beginning their acquisition of English as they have mostly heard Kiswahili and their “mother tongue,” whatever their tribal language is… mostly Kikuyu in this region. Students in Kenya are in the middle of their school years right now. I learned yesterday from one of the college students that the primary and secondary schools work on a calendar-year/trimester system. So students will attend school for three months and then will have a month off, three of the same rotation during the calendar year. The first graders that we met this morning were halfway through their study of English, so most of the class had to be taught by one of our Kenyan colleagues.
The first graders were mostly afraid of us at first, but once they warmed up to us, they took to the eReaders like it was their native land, even though they are entirely in English. It was incredibly impressive.
We moved through the second, third and fourth grades before lunch. We always made sure that the last message we gave to the students was “If you want to spend more time with the eReaders, make sure to come to the library at the Anglican Church!” We figured that our strategy was to get them “bit” by the uniqueness of the technology so that they will start coming to the library after school and Ronald, the librarian, can have more one-on-one time with them. Overall, I feel as though our time at Ngeya, though short, was very successful.
After Ngeya, we took a relaxing lunch at All Saints while we waited for the afternoon activities. Most of us just sat out on the steps of the church and talked to each other or read from our books (or the eReaders!)
Around 2:30, a bunch of students from Ngeya appeared at the church! It was many students from the fifth, seventh and eighth grade classes. They came to the church for the formal dedication of the Osborne Library on the campus of All Saints which was scheduled to start at 4pm when the Bishop arrived. As we had an hour and a half to entertain the students, we played games with them and talked to them in smaller groups than we were able early in the day.
Once Bishop Wolfe arrived, we started the dedication ceremony. John Osborne, formerly of Wichita, KS, donated the library to the people of Maai Mahiu in memory of his parents. John’s father was an Episcopal priest and a scholar who cherished books and Kansas 2 Kenya worked with him on establishing the library in Maai Mahiu. It turns out that Amazon, under one of their non-profits called World Reader, donated the eReaders to the library! The Bishop and Mr. Osborne both talked about the value of education during the dedication.
Because we’ve been working with Kenyan students for the past several days, we’ve learned quite a bit about the Kenyan education system. It’s modeled after the British system, but is much more cut-throat. At grade 8, all students take an exam and only those who pass are allowed to continue into secondary school. It turns out that only about half of Kenyan eighth graders will pass the test this year. Of the half that pass the test, only another half of them will be able to pay the school fees to pay for high school. College admittance is even more rare.
I had a “God Moment” this morning as I was watching the first graders play with the eReaders: I realized that, because of Kansas 2 Kenya’s involvement in Maai Mahiu, these first graders will have a much greater potential to succeed academically. K2K has paid to fill each eReader with about 400 books! Great works of literature, science texts, mathematics, are now all at the fingertips of the thousands of students in and around Maai Mahiu!
Maai Mahiu is mostly known around Kenya for its staggering numbers of AIDS related deaths each year leaving many children orphaned. It is one of the major pit-stops on the “AIDS Highway,” so called because it is THE major trade route from Mombasa, Kenya into the interior of the continent. Truck Drivers make their way down the road carrying freight and sleeping with prostitutes all along the road.
With K2K’s presence in Maai Mahiu, the face of Maai Mahiu has the potential to change! What if Maai Mahiu became known for the number of eighth graders it successfully graduates? What if it became known as the home of a Nobel-laureate?
This kind of renewal is possible! The Kingdom of God is among us!