The latest news from Kenyan Educational Support (KES)
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The sponsored kids visit Hell's Gate National Park

Welcome to our new look newsletter

We’ve had a facelift. As most of you know, we’ve got some shiny new trustees and Hannah has taken up the reigns for marketing and communications. We’d love to hear what you think of our logo, colours, website and this newsletter, so please let us know by emailing Hannah at

May we also take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year, we all look forward to your continued support.

More sponsors for 2014

With the start of the new school year in January we’re delighted to say that, through the generosity of supporters, we’re able to take on an additional five students a place in the secondary school. That is undoubtedly five young lives, which now have a bright future instead of a life of poverty and subsistence.
The road to Bahati - Nicky's report from her recent trip to BDA 
The road to Bahati is dusty stone and pitted with holes. You leave Nakuru, the Rift Valley town squashed between lake and crater, climbing gently around the crater's rim, passing through strung out settlements of small shops and tin shacks - posho mill, butchery hotel, miracle cycle repair, Natasha's facials - advertised outside by a man welding. Paint is advertised everywhere too - by painting corrugated tin fences and shack walls. Without the bright primaries of Crown, everything would be shades of dust, stone and mud.
There are so many pots and boulders in the road that cars, matatus, heavy-laden bicycles and motorcycles have to weave a drunken waltz around each other to make progress. 20 bumpy kilometres. We are in countryside now, green, abundant, close to the crater's rim. Then the road plunges down and up across a steep little valley and here is the smart clean sign for the school: Bahati Division Academy.

Up a steep track we climb now towards a ridge where the ground flattens out and we see the red roofs and then the low buildings of the school, sitting between fields and trees.
This is our second visit to BDA. Simon and I are back here again after two years, with our friends Joseph and Lydia Kiuna, the founders and directors of the school. Last time we came, the school consisted of a grass quadrangle with low-built classrooms and offices on two sides, a kitchen and one dormitory. It had no strong character. But now with more buildings added in the same low, white-walled and red roofed style, the school has filled out - as if there was a plan all along. A welcoming open-sided hall and new library fill the third side of the quad. As well as the secondary school classrooms, there are new dorms, a music room and offices. It feels like a friendly-scaled campus.

The teaching and non-teaching staff are smartly dressed and keen to show off the school and students.
The door to the Principal's office is open. Inside, a desk in each corner for the principal, Mr Karuga, the deputy head, Mr Cheriot, for John the bursar and for Kevin, in charge of primary, plus a circular table in the middle where we meet together. Like the school, outside the atmosphere in the office is open and welcoming. Students and staff pop in and out of the open door with messages.  
In its peaceful green setting on the ridge overlooking the crater, high above the road, the school feels safe, but busy and purposeful. There is a buzz as classes change over and children run across the campus.

Primary students update

We sit down with Kevin at the round table. He has produced a spreadsheet of the sponsored primary students and we go through talking about each individual, their ups and downs.
There are 201 students in BDA primary, in classes 1 to 8. 21 are sponsored by KES. Stepping up from class 3 to 4 is a challenge as the children move from a single form teacher for all subjects to a mix of teachers. So class 4 is tough and so is class 7, as the students prepare for their final year of primary school and the transition to secondary. The present class 7 is a smart group who will perform well.
Kevin knows all the kids as individuals. The sponsored students are doing well. Just 4 are average, the rest are good or excellent. Some stories stand out. Stacey is one of the youngest sponsored kids. Her dad died in a petrol tanker explosion. She is bright - although 9th out of 12, it's a strong class. “X”, whose family was mutilated in the post-election violence of 2008, is also very bright but "always playing". Could do better no doubt, but we're pleased that he loves playing. "Y" - a real bright spark, very keen and sharp - no parents, family displaced. "Z" - some problems with discipline – fighting. His results could be better - we spend some time on him - perhaps he's suffering because of family problems in the background. Rael is an outstanding girl - she has decided to step up and rarely scores less than 400 out of 500 (the key figure for onward progression is 350). She is head girl and aiming for a national school. Oscar, very focused, despite difficult home circumstances. Edward and Grace can do better, but Edward's grandmother died and Grace is improving well. Carole and Mary Awino were formerly street children in Nairobi, and came from a children's home. Carole has improved and Mary is doing so well that she’s a potential candidate for a place at a national school. Kipchumba is a good leader, will be head boy next year. He is very able and works hard, a mature boy.
These sponsored young kids all come from deep poverty. We know some of them from our last visit when we went to their homes and met their families. They are very appreciative of the opportunity. Kevin says letters and contact with sponsors are motivating for them.


