And School Starts Again in Kenyaby kenya on Jun. 12, 2012, under Life
June 11, 2012
By Emily Hansen, St. Gregory Class of ‘12
When many people think of Africa they picture golden savannas with grass rippling in the wind; elephants, zebras, and giraffes graze in perfect harmony as Simba from the Lion King basks lazily in the sun, flexing the velvety pads of his paws to the rhythm of the Circle of Life. Sure, the Lion King offers a pretty accurate representation of a Kenyan safari (minus the singing warthog and dancing hyenas), but most of us who have been to Kenya, who have heard about our trip, or have personal connections in Africa may say, instead, that the friends we make here and the families we become a part of are central to our experience. This is my second trip to Kenya, and I can honestly say that nothing has brought me more joy in the past week than reconnecting with the staff at Batian’s View, my students and the other teachers at Irigithathi Primary School.
Today was the first official day of school for all of us “teachers” on the trip. After a warming breakfast of chai, crepes and toast, we all meandered into the van or began walking to school around 7:45 a.m. Whether you are walking or riding in the van, you can wave and call “jambo!” (hello!) to any child or adult on the road and expect to receive a warm smile or salutation in return.
Many in the Naro Moru community are familiar with Batian’s View and the St. Gregory Kenya program, so any “muzungu” or “white person” is considered a friend. This warm, safe, community feel help set the tone for the welcome that we received from our students as soon as we drove onto school grounds. At every school, students waited to hear the grinding sound of the van pulling into the school gates and (if they had morning assembly, as they did when we arrived today), craned their necks to get a glimpse of their muzungu teachers. Waving, hopping erratically and squealing, they welcomed us with ear-to-ear grins and wide eyes. Daphne and I were wonderfully overwhelmed by their enthusiasm, and I was honored when most of the kids thrust their hands in the air when Mr. Kihara (the head teacher) asked if they remembered my name. He asked them what it was, and they all screamed “Emily!” We then proceeded to the teacher’s room, and I kept turning around to wave at the kids as they all shouted my name and wanted a high five, fist bump, handshake or affirmation that I remembered them in return.
- Emily and Daphne with their Kenyan ‘mothers.’
The teachers waited for us outside of the room and immediately came over and clasped our hands, gave us hugs (in Kenya you lean once to the left and once to the right after you embrace someone to greet them), and welcomed us into their family. We each got a ‘mother’ (one of the teachers) who then gave us a Kikuyu name. Daphne’s mother named her ‘Wanjiko,’ who is one of the founding tribal matriarchs, and my mother gave me an extra hug, saying ‘Nywela,’ which means a hard-working woman. After getting situated at our new desks and being served chai and bread from the teachers, we spent the rest of the morning receiving class assignments, creating schemes of work and forming lesson plans. Irigithathi requires schemes of work from all of the teachers, which means that we must write out all the details of each lesson, that being topic, objective, activities, resources, and references that we use during the teaching process. It’s also necessary to create a lesson plan with the teachers’ duties, students’ duties, and proposed activity during class. During the one-hour lunch break beginning at 1 p.m., we went outside to bask with the teachers in the warm Kenyan sun.
- Lesson planning
Since it was a sunny, breezy day, the teachers took us out into the front yard underneath one of the many trees and lay down on the ground. They asked us about our families, about Tucson’s weather, animals, and school system and about teachers in America. As they spoke, they constantly joked with each other and with us, but they were always kind and caring, noticing every band-aid on a finger, sunburn on our face, and red marks on our fingers from scrubbing our own laundry. Daphne and I laughed along with them, and we all got to relax in the company of our new family.