The grades 7 and 8 students have new classrooms, the old grade 8 classroom has become the teachers room, where before there was only one small office for the principal, now there is another office for the vice principal and a storage room for the food, all of the classrooms have cement (rather than mud) floors and desks are being built so that no students need to spend the day on the floor. New outhouses were built and an open structure with a roof was built so that the cooks work in the shade and out of the rain. The whole school is painted and there is a gate constructed at the driveway.
The Kenyan Government identified areas of the country that had a very high proportion of poor families. Next they identified schools that were filled beyond capacity for the current physical space. Bukati had grown from 500 students to more than 800 students because of the Children of Bukati Project, so it definitely qualified. The school administration was asked to write a proposal to access a grant for improvement. A School Infrastructure Committee was struck to determine the needs and write the proposal. The school received 1.6 million Kenyan Shillings (Ksh) to carry out the project. There are now 2 empty classrooms in disrepair. The walls are very low and Nick told me that they become unbearably hot during the hot months. The next project is to extend the walls of these rooms and replace the roof so some of the very large classes can be split into two groups. The School Infrastructure Committee has applied for, and received 400,000 Ksh per year for the next two years to complete some of this work.
In May 2008, there were 821 pupils at the school, and there have been 15 new students enrolled in June. The distribution is as follows: Kindergarten (87), and then 125, 116, 117, 91, 85, 81, 74, 43 in grades 1 to 8 respectively. The political conflict resulted in 116 new students joining the school in January and February from other parts of the country where it was unsafe to live. Nick told me of one orphan who had been living with a relative at Mount Elgon. Because of her tribe she was at risk of rape or murder. She was put on a bus and sent to live with a distant relative near the school. She arrived at the school in ragged clothing, carrying a plate. The relative she was with was bedridden and there was no possibility of getting food in this home. The teachers arranged for her to move in with another relative who could grow crops. Now she has a uniform and is part of the school community. We know that the project has attracted orphans to the area because of the lunch program. Some of these children would either go to other schools or not go to school at all if they had stayed in their previous foster home. However, the guardians in the community, teachers and school administration are accepting of this fact and it is an obvious response to our program. In the long run, more orphans will be educated, and that is positive.
I was surprised to see the numbers of Early Childhood Development (ECD) or kindergarten children had declined substantially from last year’s numbers. Last year we had over 100, but this year there are only 87 and in the afternoon, there were few children remaining at school. Only 30% of the children were given lunch because the others are not orphans. ECD class is not paid for by the government, so parents and guardians have to pay 100 ksh per month for the child to attend. Last year, all ECD children received lunch every day. I remember the teachers telling me that these young children stayed at school until 3:30 because they had had a meal. The plan was that once the children went to grade 1, only the orphans and destitute would be fed. However, the teachers found it impossible to turn away 6 year olds who were crying to be included in the lunch program, so they continued to feed all grade 1 children. I asked Nick to call a community meeting to decide how best to handle the problem. If there is limited food, the options are to either feed all ECD, grade 1 and grade 2 children while they are so young, growing and developing and then feed only orphans in grades 3 – 8 or be strict and feed only orphans for all grades. By feeding all children in ECD to grade 2, it will limit our ability to feed grades 3 –8 an extra day of the week. Nick did call a community meeting and the decision was to feed all children in ECD to grade 2. I am pleased with their decision. Food is scarce and will be until harvest in July. These very young children need a good start in life.
The sows are all now big, one is pregnant and the other two were nursing their litters. The boar was sold because he became too aggressive to have around the children. When I arrived, the pregnant sow was fat, one other sow was a good weight and the third sow was much too thin. They were housing all of the sows indoors. I am confident that the fat sow was stealing the food from the thin one. Pigs are the same the world over – the dominant one gets the majority of the food. The staff thought the thin sow was ill – but I am sure she is healthy but hungry. She is nursing 7 piglets. I recommended that the sows be separated for meals and that the thin sow get at least 3 big meals a day. Now, the sows are tethered under the trees during the day and the eleven piglets run around. At night, they move into the barn. I treated all of the pigs with ivomectin to control internal and external parasites.
