An in-depth description by Luke Attwood of his experiences in Nairobi and the initial connection he facilitated between EduCrate and Kileleshwa School.
My Name is Luke and I have lived in Brighton for several years, I came here to study and after leaving my course, like so many others I decided to stay and make Brighton my home. The environment is so easy going here that it can sometimes feel like a bubble, hard to see beyond the confines of your perfect world, it’s easy to forget that life is not so convenient for most of the world’s population. With this in mind I made a decision to go and see something new, a chance encounter with my auntie who was based in Kenya gave me an opportunity and within 2 months I had dumped my possessions, left my job and was on a plane heading for Nairobi.
A sprawling city, with large scale building projects seemingly round every corner, Nairobi is growing, and fast. Having only been developing for the last 150 years or so I was staggered to see the speed in which infrastructure was going up. The contrast between those with money, large companies and foreign investors, and those without, local tradesman and farmers is vast. To me the chasm between the two worlds didn’t seem to be shrinking, if anything it was widening. Those who can afford it move up in the new word through education and better job prospects while those who can’t are sidelined and the task of breaking into a newly established capitalist society becomes hard, if not impossible. I knew I wanted to learn all I could and help in some way, even just by seeing, understanding and spreading the word to those who would listen.
Being in a strange city where the the rules are different to Brighton’s laid back atmosphere, it was a tough few months trying to decipher how I could find a place to be of use. It was at a time when I felt most disillusioned with myself and my reasons for being there that I received a message from Jemma, a good friend and founder of EduCrate. She told me about the charity she was starting, explained its aims and asked if I could maybe source a school to be the pioneering contact for it. Now I had a purpose.
The breakthrough came from a boy called Emmanuel, he is the son of an amazing couple who work for my auntie and uncle. I am eternally grateful for the kindness they showed me during my time there, in fact all the staff and people I met were warm and welcoming. I had many talks about life in Kenya for everyday folk, hardships faced regarding education, payment of school fees and acquisition of materials. As an illustrator I had a supply of pens and books with me and I was always remember the look of amazement on Emmanuel’s face when I gave a him an animal book and some pens, we spent hours that day drawing and colouring an elephant and it will remain one of my fondest memories of Kenya. That day I decided to speak to Emmanuel’s school and I went to find it the next morning.
Kileleshwa is a wealthy part of Nairobi, houses are large and gated, High rise blocks of flats dot the area and the roads are clean and safe, nestled in the middle of this affluent area is Kileleshwa School. Sad to say but the surrounding wealth does not trickle down to the school, the majority of people living in the area send their children to private schools. The body of students is made up of children of those working for the wealthy in the vicinity. My first of 5 trips to the school was beautifully intense, I was welcomed with open arms by Kaleb who looks after the school and mans the gate by day keeping the children safe. A friendly man who always has a smile, a trait I found omnipresent in Kenyan people in general, he told me about the students. I was heartbroken to hear that 50% of the students were orphans, often from situations where access to simple medical care could’ve saved a loved one. Many travel many miles everyday to reach the school on foot, there is no school bus or transport of any kind as there isn’t the funding to provide one.
After an hour or two of chatting I had to find my way to the head teacher whose name was Rebecca. Rebecca is remarkable woman, affable and kind hearted, having only been there a year she is new to the school and has big plans to change the image of it in the local area and attract more students. The task is not an easy one as funding is minimal and the problems substantial. We walked around the school and she highlighted her goals and things that needed attention. Half of the buildings were in disrepair and unsafe to use, this the school is running at half capacity which affects levels of government funding. She has dreams of converting some buildings into places for orphans to stay as the journey is long each day, it would provide a safe place in which to live and be educated. Even in classrooms that are ok to use there are windows missing, broken blackboards and furniture and I noticed a lack of books, posters and educational tools.
As the children come from less privileged backgrounds the school provides food for them all, there are crops being grown but the levels needed are hard to keep constant, sometimes, I was informed, this is the only meal a child will have that day and so keeping supply levels up is vital to the survival of the school and its students. When we discussed what EduCrate could realistically offer at this early stage I was pleased to hear that books and equipment would be most welcome. I was shown the library which did contain some material, but most books were years old and there was not a large selection. Pens, pencils, paper, notepads etc were in short supply and it is a constant battle keeping everyone equipped. I felt terrible saying I could not, at this stage fix the buildings, buy a bus or source more uniforms, however the idea of boxes full of books, stationary and educational tools being delivered was enthusiastically welcomed and I knew it would be a great benefit to all those who study and work there.
I am so pleased to say that resource boxes have been shipped and good deal of money raised by the team for new ideas. My only regret is not being there when the first box arrived, to see the excitement and joy brought to the faces of the children and see the equipment being put to good use. It is just the beginning of the relationship and many new chapters will unfold, I hope to be a part of it somehow, to go back and spend some more time with the people I met. EduCrate is doing a wonderful thing and it is solely reliant on peoples good will and effort to help drive it forward. If you are reading this please remember it when you throw away a pen or a book because its old, think of all the people who do not have that luxury and the teams working hard to change that. Keep up the good work guys, and thank you for letting me be a small part of it.
‘We cannot thank Luke enough for his dedicated assistance last year, it’s people like him who inspire us at EduCrate to do better and to do more.’– Jemma, EduCrate Founder
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