So just before school week got underway I had my first experience of a typical family meeting of the centre involving all the children, the staff and the lead director Julie. To begin with it was all very ominous with everyone sitting around waiting for Julie to begin…maybe the children were expecting something I wasn’t aware of so I chose a safe position in the farthest corner of the room and hid behind Krop and Plilan just in case.
But my fears were unfounded as we covered some new rules for the children regarding everyone’s commitment to education and respect with some time aside for general questions but then it got really interesting as the rest of the evening automatically turns into a mass hip hop dance off with all the children body popping and the like, it really struck me how good they actually were, where I then tried my best to hide again behind my two bodyguards Krop and Plilan so that I wasn’t asked to show off my non-existent dance skills.
I had thought that because I have two children of my own and have done the whole school uniform preparation thing and gone to schools to meet principals for many years in the UK that I’d be a seasoned veteran at this…what I hadn’t counted on was the immensely strict guidelines and requirements there are and usually vary from school to school here like badges have to be on a specific space, styles of blazers and jumpers so to turn up at registration with a child and to be asked very sternly by a teacher “Why have you not brought their spare uniform with you?”, “why is this a blue striped tie and and not a navy blue striped tie?” or the best one was “Where is your letter of intent?” as if I knew what they were referring to! So the responsibilities of these short comings were directed to me being the representative and have now had 3 stints of sitting outside a principal’s office for over 2 hours waiting to have a strip torn of me with subsequent flashbacks to my school days…Principal’s in Kenya really know how to turn the screws on you! But alas the good news is going into next week the team and the children have worked really hard and we’re confident we have all the necessary extras and are ready for round 2 of the Kenyan school administration Olympics…and if i find myself again in a principal’s office next week I shall just resort to humour to get me through the meeting as that worked in my old school days.
Funding school fees each term is such a huge part of the IHF centre work here in Nakuru as maintaining consistent education and ultimately finishing their schooling after fourth form is absolute make or break in life for these children, when we are short it means children are missing school and will have to repeat a previous term or even worse they may miss a term altogether and will not be accepted back in the system…either of these scenarios is unacceptable but unfortunately does happen and at the moment we are still negotiating for some of the children to attend school and pay fees late so we are so immensely thankful for current funding and what this provides. However, we would truly be grateful for even more school education sponsors for our children.
My greatest joy this week has been the journey to Kitale some 300km away to assist one of the older girls “Sharon” in collecting her things in preparation for starting a new school here in Nakuru. So I naively Google Map the journey and think “och aye nae bother” as Google says it’s 3 hours then it must be so…3 Matatu’s, 2 motor bikes and 9.5hours later we arrive at the school!
We receive a very gracious welcome as I’m a visitor to Kenya so in my honour i get a football display from their national title winning girls team plus get roped into doing a speech with 30seconds notice about football in my country…of which I dutifully do my best and hope no one asks about Scotland’s world cup appearance record. We say our farewells and all I can think about is the return journey, the ridiculously bumpy road and will the battery on our iPod last!
Friday morning and I decide to get into a routine of getting up even earlier to be around when the children are getting ready for school just to encourage some of the younger ones to wash a bit more properly or tidy their uniforms and occasionally some of the older ones to tuck their shirts in…which they just love me picking them up for it I can tell. Watching the rushing about in the darkness to get some Tea and Mandazi’s down their neck before some of them leaving for school as early as 5am and 6am to walk 30-60mins I laugh to myself thinking I wonder what my own children would say to this and consider doing a trial week with them! But after keeping a numbers check on how many have left I decide to check the dorms to see who is still hanging around and notice that there is a group of 13 boys either new entrants awaiting school fees to be funded or children that have uniform issues that need fixing…a fantastic opportunity for later this morning I think to do a litter pick up in our grounds and think how can I pitch this and not get mobbed so I decide to refer to our family meeting this week and label it “Who would like to show respect to our home and help me clear up the rubbish?” kind of gave them no room to refuse really but actually ended up being quite fun especially when they got their reward afterwards of a nice cold juice from the market.