“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” Hosea 4:6
This verse was quoted by Robert Mulumbi, Director of the Nancy George Academy, a primary school set up in Soy, Kenya, by World In Need. I asked him to sum up the work he was doing, and his answer came without hesitation.
Soy is a rural area, and the people are very poor. The international poverty line says those living on less than $1.25 a day are in poverty. In Soy, families often live on less than $1.25 a week. Food does not always find its way to family tables, children’s clothes are bought several sizes too large and worn for years. So when children do not attend schools, it isn’t because their parents don’t care. They simply cannot afford to send them.
Schooling in Kenya is, technically, free. In practice, this means the child does not have to pay to attend a Government school. However, they DO have to pay for things like uniforms, which are compulsory in all schools. A child not in uniform will be barred from the classroom. Things such as paper, pens and exams are also charged to parents. I saw children in school uniforms wandering the streets. When I asked why they were not at school, I was told they couldn’t afford to pay for the exam at the end of the year, which cost the equivalent of £2 ($3). They had to pay for the exam at the beginning of the year, or they were not allowed to take the course.
Yet education is undoubtedly the way out of that grinding poverty. Education leads to training and skills, and better jobs. It benefits not only the individual and their family, but the entire community. Robert Mulumbi recognised this. His dream was to set up a school where the teaching would be excellent, and the children given a good start in life. After many trials, the NGA opened in January 2009 with 1 child. Today, it has 73 students. As well as a good education, they all receive a decent meal every day.
NGA is a fee paying school, but Robert does not turn away children who cannot afford it, and often dips into his own finances rather than demand fees families would struggle to find. Fees are £20 ($32) a term. WIN is trying to sponsor as many children as possible; a condition of sponsorship is that a child attends school, and part of the sponsorship money pays the fees.
We are also trying to raise funds for things the school needs. New classrooms were built and glass put into their windows, the kitchen was equipped, books and paper supplied, all thanks to the generosity of donors.
Now, we need new benches. The children sit at rudimentary benches to do their work. With the growing number of students, we don’t have enough of these, even though the smaller children squeeze four to a bench. The alternative is to sit cross legged on the packed earth floor.
Benches are also needed at the WIN school in Pakistan, which we will visit in the next few days.