Bukati School-boy

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NEWSLETTER - June 13 2008

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June 13 2008 email from Dr. Cate Dewey while in Butula, Kenya

Lunch at the Bukati Primary School.

One day the boys who are prefects serve the lunch and the next day, the girls who are prefects serve. Last year, I was concerned that the children did not wash their hands before they ate and they all washed their dishes in the same pot that the food was cooked in when lunch was done. Then it struck me that last year the well was broken and there was no water available. This year they washed their plates with clean water both before and after they ate. Their hands were 'washed' as they dumped their hands and plates in the dish water.

Serving the meal to the younger children Washing the dishes
Above: The Schoolchildren are served by the grade 7 and grade 8 prefects. One day, the prefects responsible are the girls, and the next day they are the boys. Above: Grade 8 pupils washing the dishes for the kindergarten children, before they are served lunch.

Click here for a short video #1 (6 seconds) of the children gathering at the well to wash dishes.

Click here for a short video #2 (5 seconds) of the children washing dishes at the well.

Click here for a short video #3 (3 seconds) of the children washing dishes and getting water at the well.

Beading / Bracelet Making

Once the children were fed, our team joined the teachers in their room for a lunch of beans and rice. Then the girls came into the teachers room to make bracelets. Peter, Lindsay, Kristy and I all helped do that. Peter told the story of the 3 little pigs - with the help of Lindsay and I. I joined in with the 'I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down' and Lindsay responded with the 'not by the hair on my chinny, chin, chin, - these were followed by gales of laughter from the girls. Perhaps in a group of Canadian girls this would not be remarkable, but these Kenyan girls were terribly quiet and even if one of us asked a question - they would whisper the response. Their group laughter sounded as sweet as bells in a dark Canadian winter night. The girls were delighted to have us participate in bracelet making - they each make 5 bracelets before dispersing for the day. It therefore became a competition to see if I or my tablemates could complete the bracelets faster. I realize now why the bracelets are made with groups of 5 beads of one colour at a time. They count up to 60 beads by counting 12 groups of 5 and then know when to tie off the bracelet.

The Bukati School Beading Club, making bracelets to raise money for  their school Dr. Cate Dewey assisting the Beading Club.
Above: The beading club meets each day after lunch. Each girl makes 5 bracelets a day, while the beads are available.
Mary, the teacher who mentors these girls says that it is a lovely time for the girls to visit together. The girls are in grades 5 to 7.
Above: Cate Dewey is assisting the Beading club, which is busy making bracelets for sale in North America.

Cate visits the classrooms

After beading, the Canadians dispersed, Jared helped the grade 1 students with the pen pal letters, Lindsay and Kristy helped with the bookmarks, Peter and Mike played in the field, and I went in and out of the classrooms.

Click here for a short video #5 (10 seconds) of Mike Levy playing with the children.
Click here for a short video #6 (4 seconds) of the children exhausting Mike Levy with play.

I went to a grade 2 room where the teacher was helping with pen pal letters. Whenever I entered a class, the children stood and as one said Good afternoon Madame. I respond with good afternoon class, how are you. Then, again as one they respond as one "we are fine" I hesitate, wondering what to do next, then finally realize, they are still waiting for me to do something. I said "please be seated" - they said "thank you madame" and sat. I have experienced this over and over but still hesitate - I am awed by the level of respect and politeness and uncomfortable with the fact that I am controlling a room full of other people. As I stood in that room, I could hear the children reciting something in the next classroom - there is no sound barrier between rooms, and most rooms do not have walls to the ceiling, so the sound from one room threatens to drown out the teachers on either side. Next, I went into the room where the reciting was occurring. It was a 2nd grade 2 room. This room made me even more uncomfortable - here was a group of 55, seven year olds, reciting a poem as one - with no teacher in the room! As one, the children are reciting the words on the board - I say good afternoon class, but it is as if I am invisible - a ghost who has floated into the room - but not one child notices my presence. My eyes travel to the board that is holding the attention of the class and I read "welcome to our visitors, welcome to Bukati, Oh Keti, welcome to Kenya. Thanks Dewey for the uniforms, thanks for the Kidari" (that is the bean and corn mixture they get at lunch). Each line was repeated multiple times. This class was totally engaged, as if mesmerized by the words, words that represent me - and yet - until the poem is over - I have no impact on the class. In time, the poem is over, again I say good-afternoon to the class - the spell is broken, the children respond in the way I have come to expect.

When I leave the class, I notice that David and Kathy Waltner-Toews and some of the teachers are sitting on chairs in the shade of the large water tank collecting rain water from the school's roof. There is a crowd of children in a circle around the adults - in the centre of the circle, the oldest children are practicing the songs and dances they will present to us, the Canadian visitors, at the assembly next week. The teachers stop the dance to redirect, and it starts again.

It is time for the team to head back to Busia - but we have only one vehicle - and 9 people to transport. I send everyone back to town, other than Mike and I. Mike has agreed to promote the Children of Bukati project through video.

School Cook's Children School Cook's Children
Above: Mike Levy and I stayed at the school waiting for another van to pick us up to take us back to Busia. While we were waiting, I took photos of the children who live with the cook at the school. I then showed them their images on my digital camera and then I would get them to pose again.

The late afternoon light is soft - I am hoping that the school children will go home and then Mike will be able to capture the video he needs without a crowd of children vying for the spotlight at the centre of his viewfinder. As Mike walks from one sustainability project to another in the school yard, I engage the stragglers in the yard with my camera. As if we are similar poles of a magnet, as Mike wanders to one area, I go to the opposite side, my camera attracting the children. We play the game of pose, shoot and show. Using mime, I get the children to pose, to smile, to line up, to lie down, to do a hand stand, take a series of photos, show the children the images captured digitally, listen to their giggles , wander a bit farther from Mike and repeat the process. Eventually, the light dims too low, I cannot photograph without a flash. Hopefully Mike has some useable footage. Now we pack up our backpacks and wait for our ride back to Busia.


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Updated August 24 2008