St. Gregory students travel to Kenyaby kenya on Jun. 08, 2011, under Life
By Fred Roberts, St. Gregory Dean of Students
Since 2005, 66 students from St. Gregory College Preparatory School in Tucson have traveled to Kenya to teach in rural primary schools near the town of Naro Moru, on the western slopes of Mt. Kenya. Prior to the trip, the students take a semester long class called East Africa Studies, taught by trip leader Fred Roberts. The class covers Kenya’s colonial history, the country’s armed struggle for independence, also known as the Mau Mau revolt, and Kenya’s national language, Kiswahili. With an understanding of the country’s history and the ability to communicate with the Kenyans using their language, and not English, the students’ experience will be much richer than without this knowledge. In addition, the students will meet with several elders who participated in the Mau Mau revolt, which would be like a student from here meeting someone who was in America’s Civil War.
On June 5, nine students from St. Gregory and three students from Atlanta Girls School, all of whom took East Africa Studies which was taught online, departed for Kenya for three weeks of teaching and learning about Kenya. While teaching, the American students will have classes of 30 to 50 students, sitting three to a desk, and the only resource the teacher has is a piece of plywood painted black and a piece of chalk. Despite this, the young Kenyans’ enthusiasm to learn is relentless. During the 12 days of teaching, the Americans gain a special perspective on the lives of the Kenyan students and teachers, and in turn the Kenyans learn a great deal about the American students and America.
The students will also be carrying out a significant community service project, constructing a new classroom at Gitinga Primary School. Throughout the school year the students raised funds through a variety of activities, and three local foundations also provided very meaningful donations. In total $7,800 was raised, just what is needed to construct a stone and cement classroom measuring 25-by-40 feet, a cost of $7.80 per square foot. On June 11 the work will begin with the American students, Kenyan students and the parents and faculty of Gitinga coming together to dig the trench for the foundation and laying down the first course of stones. All work must be done by hand, which will mean a lot of digging and mixing of cement for everyone. At the end of the day everyone is treated to a traditional Kenyan meal of irio (potatoes, corn and spinach), chapatti (Kenya’s version of a flour tortilla but thicker), and chai (Kenyan tea, milk, spices and sugar).
No trip to Kenya would be complete without seeing the animals for which this region is famous. One day will be spent at Sweetwaters Game Reserve, a one-hour drive from Batian’s View Experiential Education Center, where the group will be staying. At Sweetwaters, students may see giraffe, zebra, cape buffalo, hippo, elephant and lion. As a grand finale, two nights will be spent a Samburu Game Reserve where the students will see animals more accustomed to warmer climates, such as the gerenuk, oryx, ostrich, and Grevys zebra.
Follow the students’ adventure by reading their daily dispatches that will be posted at TucsonCitizen.com starting today.