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"If You Are Planning for a Lifetime, Educate People"

Retired Menlo-Atherton High School teacher takes us to Kenya where she is volunteering her time as a math teacher. Today she tells about hitting a few roadblocks on the way to interview students.

Yesterday we began a series of video interviews with students, to be put on our website.  When I bought the video cam, I was so ignorant, I thought it would be fine to use mini cassettes and only later learned special devices are required to transfer the videos to a computer or DVD.  Didn’t know about a memory card!  DUH!   

We recorded the first interview on cassette and after some questioning, discovered there is a place in Naivasha that can do the transfer to DVD.  So Peter Murigi (deputy principal) and I pile into my car to run down so we could view the first interview before doing any more.  It didn’t take long and wasn’t too expensive, so hopped back in the car to return to school for a staff meeting.  With luck we’d be right on time.  Hmmm, what’s this?  Police everywhere.  We’d noticed some at the church gate as we went by and speculated the search was on for an al Shabab escapee rumored to be in town. 

But now, ACH!  All cars being turned off the highway, into the matatu station.  OK, wind through that mess, down an alley out another road.  Good thing Peter was with me!  After a few errors we are on the main road, heading toward school, but down from the intersection where I usually join that highway. 

“Its OK, Peter, we have 7 minutes.  We’ll just make it”

Gunning the motor.  But wait!  More Police at the intersection.  Everyone is signaled to stop.  RATS!  A female police officer explains that President Kibaki and his motorcade were just coming down the pike.  No cars allowed until the motorcade had passed.  Nothing to do but wait.  People were climbing all over the embankments, Peter called school to explain.  Five minutes, ten minutes, ah — a siren!  No, false alarm. 

Another few minutes, wow! ROARING down the highway came about 20 cars, with a fat black one sporting Kenyan flags right in the middle!  He was going to cut the ribbon on a new geothermal plant near here.  It will triple the geothermal generation output! 

And so we were off.  I have learned to be as pushy a driver as any Kenyan, so we got in the line early and made it back only 25 minutes late!  But they held the meeting for us, the topic being who was going to Thika next month to attend Sr. Magdalene’s profession of final vows, what would be an appropriate gift, who would given how much.  I am planning to go, right before I go to West Pokot (not East as I mistakenly reported earlier) and now a delegation of staff and students will represent the school. 

After lunch, rushed back to town to pick up the DVD and do a couple other errands, back up to school, preview the interview, and go outside to do several more.  Instead of my being the interviewer, Peter, Sister Magdalene and Patricia Head teacher and English teacher, also staff member of longest history at SFG, each did one.  I thought it was a brilliant idea to let people see (and hear) some of the staff.  Today, Ruth Kahiga, principal, and Mary ???? new teacher each did one. 

Finally finished after 6 and went home, forgetting my computer plugged into a socket in the staff room.  Argh!  Am so addicted to it almost went into DTs! 

Today, after a quick stop at SFG to collect my computer, was off to Kinagop to visit Regina’s school.  When I had almost reached school I had one of those sinking feelings, “Oh $%^$^&, gas is low and I have no money!  RATS”  Borrowed ksh 1000 (about $12) from the principal, and back down to the “petrol”, of course someone pulled in right in front of me, had a huge tank and was in no hurry to pull out of the gassing up spot.  Now I have about ¼ tank, which should be plenty.  It’s not that far.  

I knew part of the route and she was to meet me where I dropped her several weeks ago.  Up, up a winding, fairly good tarmac road, passing bicycles loaded to the eyebrows with milk or other goods, being walked up a LONG, steep hill, being passed by bicycles going the other direction, plummeting pell-mell down the same hill, looking for the familiar spot where the tarmac ends.  Going, going, oh, dear, where is it?  Finally, in a fuss, not wanting to be late, I see it.  And about 50 feet into the dirt road is an intersection with a police road-block.  They’re all over all the time, waiting for matatus and never bother me, but I stopped (fortunately, b/c I don’t have an international driver’s license), not quite sure which fork is correct, “Which road do I take to Kinagop?”  “Kinagop is a very large area, madam, exactly where in Kinagop do you want to go?”  Ummm..  I didn't know the name of Regina’s school and was about to go off in what turned out to be the wrong direction, when Regina popped up at the car door, having just alighted from a matatu.  Another small miracle! 

The road is unpaved and very washboardy with potholes everywhere as well.  We bounced along and bounced along and I kept thinking we must be nearly there, but no, more bouncing along and I’m becoming convinced that every bolt on the car has become loosened and will soon fall off.  Turns out it is that far and more.  I’m eyeing the gas gauge, which fluctuates, depending on whether we’re going up a rolling green hill or down towards a small bridge to a river.  After more that half an hour Regina indicates a sign and we are there at last.  

Her school is government sponsored and has received a nice chunk of a grant to build more classrooms and a boy's dorm.  Currently only girls are boarders.  The school is rural, but has a nice feel to it.  (It's pictured in the photos attached to these words.) 

I thought you’d be able to read the aphorism on the gable.  It says.

“If your are planning for a year, plant rice.

If you are planning for a decade, plant trees.

If you are planning for a lifetime, educate people” 

I met the deputy principal, a very pleasant and welcoming man, and some of the staff before going off to meet Regina’s prize physics class. (They’re not the ones who scored 4 points out of 10) higher than the previous year, but when asked, asserted they would beat the class that did.  Such nice kids, bright looking and hard working.  Clearly going to school is #1 on their agenda. 

They had just a short break in their schedule of mock exams, and we went off to a form 2 class, with a very young teacher ws at the board.  Regina had arranged for me to talk to the students, which I did, then showed them my traditional lesson of FOIL, which they picked very quickly.  At first the teacher seemed a bit unsure — I think he didn’t know I was going to do that, but in the end, I think he liked it.  They kids really liked it and asked immediately when I would come back.  Probably not until 2013.  While I was teaching, a visitor wandered in, a chicken who evidently wanted to learn the process.  The students thought nothing of it, but I thought it was cool that chickens wandered freely about, providing eggs for the students and staff.

And then we were off to lunch —ugali and vegetables — and then to visit a large group of form 2’s.  They were in a new large room, newly built with no blackboard yet.  They asked me about the US education system, and lots of questions about schools.  Two questions struck me. 

“Do they teach Kiswahili in US schools?” 

I talked a bit about the events of the ‘60’s and why at that time some schools did offer Swahili. 

“How many tribes are there in the US?” 

At first I answered, “We don’t have tribes”, but upon rethinking that, I talked about the annihilation of the North American native population, comparing our colonial experience with the British with theirs.  At least their native population didn’t get wiped out! 

They had many more questions, but it was time for their next class and for me to head back, but before I left I took a couple more pix.  Take a look at them in the box next to these words. 

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A. Lee July 28, 2012 at 04:00 PM
How exciting! I'm glad you find time to blog.

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