TEACHING-EMPOWERING-MENTORING-BUILDING OPPORTUNITY Mission: to partner with individuals and communities in Western Kenya to support entrepreneurial activities, education and health through training programmes, scholarships, water and sanitation projects

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Christmas gift idea

Tembo students:
Our Advisory Commitee will be assisting us in a new round of interviews for job and skills training. We are committed to almost $1000 for those students already in a course (excluding those at university whose fees will not be required until later in 2011 and who have a commitment from a sponosr) and hope we can add another $1000 for the pile of letters we have already received. The committee will do an initial sort after applications close on Nov 30. Then we shall interview on Dec 13 & 14.

We must have received at least thirty requests for job training and we know there will be more. If you want to help a Kenyan put food on the table by acquiring a job skill, please see what you can spare. This, or a contribution to the teacher seminars, would make a wonderful Christmas gift and would make a real difference in someone's life. (donations@tembokenya.org; http://www.tembokenya.org/) Tembo will send a gift card to the recipient.

Teaching for schools

Tembo does a lot of teaching in communities, but also has programmes for schools. We have run Read for the Top in two schools earlier this year, thanks to an initial Rotary grant. This grant was increased and we have distributed books to ten more schools, reaching over 500 children.

I did a short presentation on R4T a week ago at the Rotary meeting (I have some video clips) As a result of this I did another (longer) presentation Tuesday morning with 30 teachers from informal schools run by ACCES (a Canadian NGO). Tomorrow evening I shall show the same video to Rotoract at the University where they have 70 members.

This is a wonderful small project for Rotary clubs to promote literacy.

Our big initiative (which we pray is not getting out of hand) is the visit of four American teachers to our area in January to teach strategies and skills for English in Elementary and Math in Secondary. We have opened up a number of places to other schools and have been trampled in the rush! We are hoping and praying we can cope with 60 eager teachers in a session. Some schools want to send their whole staff and we shall have to put some limits.
Yes, we are looking for donations to offset costs of meals, photocopy and some accommodation for teachers based way north who cannot travel home every day. If you want to help some eager teachers who have so few resources (and classes as large as 78!) please take a look at tembo-kenya website (http://www.tembokenya.org/) if you can spare a small amount.

It costs $1 to provide a book of handouts, $2.50 for a meal, $10 for a room. You can help children such as those in the picture by helping their teachers.

Virtues and Housing

Our Kenyan facilitators are busy almost every day with Virtues training sessions. Last week we did a two day follow-up intended for Anglican clergy but had about ten or twelve other people who asked to attend, making a group of 54.

As a result of this I was asked to speak in a church on Sunday (both the English service and the KiSwahili one --with an interpreter of course) I think there will be requests for full training from that community.

Now that schools have closed we are doing some teacher training, this week at a whole school session just outside Kakamega and next week for various teachers in Kakamega.

On Sunday evening we attended part of a meeting run by an organisation called Shelter Forum with a group where we installed a well earlier this year. The mandate of Shelter Forum is to help communities provide affordable, safe housing. They teach brick making and help with housing loans. What they feel is missing is the basic assistance to groups such as the one on Sunday where the people need help in formulating income-generating projects and receiving business training to start to save towards a housing cooperative. This is where Tembo can step in.

This Shelter Forum group would also like Virtues training to help them in their groups and we can probably do a full 'retreat' with them in Kisumu, because they can contribute some funds. This will enable more training for communities who cannot pay anything.

Then during the course of our discussion over a plate of kuku (chicken) and chips, we learned that they can help us with the implementation of the Rotary Grant in Emmaloba where we were planning on teaching brick making to build a poultry project. Shelter Forum can provide the instruction and also supply the brick making machine.

There is a clip on the video linked to our web site which shows brick making at Imulama. Incidentally, those bricks were used for the base of the big water tank that was recently installed.

The network is growing impressively.

