, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 23 – When I first bumped into a bunch of kids struggling to storm offices of a foundation in Kibera’s Karanja area, it didn’t occur to me that there was a possibility to accommodate all of them to study during the ongoing teachers’ strike.
The last time I was in Kibera – about 14 days ago – nearly 70 of them had flocked Uweza Foundation to study and revise for end of year national examinations, clinging on hope that the teachers strike would soon come to an end.
The tiny compound and offices of Uweza Foundation were packed to capacity.
There was no free space left to sit or even stand.
But as days, weeks and almost a month passed, the hope of them reporting back to school for the third term is fading away.
Desperation and desire to learn are clearly painted on the innocent faces of the children.
That is why turning them away was not an option for Uweza Foundation.
Through selfless efforts of unsung heroes working with NGOs and churches, over 200 primary and secondary pupils living in Kibera have now a chance to attend free classes.
Secondary school children were relocated from the squeezed Uweza Foundation compound to a church centre in Kibera.
The centre in Karanja is now holding 60 pupils from different schools in the country.
The younger children in primary school were relocated to Woodley Estate in Kibera.
It is actually a moving selfless deed.
An anonymous well-wisher who had given strict instructions not to be identified has donated a four-bed-roomed house to 153 primary school children.
“This house belongs to someone who does not want to be known. When the donor heard about the problem of space we were facing, they allowed us to use the house,” Uweza Foundation Country Director William Moi narrated to Capital FM News.
The bigger bedrooms are divided each into two or three classes.
Only proper concentration can keep one attentive as the tutors teaching them on voluntary basis face a different direction to instruct each of the classes.
Class one pupils do not have chairs – they support themselves on their knees as they bend to scribble on their exercise books placed on the cemented floor.
In one of the small rooms tucked inside the house, are pupils in class two where dictation lesson was going on.
Some of them have placed their books on their laps which they use as their desk. Others opt to kneel on the floor and use their chairs as tables. The desperation is real.
One wonders how they are able to concentrate with so much noise.
It also leaves one speechless to think of how barely a handful of teachers move from one class to another and still manage to teach, give them homework and even mark their work.
Well-wishers have showed up at the two centres to offer cooking services, others are providing the children mostly from humble background with food.
When we arrived, the children were queuing for a cup of porridge.
Due to shortage of space, they get served per class such that no time is wasted.
But even as they converge, the secondary school children are worried about their colleagues and the challenges that stare at them in the biggest slum in East and Central Africa.
“We are lucky we came here and we can keep ourselves busy for all these three months, imagine of some of our classmates, here in Kibera, men are all over the girls. Then we have drug peddlers and they always want to entice young people to use them,” a form three student in the church centre explained.
Drugs, alcohol and sex are right on their door steps, as they cross through the thoroughfares that diminish into alleyways which are overcrowded with mishmash structures.
The high population with houses so tightly together, creates a perfect haven for illicit behaviours and goods.
They are urging fellow students across the country not to engage in harmful behaviour despite the unremitting teachers’ strike impasse.
Moi is also appealing to well-wishers to make food donations to support the children.
He can be reached on +254 721 838 255.