Bukati School-boy

Children of Bukati
NEWSLETTER - June 2008
Last Day at School; Presentation

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June 2008 email from Dr. Cate Dewey while in Kenya

Retrospective June 17, 2008 – Butula, Kenya; (Butali information extracted from a longer email).
Here is a very long email describing our last day at the school in Butula.

It is the team’s last day in Western Kenya so it is dedicated to tying up loose ends. I need to complete the work for the Children of Bukati Project, Florence will run the last of the farmer training workshops and we need a team to be there to interview the farmers.

The 3 top Bukati School graduates are being sponsored into High School

Nick arranged for me to go to the high school to meet the children who are being sponsored by the several individuals whose desire it was to support high school students. The three children were selected based on being an AIDS orphan or a destitute child in our COB project and by achieving the highest academic standing on the standard national grade 8 examinations. We selected the top girl and the top boy and then the next with both high academic standing and leadership skills.

Please click here for the photos and writeup on these 3 high-school students.

Last Minute Tasks

We treated the school’s cow for East Coast Fever – I showed the school vice principal how to inject in the muscle in the neck – rather than the hind leg. This cow is very good at kicking – so not only did I not want the drug in the hind leg, it was much safer for me at the cow’s front end. It was a Tuesday, so all of the children went home for lunch. That gave Nick and I a chance to sort out some receipts and review the new plans for the lunch program. The program to feed all of the youngest children will start at the beginning of the next term. Nick says that the food prices will be lowest around the week of July 20th because the local maize will be harvested and he can buy what he needs locally so he will not have to pay for the fuel to bring the maize from a distance.
We will have to get the money in his account on time for the lower prices. He will also have an idea by then about the success of the school’s own crop, so he can judge accordingly what he needs. Currently, the school uses 140 kg of maize and 140 kg of beans for the lunch program each day.

I told Nick that although we were able to get funds for 3 high school students last year, I am not sure whether or not that would happen in the future. The COB project was always about elementary school and as is, it has not been possible for us to raise enough money to feed the children 5 days a week. If we split our efforts to support high school students, then we will dilute the effort at the elementary school. Nick’s comment is that the current students saw that those who worked very hard were sent to high school and that if that does not continue, they may feel that their academic effort is in vain. I understand that sentiment. I also know that if we can get these children educated to at least the high school level, the chance that they will become leaders who change their communities and their country for the better will be greatly enhanced. It is hard not to be able to do it all. At least Nick heard my message and presented it to the assembly later in the day.

Staff Lunch, Beading

Peter helping the prefects serve the ugali lunch to the staff. We were invited to eat lunch with the staff – lentils and ugali (maize flour cooked with water to the consistency of play dough). Peter helped in the kitchen, stirring the ugali and then helped the prefects serve the lunch to the staff. (See photo at left).

After lunch, the team of students who make beaded bracelets descended on the staff room. When we helped the children make the bracelets last week, they were very quiet but left alone, the girls chat up a storm while they bead. The teacher in charge told me that the girls really enjoy this activity – it is like a club.
I will ask Florence to buy more beads for the school when she returns for data collection in September / October.

Later in the day, the teacher, Mary, gave me the bracelets that the girls had made during this visit and from the beads that Florence had brought from Canada in December. We will have plenty to sell in Canada over the next year. (If you are interested in how to buy these bracelets,
please click here).
Mary, the teacher who mentors the girl students, handing the bracelets to Cate

Final Day - Assembly

There was a lot of excitement at the school because today was the day for the assembly – however, the grade 8 class had a standard, Kenyan examination to complete and we could not begin until that was finished. While we waited for them, the whole Canadian team went to each classroom to distribute the pencils that we had brought. When Kenyan’s receive a gift, they put both hands together with their palms up – so that you can place the gift in the cupped hands. Every child in every class received a pencil. It has become increasingly difficult for me to buy pencils and pens in Nariobi to get to Butula. I have to hire a university technician to go to the warehouse – and this time there were no good quality pens. I have tried to bring pens and pencils from Canada, but they take up too much weight in my luggage – you may recall that this time, we left bags and bags of them in Malawi because Peter and I were over weight for internal African flights. I think bringing books for the library is likely a better idea than bringing pencils that can be purchased for a small amount of money in Kenya. I have now arranged with Nick that he will use some of the money that we send to keep the children supplied with pens and pencils. He told me that he will be able to purchase them for a good price through the school board.
The assembly was meant to start at 2 pm but it finally got underway about 3:30. The children and their teachers had clearly spent hours on this production. There were no notes used and the teachers showed obvious pride in the accomplishments of their pupils.

The Canadian visitors, teachers and school committee were seated under some lovely trees at the end of the school yard and then the school children sat in a semi-circle in front of us. I sat beside Christopher, the grade 6 teacher, who translated for me. Nick introduced the assembly and then called on Pamela – the senior teacher to be the master of ceremonies.

Cate Dewey and Nick Obiero (School Principal)

  Above: Cate Dewey and Nick Obiero (School Principal) addressing the students.

I have written another email with a translation of the poems and songs presented by the children.

Click here to read the poems-and-songs newsletter.

The only instrument is a drum. Typically, one child will begin the song and the others will join in – with nothing but their clear, strong voices to carry the tune. It is very lovely. It is an example of the "call and response" song, that is a very traditional type of singing done around the world, but especially in Sub-Saharan African cultures. In the call and response style, the “call” is usually sung by a soloist and tells a story. The response is usually sung by a group and is a response to whatever the soloist has sung. They use their local, traditional dance moves to accompany the songs. Mike videotaped the event.

Click here for a short video-portion (8 seconds) of a song.

I always feel self conscious during these assemblies for two reasons, it seems the children expect that at some point I will get up and join them in their dance. I don’t feel at all comfortable doing that – but feel torn because I do not want to disappoint the children. But mostly it is because the children sing and dance to and about me – but I have never thought that this is about me – it has always been about the effort of many, many Canadians who make this project happen and the huge amount of effort, leadership and focus by Nick and the rest of the staff and the community leaders to facilitate the day to day work of the project. We could have given them all of the money in the world, but without this phenomenal leadership – it would never have succeeded.

Cate along with the orphans supported by the Children of Bukati project.

Above: Dr. Cate Dewey surrounded by the 514 orphans who are supported by the Children of Bukati project.

At the end of the assembly, Nick said a word of thanks for our visit and for the ongoing support of Canadians and others who have generously given their money and time for the project. Then I had a chance to speak to the children, to thank the school staff and community for their leadership and to encourage the children to continue to study hard. At the end of the assembly, we all walked toward the school – with a sea of green uniforms spread out across the entire field. We quickly said our goodbyes – there was no point in dragging that out – I was feeling a bit sad, thinking it would be a year before I will return.


The sun was setting quickly, turning the maize fields and the grasses along the road various shades of golden. Small children were playing around us, dressed in ragged clothes. As the sun set, the wind picked up, chilling our bodies to the point we wished we had jackets – at least we did have socks and shoes. We waited in the school yard for David to pick us up for the one hour drive back to the hotel – for our last night in Busia.

I am thinking of you in Canada while I write this in Nairobi.

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Updated October 5, 2008