NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 14 – While the standoff between the government and teachers continues, the shutdown of public schools is spelling doom and uncertainty.
Whereas children in private schools are going on with learning, those in public schools are innocently suffering the brunt of warring parties that have failed to agree on the way forward.
The scenario is worse for Standard Eight and Form Four students who are set to sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations.
But there is hope for some. In the heart of Kibera slum in a sector called Karanja is Uweza Foundation, Kenya.
The foundation situated in a small compound was set up to help children who do not have electricity in their homes to study at night during school holidays.
But since the teachers’ strike began two weeks ago, the small compound has been converted to a primary and secondary school.
It is fully packed with lower, upper and high school students from different schools in Nairobi. Some students are dressed in home clothes while others are in school uniform.
Everything around is quiet despite the large number inside the compound. Only on opening a small gate that leads to the compound does one immediately tell that the desire for education is real.
Older children in Form Three and Form Four are squeezed in a tiny classroom. There are no walls to separate the two; only the three teachers volunteering to teach them can differentiate them.
Outside the small compound, Form Ones and Form Twos are sharing tables covered by some tents. Chairs meant to hold five students have eight of them grappling for the smallest sitting space available.
Standard Ones and Twos are sitting on a mat placed on the floor.
According to Uweza Foundation Country Director William Moi, “the number of children asking for space to study at the foundation has been increasing since day three of the teachers’ strike. The numbers are now overwhelming. We don’t have any more space left.”
“I didn’t know that so many children needed a place to study. I approached our foundation because I wanted my daughter Elizabeth Teresa to come and be studying here when the teachers’ strike seemed to lengthen. But then so many other parents also needed this service, so we decided to allow them in, now they are too many, like you see some are sitting on the floor.”
According to Moi, there are only three voluntary teachers.
Moleen Milugwe, one of the teachers says it is quite tiring but compassion for the children keeps her going.
“For the past two weeks I have volunteered. We have children from various schools coming to the centre.”
“We have grouped them according to their classes. They could be sharing a table, like the Class Ones are on one edge of the table, the Class Twos on the other edge and the Class Threes on the other one. Today the Class Fours are full house, they are sitting on a mat,” she explained.
The three teachers teach without a break from 8am to 1pm.
“I just get content… one at a time, I explain, that means 10 minutes; a child will at least grasp, I then give them work, as they are working I move to another table, within 35 minutes stipulated for a lesson, I will have moved to three classes. Then I come back to the class I started with, then we go through it by asking questions, then we mark the work together,” Milugwe explains.
It is a difficult situation to study in, but it is definitely better than staying at home with the ongoing teachers’ strike. It remains a worrying situation and one that taints the hopes of thousands of Standard Eight and Form Four students.
Farida Anyoso is a KCPE candidate at Mbagathi Road Primary School.
“The strike has really disturbed us. As candidates, we are facing so many challenges. We are losing our future. We are the ones you are starving, and for them (government and teachers) have their education already. For us to get that future we must learn so that we can be what we want,” she said.
Teresa, who is a Form Two student at Ngara Girls fears that their end of year exams will be affected and that they will not conclude this year’s syllabus.
“We should be in school finishing up the syllabus, we are not in school, we should be preparing for our end of year exams, but there is no way we can do that without our teachers, we don’t know how we are going to make it through the exams,” she said as she urged the government and the teachers to consider their dreams and hopes for the future which can only be achieved through education.