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8 November, 2001 -- Most of the girls we sponsor in the schools in this district are boarders. Even some primary schools are boarding. My fellow agent and I have visited nine of our twelve schools in the last week and will be going to two more tomorrow. We have been impressed by the enthusiasm of the girls and the dedication of the teachers and principals as they face horrendous problems. We've been so warmly welcomed and have learned such a lot. But I must say that the sleeping/eating accommodations would raise many a Canadian or American eyebrow at the most Spartan summer camp. This is the end of the school year and exams are in full swing. Because of the problems of mismanagement and cheating on the all-important Form 4 finals (last year of high school), each school is assigned an armed guard during exams. And by "armed" I mean with a sub-machine gun. We did a couple of double takes when we saw our first "askari" in camouflage fatigues, cradling his gun and strolling through the school grounds.

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TYPICAL SCHEDULE FOR A BOARDING STUDENT IN A KENYAN GIRLS' SCHOOL

Morning

4.30-5.20 Wake up, take a shower and prepare for morning preps.

5.30-6.30 Morning preps in class.

6.35-7.00 Breakfast, usually consisting of porridge or tea and toast.

7.00-7.20 Morning duties (e.g. sweeping, dusting, etc).

7.20-7.45 Morning assembly (Parade): the school prefects address students. Wrongdoers are made to step forward before the whole school and are punished. Punishment consists of caning on the buttocks, sweeping and slashing. The master on duty comments on the students' behaviour and what he expects of them. The head teacher may also address the students. Generally this is the time announcements are made. Sometimes other schools set aside a day, e.g. Thursday evening, on a weekly basis for such meetings.

7.45-8.00 Students prepare for normal classes. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, students hold class meetings with their class teachers and discuss problems they are facing and the corrective measures to be taken.

8:00-9:20 Morning lessons.

9:20-9:25 Short break for short calls (bathroom break).

9:30-10:50 Morning lessons continue.

10:50-11:20 Cocoa break: students take tea from the dining hall but if they want anything to eat with their tea, they must buy it themselves.

Afternoon

11:20-12:45 Lessons, which last 40 minutes each.

12:45-1:30 Lunch: students assemble in the dining hall for meals, which are mostly a mixture of maize and bean stew or beans and ugali. Ugali is their staple food and made from maize.

1:30-2:00 Group discussion: students hold discussions in groups of 6-7 members where they follow the timetable drawn by the academic committee. This promotes uniformity as all groups are discussing the same subject and a member can move from one group to the other for help. The class teacher chooses a group leader based on the student's performance in academics. The leaders are given books to record group member's behaviour and a secretary records all that is discussed, what is to be discussed the following week, or during the weekend.

2:00-4:00 Afternoon lessons.

4:00-5:30 Games time: students fit for games are expected to be in the fields playing. Sometimes the school organises cross country every evening where every student participates unless sick.

5:30-6:00 Washing and bathing.

6:00-6:30 Supper: during supper, students assemble at the dining hall and either eat greens (vegetables) and ugali or meat and ugali. Other schools use a cafeteria system where students line up to be served by the cooks and eat either in the dining hall or their hostels.

6:30-7:00 Group discussion.

7:00-10:00 Evening preps. The student finishes her homework assignments and reads on her own (private studies). Forms 1 and 2 sleep at 10:20.

10:00-10:30 Group discussion for forms 3 and 4. Forms 3 and 4 go to sleep and lights are off after one hour.

6 hours sleep.

Tomorrow I shall be going off line for a week as we fly to Zanzibar (the Isle of Cloves) for a little R&R. I'm looking forward to dabbling my toes (and maybe the rest of me) in the Indian ocean and, most of all, to have someone else do the cooking, not have to worry about boiling water, and shopping almost every day.

2002 Patricia Crossley

 

 

21 November