Throughout the past four weeks of our stay in Kenya, we have worked closely with both the students and staff of CHI Academy. Recently, on Wednesday, we were given the opportunity to visit a local public school. Despite being so involved at CHI, we had no idea what educational barriers and obstacles public schools face in Kenya.
Upon arriving, we were split up into groups and assigned a teacher. I was partnered with a fifth grade class of about sixty children. I immediately noticed how worn and old the buildings were. The teacher told me that they had been built in the 1940s and had not been remodeled or revamped since their construction. The classroom I visited was completely bare and the walls were dirty. The room was too small and had been split in half with a metal sheet to make room for a fourth grade classroom on the other side. About four or five students were squeezed into desks only meant for two. When I entered the room, one of the desks broke as a student tried to stand up, causing the other children to fall with it and be covered in wood splinters and dust. The teacher didn’t seem too shocked by this, and only shook her head and continued with her instructions.
While I was visiting the classroom, I was able to ask both the teacher and students questions. I asked the teacher what some of her biggest challenges were, working at a public school of this size. She told me that supplies were extremely hard to come by, and that the government gave almost no aid or help at all. She explained that books were especially limited, and that many times up to four or five children had to share one book. She said that the school relied mostly on donations and support from outside organizations.
While talking to the students, I heard some of the challenges they face on a daily basis. I found that for many of the students, lunch was a prominent issue. Many families cannot afford to pay the lunch fee or send their child to school every day with a packed lunch. The teacher mentioned this issue to me as well, saying that it was especially hard to get the children to pay attention and stay engaged in the afternoon, as they were all hungry and exhausted. Transportation was also an issue for many of the children. Many children were forced to wake up very early and walk miles to school every morning.
When visiting the public school, I was surprised to see how different it was from CHI Academy. Unlike the public school, CHI has small class sizes, abundant supplies, and a great support system for the students and their families. I am extremely grateful for the educational opportunities CHI Academy has offered to its students, and hope that in the future progress can be made by the government on improving the public school system in Kenya.
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