Children are now on vacation from the government schools in Kenya for the month of August. That has given us the opportunity to see more of them than we might have at another time of the year. Students go to Primary School for their first 8 years and Secondary School for the following 4 years. Primary School is basically free, but school uniforms are required; each school has its own set of colors and design. For many families, paying for uniforms stretches meager resources. Secondary School students have additional fees to pay.
Schools in the rural villages are generally built on a large piece of land with multiple one-story buildings. We visited one classroom at the MUDEP site which was smaller than most U.S. classrooms and would generally be for an average of 45 students, but sometimes must stretch to accommodate up to 100!
One concern of rural villages is care of OVC (Orphaned and Vulnerable Children). These children are often the result of the deaths of their HIV Positive/AIDS parents. We saw orphanages in larger areas but it appears that the villages work hard to place OVC with either family members or volunteers in the village. Assistance is provided in a variety of ways but the needs are beyond the assistance available.
Children are actively involved in 'household work' including gathering firewood. I often saw pre-school age children involved in that task whether they could carry 2 or 20 sticks/branches -- generally on their heads or sometimes on a bike. Children also are key figures in keeping the family supplied with water. They may make several trips a day with a large plastic container to the nearest spring or borehole (well). It's amazing how good they are at carrying very heavy containers of water on their heads!!
Children wear a range of clothing, clearly from donated sources or perhaps very cheaply available in the local market. It is common to see shirts representing sports teams in the U.S. or 'characters' such as Thomas the Tank Engine.
The visits we have made, make it clear the many ways project involvement with World Neighbors has accomplished the overall goal of improving life for the children in the village. For example, raising goats has meant improved nutrition for the children. Kitchen gardens vary their diet and have helped address some major deficiencies.
Play is very different than what we see in the U.S. My favorite example is the kind of ball young children make from discarded plastic sacks held together by string made from sisal raised locally. I was like a little kid when I was able to purchase one a boy had just completed! He was overjoyed to go spend his profits immediately :-) Children have loved the bubbles some of the journeyers have shared with them.
Of course children are similar everywhere -- the wonderful twinkles in their eyes and their insatiable curiosity among other characteristics.
- Janie Schomberg, World Neighbors Traveler