Sustainability Projects at Bukati Primary School – the dairy cow
Once the napier grass could be harvested, the school purchased a dairy cow with
the profits from the posho mill. She is a lovely Ayrshire crossed with a local breed. She is 5 months in calf.
She is producing 4 litres of milk a day that brings the school 160 ksh per day. The school has grown two acres
of napier grass – that is enough to sustain two cows. I am encouraging them to buy a second cow. There is a well
constructed, wooden barn with room for two cows built on the school property. Apparently there is a real demand
for milk. It is not surprising because most of the local farmers are too poor to own a cow. While we were at the
school, the cow became ill with East Coast Fever – a tick borne disease. I purchased some medication for her and
also bought some spray to apply weekly to control the ticks. This caused a little consternation as the vice principal
insisted that I was over dosing the cow with the medication because I was basing the dose on live body weight rather
than carcass weight. I finally told him that I could under dose the cow and she might die or I could treat her
appropriately. I must admit, that our days in the field were long and I was over-tired so I likely did not handle
the situation as well as I would have if I had been better rested. The veterinary students told me it was fine,
but I felt a little badly.
Most of the hens had become too old to lay eggs, so they were marketed. The remaining hens were allowed to brood and currently there are chicks (too numerous to count) growing to replace the old flock. They are all running around the school yard and looking excellent. The clever ones have found the corn grist mill where the food is plentiful. Others congregate around the kitchen waiting for food to spill out of dishes as the lunch is being served. Most farmers that I interviewed lost all of their chickens in this past year due to an infectious disease called Newcastle Disease. Fortunately, Nick had vaccinated the school’s flock. I told him of this local problem and encouraged him to vaccinate the chicks as soon as possible.
The corn grist mill (posho mill) is a real going concern with a steady stream of women bringing maize, cassava and millet to be ground. They mix the cassava and millet in the proportion they want, put it all in the mill at once and then have the mixture ready to cook for dinner. The money raised from the mill was used to purchase the school’s dairy cow.
The eucalyptus trees that were planted as seedlings by the children 11 months ago, along the driveway are probably 12 feet tall. I had received an email from Nick telling me that the trees were taller than me, but it was hard to believe they could grow that fast in just a few months. There are also now lovely 3 – 4 foot avocado trees planted outside each classroom. The tree nursery continues, with about 1,500 seedlings. It is possible to see the results of this project throughout the surrounding villages. The school sells the seedlings for only 10 cents each – so it does not make much money – but is such a positive community initiative.
The school project has created many jobs for local people. There 14 people who are hired full time. These include 2 full-time cooks and two others who work as part time cooks and care for the animals, the gentleman who runs the posho mill and the day-time guard, and eight new teachers. The man who cares for the cow is using the income to pay to send his daughter Elizabeth to high school. In addition to the full time people, there are short-term jobs for 4 tailors in town, and 30 people who are hired by the day to plant, weed and harvest the crops. The school will also hire people who own tractors, plows and a truck to transport the harvested maize to the school. Once there, the maize will be spread out on the school yard for drying and the children will manually remove the kernels from the cobs.
Food prices have risen the world over, but the political conflict in Kenya added to the burden. This time of year, food typically comes from the Rift Valley. The rising fuel prices and the destruction of crops in the Rift Valley left a severe shortage. Thus the money we sent to the school was not able to buy as much as we had hoped. The school has rented 5 acres for maize and 1.5 acres for kale (plus the 2 acres for napier grass for the cow). The land has been rented for a 6 year time period at 30,000 per acre for the 6 year period. We visited the fields – that are a 20 minute drive from the school. The maize is the best I saw anywhere – tall and lush. It will be harvested in July or August to supplement the lunch program for the September term. We discussed the possibility of the school purchasing some land for longer term sustainability. Apparently, land costs 100,000 ksh per acre ($1,750) although the Kenyan government is pushing for people to sell land for 365,000 ksh per acre and that change has happened in some areas of the country. Once the kale is harvested, it will be added to the lunch program to provide the children with a source of additional vitamins and minerals not available in the maize and beans that the children currently get.
Copyright © 2008
Updated June 21 2008