Secondary students update

We sit down with the principal. He speaks softly but with authority and seems a caring man. We start by discussing the secondary school sponsored students. There are 64 students in secondary now (with capacity eventually for 160 planned), only 2 years since opening. There will be 4 forms next year but at this point there are just forms 1 to 3. There are just 13 in form 3, all girls, of whom 2 are sponsored; 24 in form 2, which is mixed, 3 sponsored; and in form 1, who progressed last year from primary, 15 out of 24 are sponsored. There are 8 teaching staff, who are well qualified, experienced and committed. Academic standards are high for the school's exams. Students are now coming to BDA from across Kenya, as well as from Uganda and Tanzania.
In form 1, Nicholas is doing well now after his head injury and scan. Denis, who joined late, has settled in and is doing well - he's very smart. Faith is a strong performer. Esther transferred from a neighbouring public school with remarkable results. Form 1 is a strong and competitive class. Even those a bit lower down the order are good students. Edwin and Cylvia come from a tough area in the Maasai Mara and are doing well. They will be university candidates. Lucy Mbaire had to miss some papers because of a family bereavement but she is a top student.
In form 2 Nahashon is clearly a star - a straight A student, stable and strong. To go to university you need a B average. Form 2 students will be selecting their subjects as they move up to form 3 in January and things get more serious.
In form 3 “Q” was admitted from another school in remote far western Kenya, where she was at risk of being put through FGM and early marriage. She is stabilising and the principal is sure she will do better. He holds a "clinic" with each child to address all their issues.

The programme and ethos of the school

All the sponsored students are boarders which means they are properly fed and housed during term time at least and can do homework - their homes would not have electricity for light. The boarding students wake up at 4.30am (seniors) or 5.30am (juniors), do prep before breakfast and start school at 8. Classes go on to 3.30pm or 4pm. After school on different days there are games, religious meetings, clubs (like wildlife, science, maths), games again and debate. 9.30pm is lights out.

The deputy principal, Mr Cheriot, is responsible for the welfare of the boarders, and, as usual, for discipline. Discipline revolves around motivation rather than punishment, and is supported by a prefect’s body, appointed annually. The principal and deputy offer guidance and counselling. They try to create a friendly, open, child-centred environment, a home for the children, where they feel free to come to the teachers. There are lots of opportunities for sports and games, indoor and outdoor, and a playground with swings and slides.
At weekends, the boarders stay over and there are activities, games, library time, and parents can visit. The senior staff stay at the school and supervise. They sleep on site too.
The principal and leadership team are clearly proud of BDA. He says outsiders who come here see "a school that is serious", performing, neat, making a contribution, and supported. That's right, it's exactly what we see.
We eat lunch of rice, meat stew and ugali (maize) in the open-sided hall, and then have a chat with Beatrice, the school's head chef. When we came last time she had 60 or so primary kids and the staff to cater for. Now there are 268 students with the boarders needing 3 meals a day and food is the school's biggest expense. The school has its own couple of cows for milk, and grows its own maize and green veg. It buys all other food supplies from the local community, contributing to the Bahati economy.
Beatrice has a large wood burner for cooking - called a jiko - it's energy saving, heats hot water at the same time as cooking. Wood is cheap, gas and electricity prohibitively expensive for cooking.

