Barbara and I got back from Africa (Kenya) at midnight. Our lives and perspectives are forever changed. Reuben, one of our Discovery School parents and a Kenya native, invited us there. He asked us to consider setting up a “Discovery II” in Kenya and this was our initial exploratory visit to consider his proposal.
While in Kenya, we met many beautiful children and observed them in classrooms in rural, urban, private, public, primary, and secondary schools. We talked with principals, teachers, parents, and community leaders and have since become committed to realizing the establishment of a school there.
Kenya is young, approximately 60 years since independence from Great Britain, and as such, Kenyans have been learning from experience, trial and error, how to create a country. Their constitution is two years old and includes many of the freedoms Americans hold dear. There is a palatable sense from the young adults we met of wanting to build on the amazing resilience, strength, and talents of its citizenry and become a nation of integrity, viable economics, freedom and caring. Of course, a big step towards the realization of this dream is to prepare Kenyan’s young citizens to learn, question, be bold leaders, contribute to society, and to work hard. Unless this is done, none of our futures hold promise.
Images from the trip that come to mind at present include:
- the dust around Nairobi and its environs due to dryness and lack of pavement,
- the thousands of people walking on roads in both rural and urban areas, (as Reuben said, it is a walking nation),
- meeting Brian’s family (another Kenyan Discovery student) and finding out his uncle knows my friends Jay and Dennis from DePaul University which has a satellite campus in Nairobi,
- the love, warmth and beauty of the children,
- the hundreds of cows and goats and children walking alone along the roads,
- the open air spaces of the classrooms,
- the hand printed and sewn charts used as classroom learning aids,
- the lack of electricity in many places,
- the toilet facilities which consisted of a hole in the ground over which squatting was required,
- the lovely tradition of communal hand washing before meals,
- the lack of color and light in the classrooms,
- the neatness of the children’s work in their notebooks and their pencil stubs,
- the apparent lack of diligent government oversight regarding sanitary inspections, the places where trucks are allowed, neighborhood zoning rules, and traffic rules,
- the young girls cleaning sidewalks, clothes, and floors by hands,
- the beauty, strength and salesmanship of the Masai women,
- the elephants, rhino, and my favorite, giraffes,
- the totally accessible bathroom designs that did not have a separate shower but rather a shower head coming from the wall that ran directly on the tiled floor,
- the care, concern, and keen insights shared with us by our Kenyan team – Reuben, Washington, Michael, and Charles –
- Barbara’s love of goat meat and my lack of fondness for it,
- the delicious Cappuccinos at The White Rhino Hotel, which also had a bathtub, a rare and welcome sight, we stayed there one night,
- the green and mountainous beauty of the Central region,
- the short time spent with Blanche, my dear high school friend, in London on our way — we continually used all the supplies and advice she gave us,
- the welcome, cool weather after leaving 100F in New Jersey,
- the availability of fresh fruits,
- the warm and welcoming arms of Reuben’s family, including his mom and nephew,
and the huge potholes in the dirt roads everywhere that made for rollercoaster rides.
- Now I must begin my Swahili language lessons in earnest and catch up on my writings for Newark’s Discovery School, including the Professional Development Plan, Annual Report, and a descriptive piece about our work and school.
I will include all of you in our Kenya adventure by posting here as we go forward.