By Heather Lister.

Heather is a member of Bedminstrer Quaker Meeting, Bristol. She is teaching at Mama Zipporah's Huruma

>> >Children's Home (Ngong) and at the Rise and Shine Primary School in >> >Kawangware,


To reach the "Rise and Shine" primary school I take a hair-raising trip by matatu (a useful but anarchic mode of transport provided by customized minibuses playing loud reggae) and walk into the estate along a red dirt road flanked by dukas – market stalls selling everything from bananas to shoes (you can also get your mobile phone charged, or attend a beauty salon) Kawangware is one of many shanty towns – poor areas consisting of acres of simple homes built of wood and corrugated tin - that surround Nairobi.

The primary school has a dusty yard surrounded by wooden palings, and consists of four small classrooms into which 170 children eagerly cram themselves to gain whatever education they can. Sixty tiny bright-eyed children – a mixture of "babies", Nursery, and the Pre-School Unit - share one room. Next door Standard One, Two and Three (the equivalent of Years 1, 2 and 3 in the UK) are divided from Standard Four and Five by a screen constructed of black bin-bags. Only Standard Eight, who will be taking the equivalent of GCSE very shortly, have a little room of their own.

I have come to teach English to Standard Six and Seven. When I enter they bounce to their feet and shout "Welcome, Madam! Good afternoon, Madam!" There’s a National Curriculum, and I have to adhere to it. I was advised "You teach Standard Six, while Standard Seven remains silent. Then Standard Six wait silently, while you teach Standard Seven." I try to think of exercises they can all do.

I have never encountered a group of children so hungry for learning. Given the poverty of their circumstances – many scraping even the basic necessities of life, some with little effective adult supervision – I am astonished by their courtesy, their patient willingness, and their gratitude.

With the change of government in Kenya in 2002, primary schooling was declared free, but parents still have to buy uniforms, books and stationery, and fund the school’s feeding programme where there is one. Government schools are seriously understaffed (standard ratio: 1 teacher to 100 pupils) There is little chance of admission for the disadvantaged and disabled.

To fill the gap, there are many Community Schools like "Rise and Shine" in areas like Kawangware. Community Schools get no support from government funds and need to raise funds by way of fees to cover costs. Only four teachers out of ten reported for duty at "Rise and Shine" at the beginning of term – the fact that their pay could not be guaranteed was no doubt a factor. After the school has paid for rent, repairs and an irregular water supply, the teachers share the remaining money, which may be no more than ten pounds a month. There’s a heavy reliance on parent volunteers.


There is wonderful work going on at "Rise and Shine," by devoted teachers. But

the need for additional support and funding is enormous, just to provide the basic standards of primary education and retain teachers. Rise and Shine is a government registered self help rehabilitation project, which has aims and objectives beyond this for the benefit of the community, but is forced to focus on short term needs through lack of regular funding.

At the end of the afternoon, as they leave the classroom, the children of Standard Six and Seven gravely shake my hand. To anyone involved in education, or convinced of its value, it is agonizing to think of such talented and enthusiastic children being unable to realize their potential.

For further information please contact :-

Peter Wakhisi, Headteacher, Rise & Shine Primary & Nursery

School, PO Box 3126-00506, Nairobi, Kenya

Telephone +254 (0)733553078

e.mail riseandshine71@yahoo.com

Or in the UK

Heather Lister, +44 (0)117 3737612

e.mail Heather.lister@blueyonder.co.uk

Donations can be channeled through :

The Co-operative Bank of Kenya Limited, Kawangware Agency,

Box 46904-00100,

Nairobi, Kenya

Account Name : Rise & Shine Primary School

Please contact me by email if you would like an email version of this article.

Photographs of "Rise and Shine" and its pupils are also available!

************************* End of Heather’s Letter *******************************


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