“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”
The above quotation from Nelson Mandela is, in our minds, one of the most powerful quotes ever made by this inspirational statesman. In Kenya education is everything and following a very successful 2012 at St Bernadette Mary School we were very confident that when we announced that we were ready to enrol twenty pupils for our new KG1 class and a further twenty places available throughout the remaining classes for the new school year starting on 8th January 2013 we would have a very good response. Nothing could have prepared us for numbers that arrived on Monday 26th November to register for the forty places, over 700 children and parents arrived at the school gate!
Receiving a good quality free education is very rare in Kenya and almost unheard of in the area where our school is situated. The first hurdle was to sort the children into age groups, 296 children ranging from 3.5 years old to 7 years old turned up for the twenty KG1 places. Due to the high age of some of the children we then picked the younger children and whittled the original KG possibles down to 170.
Every single classroom from Standard 1 to Standard 8 was full of children desperate to gain one of the other twenty places available to the older children. All was very well organised with the teachers setting three examinations for the children in order to see whether they had attended school before as many said they were at certain levels within the education system but unfortunately had not been to school at all.
Many of the children were wearing the uniform of the local government school where there are up to one hundred pupils in each class and from the very poor families in the area. When we questioned them further we learnt they were attending private schools but on hearing the success of our school pretended to be from poor families in order to gain a place in St Bernadette Mary School, we could not believe the stories some of the children were telling us when quizzed by Mr Pius and Mr Franklin our P.T.A. Chairman.
The scenes in our KG Department was pure chaos, the parents shoved their children into the classrooms and never told them why they were there, unfortunately the children thought they were going to be immunised so they were crying and screaming to be re-united with their Mamas but when we did this the Mamas did not want to miss this opportunity so brought the children back over to the classrooms again. Nearly two hundred distressed young children was not what we had envisaged but with the help of Mama Jane & Auntie Janet from The GLO,Madam Palo and Madam Pauline started to make progress by taking a group of twenty each time into the next classroom to confirm their names and ability.
With the examinations over for the older children and the younger children settled, time was flying by. Madam Maureen and Mr Stephen spent hours interviewing each parent, they were trying to ascertain who indeed were the most needy and deserving cases and also who were actually 100% genuine which was a major task.
Mr Pius then gathered the unsuccessful parents and children together telling them to go home as they did not fit the criteria, there were plenty of very disappointed people but they understood our system was completely transparent and fair, some were annoyed with their children but were told not to act in such a disrespectful manner by Mr Pius.
The next step was to gather all the remaining children and parents who were asked to return to the school on Monday 3rd December to see if they were successful in their quest to get a place in what is now becoming the “best” school in the area.
The two main players in the next step was George our Social Worker and Mr Franklin our P.T.A. Chairman, They had to visit nearly 150 homes in the space of one week to confirm the information given in the interviews, we wanted to ensure that the most poor & needy children are given these very precious places. This is by far the most difficult part of the task and all rests on the results of the home visits, George & Mr Franklin went to work and we will keep you in suspense for another few days to know the outcome.
Just who will be coming to St Bernadette Mary School on 8th January 2013?