Fund Managers Association (FMA) Classroom Rehabilitation Project at Dr. Livingstone Primary School, Nairobi, KENYA, 7th October 2017
Saturday morning; 8:45 am. The grey overcast skies and chilly start to the day couldn’t have been more deceiving to the burst of sunshine, which erupted an hour later. Sights and sounds of swishing brooms, buckets, water and mops, greeted us as we drove into the compound. It was a beehive of last minute preparations. The air was pregnant with anticipation promising a memorable day ahead.
Welcome to Dr. Livingstone Primary School, a mixed full day primary school, situated on the eastern part of Nairobi. It is named after the famous missionary, Dr. Livingstone, who lived in Africa until 1873 when he died. The school was started in 1957 by the colonial government and it sits on an expansive 5 acre piece of land in Kamukunji, a Sub-county of Nairobi. It was established to enhance education for the African child. The student population is mainly drawn from the slum areas around the neighborhood. The level of poverty is clearly displayed by the parade of torn and worn out school uniforms by the majority of the children.
As FMA members arrived, they immediately immersed themselves into the pre-planned schedule of activities such as motivating talks, meal preparation, décor setup, painting and games. The Class 8 motivational talk was a walk down memory lane, as we listened to a couple of students narrate their dreams; of how they wanted to help people with disabilities or become lawyers and offer pro bono services to the needy, etc. The ‘when I grow up’ sort of stories. I fondly remembered how my dream job was to be an air hostess. It was part of my grand scheme to travel the world and earn mega bucks. Sigh. Mega bucks? That’s a story for another day. However, it was very refreshing to hear the dreams, aspirations, and voices of innocence of those behind me in this journey called life. We even had a chance to listen to an upcoming rapper. Aliangusha ma rhymes kali sana! (He dropped a hit rap!)
Talking ma rhymes, Dr. Livingstone Primary School is predominantly ‘sheng’ (a mixture of Swahili and English) speaking zone. Sheng is spoken by everyone, including the teachers. I don’t recall hearing a full English sentence (until the official function) except for please, thank you and sorry. It was more of ‘nipige picha’, ‘ni poz unipige?’, ‘poa thanks’.
As the morning progressed on, one could feel the camaraderie amongst the teachers, students and FMA members. There was a good energy going around. On the open field, a huge group of students led by FMA members, engaged in various fun filled activities. The games loaded with laughter, were hilarious to watch, as everyone let loose and enjoyed themselves. It was a sight to behold an FMA member screaming and jumping, her clenched fists pounding the air, in joyful celebration when her team won at one of the competitive games. Clearly, the joy of victory was well expressed! I too, unhinged and cheered her on.
Meanwhile, at the rehabilitated class room block, a team of FMA members were hard at work applying the finishing touches of paint. This included the internal finishes such as re-painting the blackboards as well applying as a fresh coat on the external walls. From afar, one could see them hanging precariously on ladders holding brushes and buckets of paint trying to reach the farthest corners. Their level of engagement to create a more functional and conducive learning environment for the students was clearly evident. It was testimony that within in all of us is a love for humanity.
This is the face of CSR. It is the voice of love. This love is best expressed through interventions that positively impact the less fortunate in our society. Think of Mother Theresa, who gave without expecting anything in return. Her legacy still lives on through The Missionaries of Charity organization. Givers are the real beneficiaries, way beyond the receivers. I am sure that FMA members left with their hearts a little fuller as a result of these deliberate acts of kindness.
We transitioned to the tented area, away from the scorching midday sun, in time for the formal function. Not to be missed, was a menu of traditional dances, (Mr. Steve Muriu, the FMA chairperson had a chance shake a leg to) shairis (recitals), memory verses and drama skits. The acrobatic fraternity was well represented by a young boy who seemed to have synthetic rubber for bones. He kept us on edge with his snake like moves. Also notable was the class 2 presentation. The vibrant boys and girls narrated a poem on the acronym P.A.R.E.N.T. Sorry, I just remember the letter ‘A’ (blame it on the grey hair). ‘A’ represented Available. It is no longer a secret that we as parents are denying our children, parent/child time. They want us to spend quality as well as quantity time with them. No substitutes. No delegation.
The presentations made way for the formal speeches starting from the Headmistress. Mrs. Kariuki has a very warm personality, with a subtle undertone of toughness only reserved for those of her kind. From her stride, to tone of voice, there was no doubt as to who was in charge around here. She beautifully recalled the story that, within the past last three years, the school has made a dramatic turnaround from measly enrollment, low KCPE scores and dilapidated infrastructure. It was a gripping narrative of resilience, staring at the face of insurmountable challenges. She and her team, took a path less trodden, determined to ensure that the school reclaimed its former glory. One could feel the joy, passion and determination in her voice, as she celebrated the gains they have made so far with partners such as the FMA. Enrollment is now 1,082 students, the KCPE mean score has improved from 224.79 in 2015 to 231.07 in 2016 and they project a 250+ mean score in 2017. The upgrading of infrastructure is still ongoing.
What I found interesting, was the mention that students were very happy about the provision of electricity in the rehabilitated classrooms. I pondered as to why it was such a big deal to have electricity, as it was not a boarding school. It was not until later, that I connected the dots. Thanks to the current exam focused 8-4-4 system, most if not all schools, lessons start before dawn and end after dusk. I did not want to imagine what they had been using prior to this development. Candles, perhaps? Lanterns? May be nothing. Such long school hours were unthinkable back in the day as we strolled into class at 8 am and left at 3:30 pm. Should I add that we made it?
Back to the speeches, a representative from the Ministry of Education and the Area Chief encouraged the school to keep moving forward as they had their full support. Additionally, Mr. Steve Muriu, in his speech, announced that ICT equipment and a library requested by Mrs. Kariuki, would be made available to the school immediately. Ululations and thunderous applause rent the air. Our joy was indeed complete.
So by the time, we were cutting the Celebratory Cake and enjoying a sumptuous meal of pilau (fried rice), meat stew and veggie salad, there was an undeniable sense of a job well done and equally appreciated.
Truly the dead stone still lives on. Long live Dr. Livingstone Primary School! Hip hip hooray!