today’s field trip: school

We had a field trip today. Well, a field trip within a field trip…I’d say this whole Africa thing is a bit of an excursion. Where did we go? To school!

Agnes brought us to see where her children, George, Ivy and Kelvin, go to school: at the Kaskaw Christian School, a private school of one hundred children aged two to grade 7. This required us to walk two hours one direction, or walk one hour down a very steep grade toward the river, and back up an hour, so we hired a taxi (I might accomplish a two to four hour walk, but my youngest children most certainly would not–there is a reason why you see no YMCA in these parts).

The principal, Philemon, welcomed us into his office, served us each a soda (which is luxury), and had an engaging chat about their school and the developed country to which I originate. I am sure it comes as even a greater wonderment to these people as to why I would homeschool when it is luxury to have a place for children to learn languages, mathematics, and a host of other possibilities. In the agrarian society in which they live, if they can afford a shamba (farm), these people spend most of their time fetching water and firewood, and all the other things north american farmers do in their spare time…like seeding, tending their land, harvesting… Teaching their children history and English is not high on the list.

When the school founder discovered that mzungus were visiting her school, she raced to meet us. Just four years ago, the local chief’s wife decided to care for the youngest of the community in support of the working mothers. Though, she declares, she was just a housewife and was told this dream of hers would never happen, she left it to God, and prayed. Over four years, a brick and mortar school, with tin roof was constructed. Building of the quadruple latrine is still in process. Nearly finished, it has cost them nearly $700 to partially build. She also showed me the teacher’s lounge, pictured above, a remarkably different experience for the eleven staff teachers than Canadian teachers experience.

The children were coralled outside to sing a few songs for us, dressed in their ragged uniforms (they are looking to replace those too). Likely for our benefit, they sang in English If You’re Happy and You Know It…our children joined in, some grudgingly, but Zach entertained all the children with his antics, though amusing to the children, less amusing for me. As Philemon walked us up the hill to wait for our taxi ride home, he shared that the children learn about the commonalities between Kenya and Canada. I was curious. Both countries are on the same vaccination schedules; this I didn’t know–he specifically talked about tuberculosis and malaria, one disease that is under control because of useful public health measures and the other we have no presence in Canada thanks to our minus forty winters. Also, Kenya follows nutrition guidelines for children taught by Canada. I only wish they had the resources, like packed wallets and a Superstore that consistently carried fresh fruit and vegetables from around the world, inexpensive eggs, Cracker Barrel cheese, and meats of all varieties. Jim says he guesstimates that half the population is anemic, for lack of meat consumption.

For one thousand shillings (twelve bucks), we had quite the afternoon. We met some beautiful people, and as always, were extravagently generous. We left with a box of beans, as a gift for coming to visit. Dry beans–I don’t even know how to prepare them, and I felt tremendously uncomfortable in receiving them when I know how difficult it is for them to provide for themselves. But more than anything, grateful for their generousity, primarily because it humbles me so, and kindly requires me to respond in return. To those who are given much, much is expected.

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