Our Schools and their Heroes
In May 2005 I visited the slums of Nairobi for the first time en route to a school I was visiting to support an community initiative that Barclays Bank Kenya had developed. The slum area was Mukuru Kwa Njenga and it was the primary school in its heart that we were visiting. The area is on the perimeter of Nairobi's international airport and you get some idea from this picture the kind of conditions the people are living in but without actually being there very difficult to appreciate the emotional impact it has. Of the 50,000 or so souls that are crammed into a pretty small space, 1800 of them aged between 4 and 13 make up the population of the school.
During the course of the visit I spent some time in a girl's classroom where Emily first asked if I could pay for some of them to go to school, which is pretty much how the whole journey began and Emily remains today one of my sources of inspiration. After she graduated we managed to take time out for her to show me round the school she graduated from, Nginda Girls High School, and I think it is fair to say she is proud of her school and her academic achievements there.
Kwa Njenga remains with us as the main primary schools we support and already two year groups from that school have graduated through the Teach Africa programme, 20 in all, and a further 46 are being supported in the programme at the moment. Of the graduates, nearly half are either at University of waiting to take their places whilst the remainder are now in good jobs.
Kawangware Primary School is to the West of Nairobi and sits in a similar slum to Mukuru. A large perimeter wall has been built around the school and whilst it keeps harm at bay many of the drug and alcohol gangs have set up operations close to the wall. Prostitution is also rife but within its walls the school provides an oasis of calm and the staff in the school have, with limited resources, done a brilliant job of creating a productive learning environment.
This school is also where I met another of my heroes, Charles Monari, a huge bear of a man passionate about the education he believes is an essential part of what his community needs to break out of the cycles of poverty and crime. Despite many offers to much "easier" and senior roles he has committed the last 24 years of his life to living and teaching in this community seeing 3 generations (the maths works differently in the slums) of students through the school and offering the same care and attention to those he knows will not make it through their primary education due to HIV. One of the privileges of running this charity is that it brings you into contact with truly inspirational human beings like Charles.
Both of these schools have embraced the Teach Africa programme as it offers hope to the students in their care of continuing their education. The teachers too have upped their game because they too can see goals to fight for beyond the primary years. And, most remarkably of all, it has given hope to the communities they operate in that even a few of their children have a shot at a full education and believe me, they see it as an absolute privilege and not a chore -- please helps us make a few more dreams come true.