KENYA EDUCATION PARTNERSHIP Friday 12th July 2008 – 4 weeks since I had driven out of the Homerton gates, another year finished; now I was in Uganda, standing in a school assembly introducing myself to 450 students – I couldn’t have felt further out of my comfort zone! I had volunteered with charities before, but there was something about Kenya Education Partnerships that stood out; it is an organic student-centred charity that for 18 years has proven to make a dramatic improvement in the educational opportunities of young people in rural secondary schools in Kisii, western Kenya – not through teaching but by working in partnership with the staff, students and local community. The summer project 2008 was a chance to trial this pattern in the Masaka district of Uganda; my chance to finally put my studies into action in a place where ‘every little helps’ doesn’t come close to describing the impact a project like this has on a neglected community and a struggling school. Misanvu Senior Secondary School is situated on a hilltop with panoramic views of surrounding villages and plantations; a school with lots of enthusiasm but struggling in attendance, resources and welfare problems that were actively ignored. Over 8 weeks, my two project partners and I spent a great deal of time building friendships with the teachers and students to establish where best our £1500 collectively fundraised money would be best spent. In addition to this we worked alongside one particular teacher to realise his ideas of setting up an AIDS club and facilitate a greater openness in the school surrounding health issues. We organised health talks from male and female doctors who also answered questions from the anonymous question and answer box that our headteacher agreed to be a permanent installation, alongside the new health information displays in the newly organised and full library! Even just our presence in the local community helped to raise the profile of the school, encouraging fees to be paid and enrolment to rise.
Charis with pupils at the Kenya Education Partnership
Charis surrounded by students
I have always been of the opinion that change requires more than just a charity’s involvement, generous donations or even the time, energy and compassion of university undergraduates during their summer vacation. From its very name to the mode of practice, KEP centres itself on partnership and it’s because of this that both the schools and project workers benefit in the long term. Through living with a Ugandan family and working closely with the school and community I learnt that true friendships can develop between the most seemingly different
people. Volunteering with KEP was a ‘life changing experience’, to put it crudely, but more importantly, in the words of our head teacher Mr Wilson Tumbewaze, we helped put Misanvu Senior Secondary School ‘on the map!’
Charis Young Education Studies with Geography student (2006–2009) For more information on KEP visit www.kep.org.uk
Published on Apr 30, 2009