, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 31 – With the green police out in full force, anyone who would risk setting foot on what has popularly come to be known as #KideroGrass, stands out. Especially with the Pope, in whose honour it was joked it was planted, only weeks out.
But this gentleman didn’t seem to be in a hurry. He was bent forward on the Nyayo House roundabout leisurely running his hands through what has now grown to be luscious green grass, picking out the impurities.
The rains that have pounded the city in the last few days having helped the grass along its journey of transformation from subject of public ridicule to a jokes-aside affair for those who dared to make light of the ‘keep off the grass’ signage.
Further down the Uhuru Highway, down Mombasa Road and onto Lunga Lunga road, St. Elizabeth Primary School pupils were also bent forward; but there was nothing leisurely about their actions.
Instead of being bent over their books, they were bent over floors, trying to mop up the flood waters that wrecked havoc on the books and records they had laid out on the assembly square to dry.
The classes cleaned up, they joined the drying books on the square for a cup of tea and to pray; pray that it wouldn’t pour again as it did on Wednesday evening. Because if it did, they would be back at it the day after.
They were meant to start their end of year exams on Friday but the rain happened. “Funny thing is, that wasn’t the worst of it. El Nino hasn’t really set in yet. I dread to think what will happen then.”
As Madame Maina contemplated having her Standard Eight pupils sit their national exams at their sister school in the Mukuru Kaiyaba slum, Sister Rose of the Sisters of Mercy, waded through sewage infected water to inspect the Kitchen and toilets. The sports field on her left also under water.
St. Elizabeth is one of four schools the Sisters of Mercy, the Mukuru Kaiyaba one – yet to be baptised — included, sponsor.
“It’s not the first time this has happened. It happened in 2012 as well but this is much, much worse,” she said.
The cause of their troubles, the school management said, being the informal settlements that have sprung up around them.
“They’ve blocked the drainage system,” school board chairman Charles Musyoka explained.
And despite numerous complaints, Sister Rose accused, the County government did nothing and so they remained in constant fear of a heavy downpour.
A frustration shared by the student populace given it is drawn from the surrounding informal settlements.
“This is how I keep out of trouble. A scholarship is my only hope for a better life,” 15-year-old John Kimeu, who is sitting for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams for a second time because he was unable to secure one after his 2014 exams, told Capital FM News.
An orphan, Kimeu also depends on the school feeding programme for his sustenance but with the kitchen flooded, he’s dependent on the kindness of his teachers. “His relatives abandoned him in the slum after instructing him to do some manual jobs. He came here and asked to be enrolled as a class eight pupil. The uniform he’s wearing is an old one I had in my office and tragically his is not a unique story,” Madame Maina narrated.
And so after a hard morning’s labour, they sat out in the square, watching for rain as an army up the road, watched the grass grow.