ﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠEarlier this week our school had a wonderful visit with the Head Teacher (Headmistress) of the Olympic Primary School from Nairobi, Kenya. Ruth Namulundu was in the United States to attend her daughter's college graduation, and because of our on-going relationship with the school, we invited her here, made possible with the help of one of our school families. The Olympic Primary School is the first through eighth grade school with which our second graders have had an ongoing relationship as part of their study of Kenya. Current fourth and fifth graders had Olympic School pen pals, and for the last couple of years our students have collected children's books literally to create the Olympic School's library.
ﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠIt is hard to imagine what the Olympic Primary School must be like. It has 2555 students and 32 paid teachers. Two additional teachers and the librarian are volunteers. When I asked Ms. Namulundu how the volunteers earned a living, she said their families provided for them since they were doing such important work. The largest class at the school is the first grade classroom that has 106 children in it. The smallest class size is 83. Ms. Namulundu mentioned that all the classrooms are about the size of our smaller Upper School classrooms. It certainly puts into perspective how very fortunate we are here!
ﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠAll of the classes at Olympic Primary School are taught in English, although students also receive instruction in Swahili. It was only a few years ago that primary school education became free for all citizens in Kenya. Prior to that Olympic had 1800 students. They have not been able to increase or alter their physical plant to accommodate the additional 755 students. However, the government provides the school with an amount equal to about $11 per student per year to pay for all educational supplies and school expenses, other than faculty salaries, which are paid for by the central government.
ﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠWhen I asked Ms. Namulundu what her greatest challenge was, she replied that it was the cooking of the noontime meal that the school provides for all of its children. Since the school is located in an impoverished neighborhood in Nairobi, for most children the maize and beans they get for lunch is their only daily meal. Because the school provides the possibility of future opportunity as well as daily sustenance, parents become very attached to Ms. Namulundu and her teachers. The government has now mandated that all schools also serve porridge for lunch. However, they don't provide much of the additional food, and they don't provide the cookers, wood for fuel, or workers necessary to do the cooking. We are working on seeing if we can be of any assistance to the school in getting some of the cookers.
ﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠIt was inspiring to meet Ms. Namulundu and to contemplate how even a very basic education has a potentially magical impact on children. Her loving, practical, determined, and inspirational presence makes it easy to imagine that she crafts an environment that gives children, amongst bleak circumstances, a chance for a better life - both for now and for the future.