Sunday, August 21, 2011

East Africa Day 96 (Wed Aug 17): Kenya High School Tour, Last Day at Equity Congress & Health Update

This past weekend I realized that I needed to squeeze a visit to Kenya High School into the schedule! I was so lucky that the Principal, Rosemary, who I had been introduced to back in May, was able to accommodate my request to visit campus this AM. She introduced me to Margaret, who has been teaching History at KHS for the past 25 years! I took a matatu over to the KHS campus this AM – a neighborhood I’d never been to. It was absolutely beautiful to my eyes – in that it reminded me of suburban New York:) I walked up a driveway to the KHS gates and saw an absolutely amazingly beautiful campus that looks more like a private US university campus than anything I’ve yet seen in East Africa.

Margaret later explained that the school recently celebrated its 100 year anniversary. The campus was constructed by the British, and was used to educate British children until Kenyan Independence, when it began accepting African Kenyan children. It’s now a girls secondary school, run by the Kenyan government – yet it’s a top tier “national” school. I wanted to visit because if you look at the list of the Top 10 Girls from last year’s KCSE exam, six of those girls attended KHS. They have to be doing something right – I was very curious to learn more about what the school!

Margaret took me into the Administration Building, and we sat in the lobby outside of the Principal’s office for over an hour, talking. I hadn’t prepared a list of questions before my visit, but I wasn’t short on things to ask her that’s for sure!

Some interesting things I learned – the school has five dorms (called “hostels” in Kenya.) Each dorm is a mix of students from all four grades/forms. The Form 1’s share large dormitory rooms, the Form 2’s share smaller dormitory rooms (all with bunk beds), the Form 3’s share suites, and the Form 4’s each have their own room with a bed and a desk (called a “cubicle”.)

Each newly arrived Form 1 student is given a “school mom” in Form 2. From my understanding, the structure works exactly the same as the Lehigh A Chi O family trees. A Form 1 has a “school mom” in Form 2, a “school grandmother” in Form 3, and a “school great-grandmother” in Form 4. So each KHS student is part of a lineage – I believe that was even the term that Margaret used, which is exactly the same word used in A Chi O. Naturally I found this all very appealing, given how much I love the A Chi O family trees:) When a student reaches Form 4, their “school mom” has graduated, so the Form 4 receives a member of the faculty as a personal coach/mom. I learned a lot of other very interesting things, but that was one of my favorites:)

Form 3 and Form 4 students were on campus, but they were in class so I didn’t meet any of the students. I did get to peer into a classroom and saw the students in class, though!

photo: a classroom. Note the beautiful floor!

Margaret told me that the Kenyan Government requires all secondary schools to administer a mock KCSE exam prior to the actual administration of the exam, so that the Government has a score for each student, just in case something happens and the students cannot take the KCSE. (Margaret said that everyone began to understand the need for this when post-election violence meant that the KCSE did not happen on schedule, that year.) So the Form 4 students were getting ready to take their mock KCSE exam at KHS.

Margaret gave me a great tour of campus – I saw the beautiful computer lab, classrooms, cafeteria, outside of the dorm buildings, the outdoor in-ground pool (swimming lessons are part of the curriculum), the inside and outside of the school library, the outside of the school church, and the faculty offices where each faculty member has a desk and a locker. What an amazing place to be a student! I was so thankful for the time that Margaret spent with me!

photo: library

photo: Church

I then rushed over to Kenyatta University, to catch the second Centres of Excellence presentation, which had been scheduled for 2pm. In arrived at the lunch hour, and got to have lunch in the Equity Staff dining room with the young women who have been running the Pre-University Student sessions. I was so glad that I got to see and say goodbye to them! I mentioned that I had learned that morning that my brother, Justin had been in a bad accident, and they made me feel better.

Unfortunately the Centres of Excellence presentation was pushed back, and I had to leave before it started. Ah well – at least I got to attend the session with the students and Rosemary last week, and got to hear part of yesterday’s presentation!

I had to rush back into town, to get to my follow up appointment with Dr. Chunge at the Centre for Tropical and Travel Medicine. We discussed how I have been feeling since starting the new med last week. He assured me that based on my appearance and report, that I was likely in significantly better health. I won’t be cleared of one of the diseases for another month or so. Since my typhoid vaccine that I received in the US failed, the office gave me another typhoid shot. It’s good for 2.5 – 3 years. Hmmm … where am I going to, next? :) I also had to get two B12 shots, which might be the most painful ones that I’ve gotten this year. But that should address some symptoms I’ve been experiencing. I love going to CTTM – each visit is a learning experience! There’ll be one more of those – Dr. Chunge and I decided that I should come back to the Clinic one more time for more lab tests, before I depart Kenya for the USA. That will have to be Saturday morning, because that’s the last time that they will be open before Monday, when I fly back to NY.

Again, another day that I made it back to the compound just in time for the sunset … or maybe a little bit after that …

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