Updated: Aug 5, 2021
A catch up with James
James is an alumnus from our high school in the Nyumbani Village. He is studying civil engineering at the University of Mombasa.
Life here in Mombasa, Kenya is full of fun. Everything is running smoothly and I am now in the second year of my stay on campus. Our academic calendar was affected by the coronavirus pandemic and we had to stay home for almost a whole year. Schools resumed in May and we are now towards the close of the semester. The inconvenience has pushed my year of graduation to 2025 but I thank God it is not a long time.
I really love civil engineering. The course entails enjoyable classes that make the subject more lively. Lately we have gotten deep into building and technology and I have decided to specialise in highway engineering. So far I have not experienced any major challenges here at school. Life has been full of fun and joy all thanks to the support of donors like you. I am grateful and may God bless you abundantly. Thank you very much!
New Director of Schools
We are delighted to announce that we have recently appointed Abdul Hapi as Director of Schools in the Nyumbani Village. Abdul holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Egerton University and he is pursuing a Masters Degree in Project Management at Kenyatta University. Abdul was previously Dean of Instruction and Learning at Nova Pioneer Schools (Eldoret Girls). He has worked in different parts of Kenya as an education administrator and science teacher for over 10 years.
Water in the village
The dry season is now setting in and water rationing is required throughout the Village. Our schools only have access to water for around 90 minutes per day - only in the morning, lunchtime and sometimes in the evening. Our school tanks are now empty. The lack of water is a challenging situation, particularly given the importance of regular hand washing needed to continue protecting the village population from COVID-19.
The village farm and the "Trees for Children" project
The Village farm continues to provide food for the children and elders, but the drought has slowed the growth of the Melia trees, known as the "Trees for Children" project. Over the years, 578 acres have been planted with Melia trees with the aim to help the village become self sustaining one day by harvesting and selling the lumber. Experts had previously estimated that the trees would be large enough to begin harvesting by 2022, but the lack of water has severely slowed their growth and delayed the self sustainability of the village. We will need to continue to rely on the generosity of our donors in order to fund the village for the foreseeable future.
The International Day of the African Child
To celebrate the International Day of the African Child on 16 June, the village schools participated in the National 'Readathon'. The children read an excerpt of a story called 'Attack of the Shidas'. The teachers explained that we celebrate the Day of the African Child in honour of the Soweto Uprising in South Africa in 1976, when hundreds of young children were killed and over a thousand were injured because they protested against the poor quality of their education and demanded their right to be taught in their own language.
COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on education. Schools in Kenya were closed for almost an entire year and it could take years for some children to catch up academically, if at all. Students can't follow virtual lessons if they don't have access to computers, television or even radios.
So far no cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Nyumbani Village. The village population is particularly vulnerable, because all of the 1,000 students are orphaned children who are cared for by 100 grandparents and elders. The children and staff continue to wear masks, wash their hands regularly and follow all other protocols. The village residents are not currently allowed outside the village in order to limit contact with outsiders who potentially could be infected with the virus. Although sometimes the children find it difficult to wear masks throughout the day, the teachers are constantly encouraging them.
Lawson High School
The graduating class of Lawson High School returned early from the school holidays to prepare for their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams (KCSE) in March. We operated on a condensed school programme in order to complete the syllabus within a very short time span and help prepare the students for their national exams. 75 candidates sat for their KCSE's: six qualified for university, 26 received diplomas, and 43 received certificates and artisans.
Forms 1-3 returned to school in January to begin their second term. The academic year for them ended on 16 July and the new school year began in early August.
Extra Curricular Activities
The school extracurricular activities continued up to county level. The following teams participated in the activities: basketball, rugby 7s and 15s, boys handball, and the science and engineering fair. The boys' handball team qualified for regionals but could not proceed due to COVID-19 because the students cannot leave the village. Since then there haven’t been any external extracurricular activities. They are usually organised within the school.
We had an Academic Day for Form 2s with the Homecare Department and parents. This was mainly to discuss their academic performance since they will be sitting their national exams in December next year. The meeting was fruitful.
Prize Giving Day
The school held it's annual Prize Giving Day on 1 July 2021. Awards were granted for outstanding achievement in academics, science and engineering, student council, and games. The staff were also thanked for their hard work and dedication. There was great preparation before the event and everyone looked forward to this special day. As part of the entertainment, the children performed Sing2G7, a song by Sir Tim Rice and Peter Hobbs, written specially to be shared with children all over the world to help them make their voices heard by our world leaders. No one is too small to make a difference!
2021 First Year Admissions
We have admitted 88 students into Form 1 this year: 79 live in the Nyumbani Village and nine students are from the local community. We hope to admit two more children from the community in order to achieve our target of 90 admissions. The Form 1 students are currently following the orientation programme where they are learning essential life skills. The new academic year began in early August.
The high school computer lab needs more computers and lighting and we need four more high school classrooms especially for elective subjects and due to the upcoming new curriculum.
Hotcourses Primary School
New library facilities
We are planning to upgrade the library at Hotcourses Primary School to provide the children over 1,400 new story books as well as staff training, monitoring and evaluation. A team from Storymoja Africa has been contracted to do the project. The library has been repainted, new bookshelves, tables and chairs will be installed as soon as they are ready and the project will be completed in early August so that it is ready for the new academic year.
Special thanks to Celeste Shirvani, retired OFSTEAD inspector Roger Gill and the South Farnham Educational Trust for helping to spearhead this project. We are grateful for the generous support of IDP Connect and the clients of Perspectives Optometrists.
Hotcourses Primary School has recently started a cultural exchange programme whereby our students share short stories about their daily lives together with the pupils of The Raleigh School in Surrey, England. The children at Hotcourses Primary take turns bringing a teddy bear home for the day (the official mascot of Raleigh School), and then they write a short story about their special day with the teddy bear. The pupils of The Raleigh School take turns writing about their special day with a Nyumbani giraffe. We would like to thank the crew of British Airways who kindly helped transport The Raleigh School teddy bears to Kenya as part of this project.
Extra curricular activities
The primary school children play ball games such as netball, handball, volleyball and football every Thursday after lessons. Teachers oversee the games and guide the learners. The children really enjoy playing together in the field. Games help break up classroom monotony, particularly as the village residents are not currently allowed to leave the village in order to protect the population from COVID-19.
We are truly grateful that none of the children in the Lea Toto programme nor any of their extended families have contracted the coronavirus to date. This seems like a small miracle given that the Lea Toto programme supports over 3,000 HIV positive children and 10,000 OVCs in the densely populated informal communities around Nairobi, where often up to 50 people need to share washing facilities. COVID has severely impacted these communities, where the majority of people live hand to mouth and any loss of income has a huge impact on their ability to pay for food, rent, school fees and other necessities. The Lea Toto clinics have been supporting these families as best they could throughout the COVID crisis and our scholarship team was able to maintain contact with the children and caregivers by mobile phone. We are grateful that schools in Kenya have finally reopened after almost an entire year of closure due to the virus and the majority of our students are back in school now.
The national exams for 2020 finished in April and we are delighted that one of our scholarship holders has qualified to read maths at university. Other secondary students will go on to college in September for diplomas or certificates and the KCPE students will move to secondary school in July. There will be a lot of pressure on the primary and secondary students for the next two years because they will only be given one week of holiday between terms in order to catch up the lost lesson time during 2020. We wish them well!