Business training

Last Saturday was an exciting and rewarding day. Alex, our trainer went home bubbling over. This was the third session for a group of about 30-35 people in Khwisero near Kakamega. They have attended faithfully, taken notes and begun to plan in groups. This week they went home with their groups formed, plans for raising funds in place and a definite project to pursue. Two groups want to keep rabbits and poultry and we will help them with information on 'getting it right from the start'
The highlight of the day was the story of a small group who were inspired by Alex's second talk, went home and decided to begin their own project. They could only contribute 20 shilling s each at a time (about 22 cents) but they eventually raised 600 shillings (about $7.50). They took 400 shillings and began to make drinking yoghurt which they are selling in town for 60 shillings for a cup. They brought samples for us & we immediately bought two bottles. I think they made back their original investment in that afternoon. I didn't have my camera with me but if I meet them in town I'll take a picture.

We have now reached the stage where the groups forming will ask us for specific training on livestock, fish ponds, book keeping etc.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No more KCPE?

In the midst of all the corruption charges flying around, the legislation being put into place to bring in the new constitution in the next year and the machinations of the politicians desperately trying to hold on to their positions, a new bill will be tabled in Parliament next week.
Kenyan students undergo two sets of torture in 'final' exams, once at the end of primary elementary) school in grade 8, and once (if they go on to secondary school) in Form 4 (grade 12)
At the end of primary they sit the KCPE (Kenyan certificate of primary education) Upon these results hang many a scholarship, and even a place in a secondary school. Those who 'fail' (having less than 250 marks out of 500) will not be allowed to continue any meaningful education.
Now the proposal is to wipe out these exams, and not just in a couple of years, but right away. So many educational reforms, good in themselves, are implemented in haste and with little thought for the necessary infrastructure.
Secondary schools select their students according to the results of these exams. The National schools (the premier league) take the top students, the Provincial schools take the next layer and the District schools the lowest of those who have 'passed'. So how they would now make their selection is anyone's guess. There is at the moment no continuous assessment, although the students do take regular tests throughout the year. Would these be used? and how to achieve some semblance of objectivity?
Secondary tuition is free in theory, but since most secondary schools are boarding, (all the National and pretty well all the Provincial,) those families who cannot meet the demands of boarding, uniform and 'extras' like school buses, go to the the weaker day schools.
The premise is laudable: education is a right and no child should be classed a 'failure' at the end of elementary. The head teachers association has backed this proposal, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Virtues news

Richard Andabwa has received his accreditation as a Master Faciltator. On Wednesday of this week he received the congratulations of 54 attendees at a Virtues deepening in Kakamega. We will now be able to train new facilitators through Richard, even when Patricia is out of the country.
Richard is shown here with his wife, Bibiana, also a trained facilitator.

In other news, we are still looking at possible water sites. In a few days we shall call a meeting of the Tembo-Kenya advisory committee to help us assess the various requests.
Shibiri and Kati (with an orphan school)

This weekend we are free! So we plan a trip to a new hotel in Kisumu with a large, inviting pool. Doubtless there will be some 'errands' to run while we are there. We are thinking that we need to buy a small generator because the power is so unreliable. We plan a session on no-till farming as part of our small business training on Nov 27 with 5 complete DVDs to show. It will be a disaster if we are again without power. A portable generator will also help with other presentations in the rural areas.

Our DVD player is acting up and we're hoping it will last another 6 weeks until we go to S Africa where we can look for a reliable replacement.

