Redefining Kibera Slums, Part 1

Kibera Slums

I want to believe I have made the right decision as far as this is concerned. My evenings have never been this interesting. I look forward to sitting down so as to go through the many Insha’s (compositions) I receive from students at Adventure Pride Centre in Kibera.

Slum life

In March, we visited Kibera slums on a tour together with a Norwegian friend. As most of us know, many tourists visiting Kenya want to take time to see this part of our country. Some actually define it as poverty exhibition. I totally understand them; many mzungu’s are not used to this extreme life. Once they are in Kenya, they are quite enthralled by the slum life.

Kibera Slums

This particular afternoon, it is scorching hot. Gonzag Odero, one of my friends in Kibera, a member of the Kibera Informentors Foundation is taking us around. Within a few minutes, we get to one of the Primary Schools.

Big part of the school is constructed using iron sheets. There are only four classrooms but the school has all the eight classes conducted here. Some of the teachers are seated outside the classrooms as they wait for the other teachers to finish their sessions.

Lower Primary pupils at Adventure Pride Centre

As we peep through the windows, we notice something strange. One of the classrooms; looks quite crowded, it hosts class one to class four pupils. All the teachers teach at the same time and the only thing that differentiates one class to another is the sitting arrangement. We stay glued, still in shock. How is it possible that they have class one to class four pupils being taught from the same room? It puzzles me, I almost shed tears. Many questions go through my mind but I know for sure this is not the time to sympathize with the teachers and the pupils. I am challenged and inspired by their spirit, from the volunteer teachers as well as the students who really want to get education despite the limited resources. I inquire from one of the teachers, instead of having 4 classes in one room, why couldn’t they teacher some of the students from the outside?

“As you can see, it is quite sunny and hot. We tried it before but it didn’t work, these are children, they cannot stand such heat. They will not concentrate and being outside distracts them,” he replied.

A section of the class shared by 4 teachers

I was moved

The teachers through our friend Gonzag, invite us to say a word to the students. We oblige and make very quick remarks so that we do not distract them from their afternoon lessons. One thing that is obvious is the way they these students are disciplined. It took me back to my primary school days. When I said,“Good afternoon class,” they all stood from their desks, and then they uniformly answered back, “Good afternoon madam, you are welcome madam, thank you madam.” Oh my God, how sweet of these little ones. They remained standing until I told them, “You can sit,” and this was also replied with a lot of respect, “Thank you madam, you are welcome.” I keep saying it over and over, little things; little gestures excite this girl, Patience Nyange. I was moved.

I tried to find out more about the school, how and why they ended up in such a situation? Are there no alternatives so as to help class 1-4 pupils get their own classrooms? Class 5 and 6 also share a class. What could be their pressing needs; is it books, blackboards, desks, school fees? Most of these questions have been answered over time and I will definitely write more about this school.

Two of the volunteer teachers on session

We were then granted permission to take photos before we left. On our way home, we engage in discussing what can be done to help such a school. I am convinced that on my own, I cannot do much, but I know for sure I can be of help. We quickly think of various ways, either mobilize my friends so that we can buy a few things for the school, books, black board, chalks or even pay school fees for some of the very needy students. All this is possible but most of the time I realize it becomes hard to make people understand your course and it can be very frustrating trying to ask people for money to support some worthy causes when they cannot see it from your point of need.

Saturday Swahili lessons

Most of my friends have never been to Kibera and know nothing about it part from the hearsay. So before I engage anyone, I decide to challenge myself and do something on my own.  I fell in love with these students at first sight and I was moved by how they received us. I love Swahili and I know I can help the students in Swahili and at the same time try to mentor them.

Some of the pupils on their way back home

Shortly, we meet the head teacher, Kennedy Ouma. Gonzag introduces us to him and I immediately ask him if I could volunteer to help the students with Swahili classes. He immediately accepts my suggestion and we later met to plan on this. As schools opened two weeks ago, I was granted a chance to assist the class 8 students. I look forward to my Saturday mornings, to meet these great students who seem excited and with great ambitions concerning their future. This is what motivates me. Unlike many Saturdays before, this time round my alarm rings at 6.30 am and I am headed to the bathroom.

A section of the Kibera slums

When I get to class, we have lots of fun together. It has been a learning session for me, they teach me new things and remind me of some of the things I forgot long time ago. I actually realize it has been 14 years since I cleared my primary schooling.

“What makes the universe so hard to comprehend is that there’s nothing to compare it with” Ashleigh Brilliant.

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