#28 A KH Board Member and Family Come to Teach English

#28 A KH Board Member and Family Come to Teach English        Thursday, Aug 6, 2015

Mary Anne Rodgers is a member of the governing board of Kenya Help.  She, her daughter, Emily, and Emily’s friend, Sam, arrived Sunday and were ready to teach English Monday morning.  Our plan was to give private tutoring to form 4’s whose English exam results were not up to snuff.  The students loved working with them.  We got names from the teachers and every 1 ½ hours a new girl would arrive, English mock exam in hand, to go through it with one of the 3.  Mary Anne is an attorney, Emily is college senior with a psych major and Sam is a junior with a major in philosophy, planning to teach.  It’s hard to get better help than that.  Unfortunately it didn’t occur to me to take pictures of all the hard work going on and the intensity of that work.

In the meantime I was busily working with the form 4 math students whose performance was less than stellar.  I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing less than 1 on 1 (although I was doing 2 on 1) such that I could look at their papers and help them see where they were going wrong.  I was quite surprised to find that often the issue was the student didn’t understand what was being asked – and had she understood it, she could have answered it.  A second problem was fear.  The questions seemed so intimidating the student was afraid to even get her toes wet, let alone wade into the question.  I tried to work with 4 groups of 2 a day, each 1 ½ hour, although some days we didn’t get there early enough or something came up to interfere (best laid plans…). We focused on the “cheap points.”  These were often questions that seemed hard (so were often skipped) but in fact could be answered in under 1 minute.  In addition, I stayed at school 3 nights so I could teach from 7 – 9.  I stayed with Lucy, the new matron, who is very sweet and took good care of me, although it meant she had to sleep on a mattress on her living room floor.  Again we focused on strategies for maximizing the points on the KCSE.

In US schools the students go home after completing exams, but here, they stay at school for 3-5 days after completing exams, to “revise” with teachers and also to wait until their exams were marked, so they could take home a report card.  This is a must that the student arrives home at the end of the term, report card in hand.  It’s a tough marking marathon for the teachers because the exams are hard and the “marking scheme” is very precise and most unforgiving.   By Wednesday afternoon we had to stop.  The girls were cleaning the classrooms and dorms, washing their clothes and packing to go home.  Thursday most of them left before 8 am, some having very far to travel.

Also we had planned a meeting of Empower The World, the Kenyan NGO established to administer the funds raised by Kenya Help.  They accept applications from families who need scholarship help, make home visits to ascertain the reality of the application and select those fortunate students, usually 6 girls and 6 boys, plus the children in Mji Wa Neema, almost of whom are in high school or university.  We thought it would be very important for Mary Anne to meet the ETW members and vv.  It was a wide-ranging discussion about their goals and ours and how we work together.  They are ready to begin applying for grants, both in-country and international, with the understanding that time may dictate the phasing out of Kenya Help.  No one knows what the future may hold, but they are as concerned as we are about keeping this wonderful program of sending poor, bright kids to school.

Emily and Sam contributed much enthusiasm and creativity, as is often the case with young people.  I’ve wished so often for that energy of youth to join us and now perhaps that will begin, although both of them are in college, Emily in Colorado and Sam in Connecticut.  They were quite taken with the proposed “greater greening” of SFG, by installing a biogas conversion system, which takes all waste – food, human, animal, vegetable – removing the methane for cooking which reduces deforestation, which is a big problem here, as well as reducing air pollution, a big problem everywhere.  The remainder is processed for organic fertilizer, safe enough to use on food crops.  Since SFG has 2 gardens, both done organically, this will increase productivity and avoid the expense of pumping out the bathrooms every term.

Here we are at dinner as we continued out discussion of going forward with our mutual programs.

2015-28 MaryAnn Rodgers Emily and Sam ETW board

Thursday morning the 3 visitors left for a safari, the girls left school and the teachers had their end of term party.  They have what’s known as a “welfare group” to which they contribute monthly and I also contribute while I’m here.  Hence I get to attend the party.  I forgot my camera, but Ruth has kindly sent me pictures.

Later, back at Mji Wa Neema, I kind of faded away for awhile.  That was 4 days of marathon teaching for me, and I withdrew into Harry Potter, book 7.

But I couldn’t completely fade away, because the kids were coming home from high school and the first thing they all do is hand over the grade reports to Julia, whom they all call Mom.  Here is the SFG contingent.

2015-28 SFG girls hand over report cards to Julia

Saturday is the reunion of the children from this home, although not all are able to attend.  Some of those in university have exams or are “on attachment”, which preclude their leaving.  Most of the high school kids are now here and will attend my math sessions until Tuesday.  Wednesday is packing up day and I leave on Thursday.  I can’t believe this summer is almost over for me here.  It has been another time of so many adventures and experiences, renewing old friendships and making new ones.

Here is a picture I just found from the reunion; these are mostly girls from the pioneer class.

2015-28 reunion members of SFG pioneer class


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