Kajiado: The Literacy Healing Journey
Our AiduAlumnus Jimmie Chengo recently volunteered with Afribuk Society in a rural part of Kenya called Kajiado. Afribuk Society aims to boost literacy levels for young people and communities that did not manage to access basic education. Read his blog story here:
"On the 11th of January, I woke up so early ready to join my team together with President’s Award team to Kajiado. I woke up too early, 6 hours early to be precise. I barely slept the prescribed hours a normal human should-8hours. As a millennial, sleep can be less of your worries, but to me it wasn’t about being an insomniac millennial. It was the magnitude of the journey vis a vis Afribuk Society.
Afribuk Society, a dream, my dream, our shared dream. The possibility of creating voices through literacy, empowerment to children and communities. The organisation was founded to solve the correlation between Literacy and poverty which cannot be denied in Kenya.
The Journey took 4 hours to Nairobi and another four to Mashuuru a village in Kajiado County. As we neared our stop I couldn’t avoid seeing scarcity of dwellings, a sad truth of a community in poverty. With every turning wheel so grew the stretches of thickets and a clear disparity in development. This was a wilderness, a different world.
I was so eager, prepared and psyched up to go and mentor and share with the children who sadly have to wait too long to to school. President’s Award and Us were going to open a functional school for a community that has to walk 8 kilometres to the nearest school. This was the sad truth, the dangers were many ranging from attacks by snakes or getting mauled by wild animals since there’s no defined roads.
Eight hours later at 7.30pm , the vehicle stopped Infront of a gate. We arrived, at Mashuuru PEFA church. This was going to be our camp for the nights we were to spend. A short welcome by the residents; A local elder, a nearby school teacher and the church’s security guard. I couldn’t decipher much since it was thick dark however much it was dimly lit in some corners of the church compound. We settled in for the night for some they shared the night around a bonfire as for me I couldn’t stay vigil for long. I had to rest for tomorrow.
In the morning, we were woken up in a rush. With less time to prepare ourselves, Embolioi Dukers Nursery School as it was called was built deep in the wilderness. That’s where we were going. The bus roared to a start and we meandered through almost impassible paths to my eyes, at some point the bus had to stop so that the driver clears or sometimes create a path for the bus to pass.
Along the ‘road’ We could see Zebras grazing and the antelopes vigil of their predators, It all felt likes a safari.
After almost an hour, the bus halted again but this time It seemed it couldn’t handle any more meandered paths. The driver confirmed my assumption.
” Basi haiwezi pita huku mbele, tutatembea ” ( The bus cannot pass ahead, we’ll have to walk the rest of the journey.)
So we alighted and began walking, well it seemed a century of walking but it was much easier to keep pushing our bodies and minds because we knew every step or stride we took was going to make a difference to help support a community and children in general. We walked as people shared light banter in the many walking groups, talking about how remote the place was and to some dark thoughts of wild animals lingered in their minds.
An hour thereafter we arrived, drained but willful and overzealous. The class stood tall- a beautiful ‘mabati’ (iron sheets) structure. I stretched my neck around ,the class was the only structure in a kilometre radius, never felt so happy for the community. Thanks to President’s Award. As I still looked around I saw something less concrete not brick and mortar. I saw the kids who we came for, I saw a possibility, hope that they can become something bigger than we are. Possibility of the place creating future Pioneers, disruptors and leaders.
To the right of the compound sat the elders who from the look of the blood on the leaves adjacent to them were from slaughtering a goat for everyone. Far right sat the local leaders who were engrossed in their own banter. Behind the class was a makeshift kitchen, young ladies and the old together toiling with the smokey Firestone preparing everyone a meal . It was a carnival but for this it was for a cause.
Our drive for this journey was to meet the children, they were all rounded up by one the parents. They looked unmoved at first as the smaller ones were jumping on the construction sand on the front of the class. There was a disconnect, only a few children could speak in Swahili or rather just speak confidently. Hard as it seems to strike a conversation with them, in the end we did .
All just through storytelling, I sat them all down Infront of me and told them a story. And just like that we became friends.
The sight of a smartphone made them get fascinated, I couldn’t keep my phone away from them. Occasionally I’d give them to see the photos we took together.
Every moving minute I could see a connection between the mentors and the kids, I saw laughter and smiles that were initially concealed. This was so humbling. Later on while giving each kid books and pencils, they all looked fantastic in there first ever uniform, this brought me some outta space satisfaction. I looked at this brilliant children and words failed me, while they sat in their class I thought to myself how empowering. The most healing statistics that moved me was that out of the 20 children for that school 16 were girls, a confirmation that if our daughters transit through to the next levels of education the society and Nation will thrive.
As we left along the way I realized what I got the most from the event was sharing my experience with children and the fact that rather than a rarefied atmosphere, the air we were breathing was imbued with curiosity, gratitude and hope.
Surely giving is Contagious and am grateful how much of this contagion we could spread without anyone getting sick. Thank you to President’s Award team Egerton university chapter for enjoining us and for support and cooperation. My team for their empathy throughout, you’re important to this world. The community as a whole for cooperation and actually seeing the importance of not only tradition but also Education.
PS. To greet a Maasai child is by resting your palm on his/her head."
Written by: Jimmie Chengo