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Quenching a Parched Child

MKU’s World Eagles Club bears hope to the pupils of Garissa Road Primary School

A child born in a space of lack, surrounded by disregard for education, and yet going to school every day is no different from a flickering wick, blowing to all sides, beaten by the wind but still burning on. What would keep such a flame from going off, could only be more paraffin and probably a cover from the wind.

Pupils of Garissa Road Primary School, contend with similar circumstances every day. Most of them live in the nearby Kiandutu slum. They exude the longing every child has, a desire for a bright future, inspired dreams, but are everyday faced by a shattering reality that would trigger doubts of a bright future in every instance. But with the hope that the school will offer the cover they so badly need, and overcome the doubts, these children keep going to school, even hoping that it is worth it.

A good neighbour is better than a brother

Living life for a cause is way nobler than living it for a call. The World Eagles Club constituted by a group of MKU students from the School of Education has been pursuing one cause with the pupils of Garissa Road Primary School since 2012. That is keeping the candle of hope burning even in the face of poverty and desperation. This club of students has committed to keep reassuring the pupils of this school by instiling in them values of self-worth and life changing attitude. While not many university students would consider investing their youthful energy, time and the limited finances they may have in young children associated with privations, these undergraduate students spare time every Thursday of the week to give free lessons to the pupils of Garissa Road Primary School. Notwithstanding that this is not for any reward, but because they have the desire to transform their lives.

MKU students delivering one of their lessonsMKU students delivering one of their lessons

“We offer lessons to pupils of classes 7 and 8 not only based on the syllabus but even outside it such as life skills lessons and computer lessons,” says one of the World Eagles’ club members.

Garissa Road Primary School is situated in Kiandutu slum, and has a population of 800 pupils. Considering that children from such background are faced by a myriad of challenges, this group of students from Mount Kenya University felt that their consistent contact with the senior pupils of this school, would make a difference in how they view life. “Most of these children have been socialized to feel underprivileged and the school as an institution is a true reflection of a forlorn facility with a very high teacher to student ratio, not to mention the lack of resources that make for a progressive school,” says Dr Cheseto, the World Eagles Club patron and a senior lecturer at MKU’s School of Education.

The deplorable state of the school cannot be gainsaid right from the sanitation, to administration structures. It is apparent that the kindness brought about by these students every week, creates a sense of hope in them.

“Since 2012, when these students started visiting our pupils, we have witnessed a great change as the teachers in terms of how they dress, their aspirations for the future, and even the level of discipline,” attested the school’s deputy head teacher. The administrator, who plays the host to the club, commended the university students for being agents of change not only in the behaviour of the pupils at the Garissa Road Primary School, but also in their academic performance.

The change is palpable even by the members of the World Eagles Club who recall the baby steps of the initiative with a sense of accomplishment. “I remember when we first begun, the first visit was baffling, we had to go back and prepare better. The pupils we met in our first visit, revealed the dire need of the journey we were about to embark on,” recalls the club chairman. “The brief interaction we had with the pupils was saddening; there was a deep seated hopelessness in most pupils, and they did not give much care about acquiring education.” ‘After all, I know, I won’t make it to secondary school…’ was the response the pupils would give to the members of the World Eagles Club. “We had to change this, and open them up to a belief in opportunities,” says the chairman.

The weekly visits have not been in vain, the pupils now have a sense of direction. They have embraced positivity and have gone through the journey of overcoming the ever looming yoke of a predetermined future of poverty. They are now alive to the possibilities of setting goals and achieving them even amidst the claws of the slum life. Some of them are aspiring entrepreneurs and quite a good number are now convinced that white collar jobs are not reserved for the well-off families, but are meant to be achieved by anyone who believe they can achieve.

The World Eagles Club not only inspires these children by the message they bring, but also by the example they set as role models. This is because some of the club members are a testimony to the power of a positive view of life, having been brought up under similar circumstances. “The reason why I feel compelled to inspire these children, is because my background is one that is marred by the retrogressive culture where girls are married off at an early age and are not expected to aspire for education,” said one of the club members. Sharing their resilience in life therefore, is a constant reminder to the pupils of this school, that the surroundings should not limit their goals.

Other opportunities

The commitment made by these students has linked the school to many more benefits. One of them is the Techwomen delegation that came visiting from the US. The World Eagles Club patron, Dr Cheseto being a woman in technology and an award winner of the programme which is a US initiative, invited a host of high profile technology professionals, from the United States to encourage and motivate the pupils. In addition to talking to them, the delegate also donated learning materials to the school. Apart from this, the World Eagles Club, donated a computer to the school. “Prior to this donation, the school did not have any computer.” The computer has been highly instrumental in facilitating computer lessons that they have since introduced to the school.

Constraints of poverty

Studies have shown that socio -economic factors such as inadequacy of infrastructural and teaching /learning facilities like classrooms, toilets, playgrounds and libraries, parents’ income level (poverty of parents) and parents’ education level (ignorance of parents) pose a real threat to the education among children living in slums. It is therefore, very important to put in place appropriate strategies of improving access, retention, equity and achievement in schools with such children.

No matter how subtle these students’ contribution is in effecting a change of this situation, the impact of what they are doing will forever resonate in the lives of these children, and their future generations. For indeed, it only takes the right view of life to make the best of it.