The entrance to our apartment is looking so much better! Our landlord has had the whole entrance painted as well as the trim on the outside of the house. The old mesh window covering has been replaced with glass. It is so bright that we keep thinking the outside light is on! The smell of oil paint has been a little overwhelming for the past week, but is starting to fade now.
For some reason Google has decided that I speak Spanish, so my spellcheck is useless. Forgive any typos that slip by.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Our first Tembo students

Alex Omino and his attentive class
Rod, Julius and Alex
On Saturday we went to Shisilachi, the village of Julius, the jeweler. Alex, our business trainer returned for another session with the village women (although there were several men this time.) Alex is a good teacher and obviously understands the issues, since he himself comes from a poor rural area. He emphasises 'wealth creation' and not 'poverty reduction.' He is gradually getting the message across that with knowledge (which Tembo is supplying) determination and organization, small village groups can do very well.
While we were there we met the first Tembo students proudly showing their diplomas. Jeremiah, Joseph and Elphus all learned to drive a commercial truck. Jacklyne did basic computer training and liked it so much she wants to continue with a diploma. Erick is doing bio-agriculture and showed us five A's and a B for his first term. One driver was away on a job and the others still at school.
Elphus, Jeremiah,Joseph and Jacklyne

Friday, November 5, 2010

Some more possible water sites

Rod looked at a couple more sites yesterday. Here are the pictures. Ebukhunza (75 families)the two at the top and Mwituha (50 families) on theleft. A resident has planted banana right in the stream in the first location and eucalyptus around. These suck up huge amounts of water. He has promised to remove them and will have to do so before the contractor starts work if this is one of our chosen sites. Each of these will cost around 60 to 70,000 Kenya shillings which is approximately $800 including steps down the slope where necessary. We calculate we have sufficient donations for about 5 springs and will look at a couple more close to Kakamega before deciding.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

An eventful few weeks in politics

Here is the recent timetable of ministerial resignations or firings. October 19: Higher Education Minister Ruto is suspended. October 27: Foreign Affairs Minister Wetang'ula and his Permanent Secretary step aside; October 29 Kenya Anti Corruption Committee says four ministers, 45 parastatal (Crown corporation) heads are under investigation; October 29 eleven immigration ministers interdicted over alleged corruption. Nov 3 Kiplagat, the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, steps aside. The foreign member who recently resigned in protest will return.

And this is not counting the on-going investigation in the Hague.

In other news the ubiquitous 14 seater matatus (public service vehicles) which are the public bus service and which often carry up to 20 people, will be withdrawn. No new licences will be issued and as of next month, they will not be allowed into the centre of Nairobi. Only 25 seater buses will be permitted. All licences must be held by cooperatives, eliminating (hopefully) the 'rogue' owners and drivers. It seems the same rules will apply to motor bikes which, although providing a needed service in the rural areas, are causing mayhem on the streets of the towns. Many are unlicensed and driven by youths with a fifteen minute initiation.

Water projects

Last week we finished the water harvesting (from the roof) for the Imulama Dispensary. This was the best we could do since we hit solid rock when digging for a well. We have put in a 6,000 litre tank and with the rains we have been having I'm sure they will have water at least to start the dry season. We shall meet with the community members soon to proceed with the rehabilitation of a disused well for the community.

Rod has been out this week with Nixon, our contractor to look at well sites.

The pictures show two communities in dire need of cleaning up and protecting the spring. The first two shots are of Emulele where we shall put in steps down the steep slope to the water source. The third picture is Lihanda where the need speaks for itself.

A third place has a partially protected spring but which is receiving a lot of run off. It would need totally redoing, so we will see where it sits in the list of priorities.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Read for the Top and Virtues

Last week we completed the heats and finals for the second class at Mwiyenga Primary. The children were amazing. I tried to upload a video with captions to YouTube but without success. Class six north proudly declaimed: Reading, reading reading, reading for the Top. We have read six books--four books in English, two books in Swahili---we have read for fun and enjoyment--we have read for knowledge. Reading reading, reading, Reading for the Top. yes, we have read six books. They sang 'I have a dream' with the line: I believe in reading... (instead of 'I believe in angels') Still working on the youtube upload!

On Saturday I did a Virtues follow-up training to a wonderful mixed group of teachers, pastors and community leaders. Their evaluations were so positive and they always want more time! I wish we had the funding to do it. They are great ambassadors for peace and harmony in their communties.