So basically we were supposed to be having 2 placements- spending 3 days at the school and 2 with Ishmael on the street boys program (Before taking a boy to Kingdom Kids they have to come for 6 months twice a week for a day where they can’t sniff glue, they wash, eat lunch and have some informal lessons- this is to prepare the boys for a structured environment and to ensure they really do want to leave the streets- if they don’t have this time the number of boys that go back to the streets is very high). Unfortunately this year Ishmael didn’t have the funding to run the program which meant that one of our placements had essentially disappeared! Obviously this was really gutting but there isn’t really anything we can do about it so hard luck. We are just so lucky that the boys in the home are so awesome and we have fun there. But…and a very big but..blow number 2- the boys go ‘home’ for a month while we are here!! ‘home’ being whatever family they do have- be that a grandparent, sister, stepmother or for a few boys they go to Ishmael’s parents home. We didn’t know about this until the week before and we were really upset- with reason! So on the Friday of our second week we left to go to town and said our goodbyes to the boys.. it was really sad- especially as a few of the boys were really anxious about going home and didn’t want to leave. Since then there are only 3 or 4 (depending on the day) of the older boys around who normally live at home but come during the holidays – it’s been difficult because these ones have been more closed and reserved with us, and having 4 boys is just not the same as the lovely noise and chaos of 13! They come back on the 28th and I honestly cannot wait. It’s such bad timing that we are here when they leave and just so frustrating!!!! Sorry for this rant….
Okay..I’m not sorry, and now I’m skipping into present time (16th August) to have another rant about the school. Last week I was ill but went to school and then collapsed a bit on Friday night (so I had to stay in by myself in the dark as the electricity had been cut off while the girls and Ishmael went to an Indian all you can eat buffet with ice cream too!!! Can you imagine my utter depression!!?) So today I decided to take it easy and I’ll go in tomorrow. Glori seems to now have a similar thing to me so poor Rach had to go in alone. I’m going to have to give some context to say the next thing. In Kenya Primary Education is free. This is quite recent and although a massive step, the government didn’t provide more teachers or schools. Overnight, class sizes went from 30 to between 60 to 80. In fact there is no limit and classes of up to 120 are common. Even in our school class 4 is 120 kids, 4 or 5 crammed into a desk for 2. Teaching assistants don’t exist so each class has one teacher, so it’s almost impossible not to have half or more of the lesson devoted to discipline and here comes their trusty method- the cane. Although now illegal in Kenya, caning is still widely used. (The teachers laugh at the idea of detentions or other methods). Back to the free education thing… we had a week off but then there are tutorial classes 6 days a week for standard 5 to 8 for 3 weeks, then another week off then a new term. The kids have to pay 150 shillings (so about one pound fifty) for these classes. I know this seems like nothing but these are village children…most from huge families and their parents are perhaps farmers or sell fruit or maize at the market. The average wage in Kenya is 100 ksh a day (a pound) in the city and the village is much less. Some of the teachers (who don’t have proper training) get about 75. So you can imagine that after you pay for food and essentials if you have 10 kids then you can’t afford to send them for tuition- which in theory is revision but in practice is uncovered syllabus for their exams – which they have to pass to move up a year or go to secondary. Oh and they can’t go to secondary unless they can afford it. So it’s just a grim circle really. In the first week at the school the classes were enormous but now they are 10-25 a class! Rachel just came back and told me that as over half the kids who are there actually haven’t paid, today they had an on mass caning session where all the kids came out to the field, lay down on their fronts and the teachers hit them on the back of their legs. I’m so angry about this (as I’m sure you will be too)- how can you punish a child because their parents can’t pay the fee??!!!
One last thing. These kids know almost nothing about HIV/AIDS….I do not understand how this is possible when its shoved down their throats at every opportunity (even seemingly happy and simple storybooks tend to have a AIDS twist in the story at some point). The science books also say that HIV is spread through saliva so you will get it from ‘deep kissing’ (snogging). So all these kids (I know they are primary but they go up to 19years so a lot of them are just teenagers) are scared of kissing so even the ones who have sex do it without kissing, which is the most backwards thing I can imagine. They also teach in the science books that sex before marriage is wrong and children should practice abstinence. They don’t talk about condoms, and if they do it’s to say that they’re dangerous (which to be frank is true as firstly where can village kids get condoms and secondly they don’t have any idea how to use them as they aren’t taught in school)… now this is in a school where girls are dropping out due to pregnancy. If they are having sex anyway then surely the best thing is to deal with it head on… This is a huge issue…Rach just came back with a bag of questions from standard 7 including ‘what is HIV/AIDS?’ , ‘can mosquitoes pass it? ,’ can you get it from shaking hands with someone?’ and ‘What should I do if my boyfriend has HIV but I love him so much that I want to have sex with him?’ As you can see there is serious work to be done and we are not really the best people to be doing it… we are arranging with a few NGOs- hopefully FHOK (family health options Kenya) will come in soon and regularly if we set up a link because they really need it!!