Speech day

It's Saturday now and the BDA annual speech day. This is going to be a busy day for us, giving speeches and prizes, opening halls, cutting ribbons. Guests of honour include the local MP's representative and the region's chief inspector of schools. The open-sided hall fills up with students, parents, aunts, grandmas and siblings, who've all taken trouble to dress up smartly. It's a community occasion. Families have brought their picnics. Everyone can wander in and out freely which is good as the entertainments and speeches go on for 3 hours. The students put on a series of lively and confident dance and music performances - from a traditional Maasai dance by the senior girls, via a Scottish country jig, to a hip hop dance display by a group of the boys.

Teacher Doris is a flamboyant compère in a scarlet dress who keeps the show moving and leads the enthusiastic applause as the prizewinners come forward for their books. Despite the long time sitting and listening, there's no sense of impatience or anxiety as the speeches go on. People are giving up their day and entering into the spirit of the school. Many of the KES sponsored students win prizes, Ruth and Enock are appointed prefects, Kipchumba head boy of primary and Nahashon deputy school captain. We feel so proud of their success.
The two government reps make speeches too - interesting to hear more about the national and regional context for school education, and pleasing for us and the school that BDA is highly regarded and being treated as one to watch.
When proceedings in the hall wind up, everyone moves outside into the sunshine, either off to their picnics, or in a busy bunch who follow round the opening of new rooms and dormitories. We formally name and open the 4 dormitories, including Simon Brister House, and the school's new music room named in honour of John Hart. A plaque outside records this with the quote: "If music be the food of love, play on". The room will house the new Yamaha keyboard (and 20 recorders) we've also donated.


The school trip to Hell’s Gate National Park

The next day, Sunday, is the great School Trip for the sponsored kids. We're going on the school bus to Hell's Gate National Park in Naivasha, a deep gorge in the Rift Valley with hot springs and waterfalls. Like on any school trip, the teachers sit at the front of the bus, the little kids behind them (3 or 4 to a pair of seats) and the big ones at the back.

On the walk and scramble through Hell's Gate gorge we get plenty of time to chat to the kids and get to know them a little bit. We find out about their aspirations and ambitions, their friends and favourite subjects, take lots of pictures. We are keen to try and meet all the sponsored students and report back as well as we can to those who're supporting them.

We discover that Loce is a natural entertainer- an extrovert who gets right in under a waterfall and comes out soaked. Cylvia is a tall girl from the Maasai who is fun to talk to and very keen for her sponsor, Sue, to come and visit. The older boys are a bit more shy than the girls with us, but on the walk they come out a bit and we spend time with Nicholas, Sammy, Edwin, and Peter as they scramble around the walls of the gorge and want to be photographed in ambush. Enock is so shy that he got temporarily left behind by the bus at the park gates, but he starts to come out a bit too and is charming. Ruth is very articulate - would make a good lawyer - something she's interested in. Many of the girls like physics and science and several are interested in becoming engineers. Lucy Mbaire is one of these - clearly a very bright girl. Nahashon has real charisma and it's obvious he'll make something of his life.

The final piece of the trip has a feeding of the 5000 kind of feel to it. Joseph has gone on ahead of the bunch to arrange lunch for everyone. He tells us he's pleased with the deal he's done for 70 portions of chicken and chips and a soda, to be ready by 3.30pm at a local cafe. The large school bus full of kids rolls up outside Cafe Smile in a scruffy backstreet of Naivasha. The cafe is clean and neat but tiny - 6 or 7 tables, the size of a small living room. Whatever was Joseph thinking? Well Cafe Smile also owns another cafe just down the street, a little bit bigger. We can't quite all squeeze in together, even in the two cafes, so the food has to come in shifts too. Waitresses trot up and down the row of little shops between the cafes. Naivasha's chicken population crows no more. The food is great. Every child gets to devour a large plateful and a soda. There are no leftovers.
We say goodbye to the kids as they get back on the bus. Like all the best school trips, it will be a quiet ride home on the road to Bahati.

Nicola Hart
October 2013


Other news

The Kenyan school system
Collecting in Matlock
The story of KES
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