#7 Five School Visits June 19, 2015
Last week Fr. Kiriti had alerted me that today I was invited to accompany the Empower the World (ETW) board to visit 5 local schools with gifts of new uniforms to some needy children. We were to meet at the ETW office at 9. Although I had awakened early, by the time I answered my overnight emails (thank you dear friends) I was in a rush. Fr. K does not like to be kept waiting! I got into my car with about 8 minutes to go, but immediately remembered I had worn no earrings (feel naked w/o them) and the menacing sky recommended carrying an umbrella, which I had left behind. Back in the car, I now had about 4 minutes, but the office is just down the road. Traffic was light and I pulled into a parking spot at 9:01. Not seeing a parking attendant I concluded this was a free parking area and hurried upstairs, only to find Fr. Kiriti not there. It turned out that Joyce, who was picking him in Mai Mahu had forgotten her phone and they had to fetch it. Several others arrived, we discussed the day and down we went to the car. “Margo” I knew something was up. Sure enough there was a boot on my car. This is Jesse Wahome, laughing at me.
ARGH! I had been warned, but evidently didn’t do due diligence to search out the collector, who issues a slip of paper to be place on the dash. I was MAD! I looked all around for same. They’re easy to spot in their yellow rain slickers (worn rain or shine.) Not one in sight. As is always the case, people know people and a call was made to come remove the boot. Half and hour later, the parking attendant arrived, and I was not nice. Why had he called them to put a boot on my car? He wasn’t there. How was I supposed to pay? He was nowhere to be seen! Blat, blat, blat. Poor man, I now feel sorry for him, but I really blasted him. He didn’t have the key to remove the boot, so we waited longer. It was easily 45 minutes before I spotted 2 men, boots in hand, inspecting my car. I barged over, same story. No attendant, we are in a hurry. What!!!! You want me now to hoof it to a bank, stand in a queue, and pay ksh1050 (~ $12). We don’t have time for that. By that time my companions joined me and knew these guys. In fact, they knew me, but didn’t know it was my car. There is a tight network here, with ways to manage this system, but I didn’t know any of that. They ended up apologizing to me and removing the boot, upon payment of the fee of ksh80 (~$.90). Finally we were off, now more than an hour late to the first school.
It was a typical poor semi-rural school, Kinanga Primary, with a population of some 1400 students. There would have to be close to 100 students per class, or else there were buildings I couldn’t see. The children were dirty, uniforms torn, worn and shabby, but they couldn’t take their eyes off the mzungu lady. Evidently they had had little or no experience with same. I’d catch the eye of one staring at me. Then I’d laugh and usually get a laugh back. Some shyly ducked their heads. Others just stared.
Kenyans love to make speeches. Some were mercifully short (like mine), but one man who had joined us is a motivational speaker and was probably really good, went on and on. Although I couldn’t understand a word the children were very much engaged as he talked to them about the evils of drink and drugs. He was funny, serious, involving them with questions, then expounding. ACK! Will this never end? Eventually it did and the 10 uniforms were distributed to children identified by the head teacher as being the neediest. How she did it I can’t imagine. It looked to me like 500 or more were needy. One boy who was a lucky recipient had shirt and trousers that were almost non-existent. The seat of his pants was literally gone, requiring shorts to be worn under his uniform shorts. Uniform was a bunch of holes tenuously held together with a few pieces of thread.
It was actually a lovely idea; we just needed many more uniforms. They had been provided at cost by Simon Kingori, owner of a uniform shop here. I’ve known him for many years and found him to be a kind and generous man. He is part owner of St. Claire’s girls high, not far from SFG.
When we arrived, I noticed one teacher who had a truly malevolent expression—and that was before I saw the 2-foot rod in her hand, which she brandished at the kids in such a way that left no doubt that she wasn’t hitting them only due to our presence. Hitting a child is illegal in Kenya, but there is no way to enforce it-or at least one has not been established.
We visited 2 more schools in the area, and I was grateful that someone had told the MC this was not the occasion for a 2-hours speech, so his talk got shorter and shorter as we hit the 2nd and 3rd schools. These were not so desperately poor, but I certainly saw some very sad cases, like one boy with stick-thin legs and a protruding belly, very likely having kwashiorkor, a disease of malnutrition.
Here are the recipients at school #2. The gentleman in the middle is Simon Kingori (see above). This is a much smaller school, only about 400 students. Note the skirts on the 2 girls at the right.
By the time we finished with school #3 and had had some lunch, the day had deteriorated and at school #4 it was really raining. They assembled only 7th and 8th graders in a classroom.
We arrived at #5 just at closing time, but the children were assembled anyway. This was another large school, near the KCC slums, as was #4. I couldn’t stop thinking that virtually all these children would have impoverished lives and having visitors to their school who brought new uniforms to a precious few would be a major event in their small lives. It does break my heart. Note the whip behind the teacher’s back. She was actually hitting children with this strip of rubber with tread on it. That would really sting! Fr. Kiriti asked her to put it away lest I might faint. I wouldn’t have, but I was tempted to grab it and turn it on her!
Despite the poverty and the punishment I saw, it was a wonderful day. ETW had done a wonderful thing. All those children will remember the visit and the fortunate recipients of new uniforms must have gone home with a singing heart.