#4 – Visitors and Math

Promptly at 9 am Mary, Peris (whose name I had totally wrong yesterday) and I began working on math.  We started with vectors, which is complicated here, nothing like the vectors we teach in the US.  In fact, they had me baffled for a long time until I had a small talk with myself. “Margo, if Kenyan students can learn this, surely you can too!”  After which I sat myself down with the text books and went to work.  Finally I could see what we going on and found them pretty easy, but students here find them hard.  About 9:50 Mary Ann showed up.  ACK! I was miffed.  After I gave her my full school-teacher glare and growl, she explained she’d had to go to the pharmacy for a prescription for someone in her family.  Hmmmm. Apology offered and accepted. 

My big worry was I’d have to go all through vectors again.  Mary and Peris had sorted them out pretty well.  I left them briefly to walk down to the paper seller, for my Daily Nationand upon return found Mary Ann explaining some issue of a vector question to Mary and Peris.  I guess that problem is solved!

Coming out of the church compound gate, I was greeted by Lucy, one of the adult kids from Mji, now selling shoes across the street.  I asked her to walk down with me to help me over the rough areas, which she did, explaining as we walked that she’d acquired a short job, going to shops in a certain area of town, checking to see whether the license was current.  She’s lively and I suspect a good worker, if she likes the work.  She had run away from Mji at age about 15, never went to high school and at age about 24 has 3 children.  Yet she seems happy, looks healthy and is full of her wonderful positive energy.  She didn’t think the job would become permanent, but evidently she is good at finding work. 

The 3 girls and I worked on math until noon.  We had shifted our operations to the Mji dining hall, where there is a blackboard, and I was feeling the effects of standing for a long time on a stone floor. Leaving them there, I went off to have a peanut butter and banana sandwich.  If you’ve never tried that, it’s better than jam and more nutritious. Yummy good. 

Earlier I had been called by a videographer whom we may hire to do some short videos for the KH website.  The KH board members had met via phone after I left to discuss what they wanted, so I shared the list with the man, named Macharia Mwangi.  He was quite enthusiastic and after considering the requirements, will make a proposal.  I had asked him to come at 1:30, completely forgetting that David Luther was coming to visit at 2.  Macharia vacated the visitor’s chair and David sat down. 

I met David when he was 15, a student at Archbishop Ndingi.  Child of a single mom who supported them by selling vegetables in the market, he was often sent home for non-payment of school fees.  He loved school and would yell at his mother, “It’s your job to make enough to pay my fees.”  I was alerted to this bright young man by math teacher, Regina, and eventually he became one of the first students sponsored by KH.  During the August school holiday, when I did “tuitioning”—a free math review for any high school kid who wanted it—David came, listening to the form 4 math with interest and a great deal of understanding, despite his having completed only form 2.  Sometimes as I explained a problem, David, being dissatisfied with my solution, would quietly go to the corner of the board and begin working the problem his way.  It amused me so much to have the very shy boy, who spoke so quietly that I could hardly hear him, be bold enough to do such a thing.  No one else ever did that.  Due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, he barely missed the cutoff for regular admission to university.  The alternate “parallel” admission is almost twice as much.  Had he qualified for regular admission, I think Kenya Help would have sponsored him, but we were very new then, still building SFG and we couldn’t commit that much to one student.  I’ve always felt bad about him  He’s a guy who definitely should have been sent on to university.  Undefeated, he’s turning into a bit of an entrepreneur. Today, his face shone as he explained being an agent for an online shopping firm, sort of a smaller version of Amazon, but organized very differently.  He’s been doing it for 6 months, and is making modest inroads. Slowly by slowly he will expand his product base.   If there is anyone whom I think will make it, it’s David, smart, hardworking, honest and very determined. 

After David left, I fell on my bed and was shortly asleep.  I was so soundly under that when a loud rap at the door wakened me, I wondered how I had gone to sleep last night in my clothes!!!  Eventually I figured out it wasn’t morning and went to admit David Mungai, whom I’d invited to have dinner with Mary and me, at 7. It was 6 and nothing was cooked. 

David is one of the oldest of the Mji kids.  KH put him through high school and 5 years of medical school, where he performed very well. Those 5 years don’t qualify him to be a physician, but he hopes to go back to school to become an epidemiologist. He’s now working for Naivasha Water Company (NWC), doing water testing. Naivasha water is very high in fluoride, causing brown teeth in children whose mother drank that untreated water during pregnancy.  NWC is slowly expanding the delivery system of defluoridated water through the town. Heretofore, most people bought untreated water from a vendor who came by each day with 2 large tanks on a donkey cart. People would carry 20-liter jerry cans to fill up for all their water needs.  Having running water in the homes, or even having a spigot nearby with treated water is a huge gift.  He told me people pay 3 shillings for 20 liters—about $.03.  What I liked most of what he told me is that the KCC slum just outside of town has been one of the earliest recipient of this program. 

While he talked, I was busily chopping onions, garlic, tomatoes, green pepper and carrots to add to the small amount of mince meat (aka hamburger) I had left over from Mary’s and my dinner last night.  Mary cooked rice and we had quite a tasty stew. 

Now I must stop to prepare for tomorrow.  One of the questions we did today didn’t seem quite right.  I figured out how the book’s answer was calculated, but didn’t think it was done correctly.  Since we are working from a book of past KCSE math questions, I’m pretty certain their answer must be right, so I need to determine why my solution isn’t.

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