I’ve written about Lucas before, big brother to Joseph of peanut butter fame, both residents of Mji Wa Neema. Lucas is quiet, studious, hard-working and never steals peanut butter. He’s now in class 8 and will sit for the national exam in November to begin high school in January 2017. He’s bright, particularly in math and he enjoys it. But he has Naivasha teeth—meaning they are permanently stained from the excessive fluoride in the ground water, weak and the enamel is virtually gone. He has a bright future, but not with those teeth, so I began asking about dentists.
When Alison and I visited Fr. Makarios at St. Theresia Center for Abused Children, I learned the clinic (which is open to the pubic) includes a dentist who comes every Tuesday. I asked whether they would be able to cap his teeth. “Oh yes, she has done many of those.” He showed me before and after pix of several pretty severe cases, although they didn’t seem as bad as Lucas’. Fr. Makarios told me the fees are at or below those of the district hospital, so I decided this was it.
Yesterday was the big day. He hadn’t heard any bad stories about dentists, so he was actually pretty eager to go get his teeth fixed and not in the least frightened, despite this being his maiden voyage with the dental chair.
I was impressed with Lucas and how calm he was in a very strange environment and with the dentist, who took a lot of time to talk with him before she did anything, explaining the procedures and the instruments. She was very gentle with him—note how relaxed his hands are.
She found quite extensive periodontal disease, which she treated, while explaining how to brush his teeth and otherwise do preventative maintenance. She cleaned the teeth, filled his one cavity and planned the further work.
I was also very impressed with the office, which looked very much like any dental office in the US. The only missing procedure was xrays. Fr. Makarios told me that a machine had been donated, but it arrived missing an essential part!!!! ARGH!
We set up more appointments during his school holiday. Julia will take him. It’s relatively close and easy to access. She doesn’t have to take him to Nairobi, nor even Nakuru. It’s about 20 minutes away by matatu. The best part if that the cost for everything is just under $1000. In the US it would have been 3 to 4 times that. Lucas has a sponsor who can help with this some, but donations are welcome. He’s a kid who’s worth the fix.
One of the most stalwart members of the SFG staff is Solomon Maina, who teaches Kiswahili and CRE (Christian Religious Education). His was a name I learned early on, because he has the characteristics of a Solomon. Quietly, over the years he has been going to school during the holidays to earn his bachelor’s degree and last weekend was his graduation. Monday he returned with the biggest smile!!!! He was as proud and excited as any kid. Unfortunately when I took the picture, the smile disappeared—having one’s picture taken is a very solemn (Solomon?) occasion. However the staff, who were very supportive of him made up for it—well, some of them did.
Yesterday was the last day to cram for the mocks—practice exams for the KCSE. All over the country kids are burning down dorms and principals’ offices in what is becoming a trend to try to delay the mocks. There is more to it than that, but it generally reaches a peak at this time of year. I suspect there are negative consequences for performing poorly, both at school and at home. The exams are long and hard. Math has 2 papers, each 24 questions, about 1/3 of which are really challenging, ½ are hard but doable and 1/6 are easy. The marking is very severe, so a pretty good student might have a grade 25% – 30%. It’s discouraging and creates a lot of fear and stress. Hence teens act out. They also strike, riot and burn over issues of food, TV during free time, harsh treatment by staff, particularly administrators, whom they claim do not listen and punish them for voicing their opinions. So far, I’ve not seen any sign of this kind of behavior at SFG, but …… who knows?
Monday and Tuesday I was on my own, without Alison. The younger students are now coming in for help and I had 5 form 2’s asking questions about material well ahead of the form 2 curriculum. Students and staff alike are telling me that having the 2 of us here for such a long time made a real impact on the math. I noticed smiles and genuine interest. I could see they are beginning to enjoy math (what a concept!) Time will tell.
Here are form 4’s “revising” and getting ready for the 2nd most stressful day of their 4 years (the most stressful being first day of the real deal.)
And below is Mr. Wekesa, a new math teacher, giving some last minute help. He’s a great teacher and a wonderful colleague. As head of the math department he is the one who set up a schedule for Alison and me to tutor students for the past 2 weeks.