I was a project worker for EPAfrica in 2010 and spent my 12 weeks working with Masosa Mixed Secondary School. I’ve managed to visit the school a few times since I left, whilst a Summer Project Manager and during my time on the Management Committee. However, it has been almost 4 years since I last visited and so whilst working in the region I took the ‘long way’ from Kampala to Nairobi going via Kisii and stopping by Masosa village.
I didn’t know what to expect. I had made contact with a couple of the teachers via Facebook and learnt that James, the head teacher was still in post. More exciting still, I learnt that the fantastic Mama Mogere, who we lived with during the summer, was still living in her house. We couldn’t wait to see her!
However, this was largely where the familiarities ended! From Kisumu we took brand new tarmac roads all the way to Kisii making the journey in just over an hour. Kisii, whilst keeping its chaotic charm, is even bigger and noisier than I remembered, with new plaza buildings, hotels and nightclubs. The matatu to Miruka junction was now a non-stop shuttle – taking little more than 40 minutes to arrive and all the way I had 4G signal to WhatsApp James about my impending arrival! It was fantastic to see Kenya’s technology and infrastructure boom in action.
Masosa Secondary School has also flourished! The single storey admin block now boasts a second floor library (with digitalised catalogue) and counselling room. There is a new IT suite with 10 computers, a school bus (now fully paid off), a careers board in the courtyard, whiteboards in the classrooms, new science equipment storage, shady outdoor study space for girls and the newest purchase…a generator for when the mains power cuts out! Masosa is now regularly sending over 10 students to university and are performing well in regional and national sporting and music contests. James was always a fantastic headteacher, with vision and passion for making his school the best it could be for its students, but this surpassed even my wildest expectations.
Saying that, the past few years hasn’t been without challenge either. New laws for every primary school student to enrol in secondary school have put pressure on student numbers and subsequently classroom space and school grades. Whilst we were there, we saw many students sitting exams outside as a result of classrooms overflowing. The dormitories are also overcrowded, with some students having to share two to a bed. With the decentralisation of national government to provincial centres, funding for school infrastructure has radically reduced. In fact, in reversal to the situation 8 years ago, the local government is now only providing text books and nothing else. Specific to Masosa, a reliable water supply is still an issue, resulting in students (we saw mostly girls) collecting water from the river a 10 minute walk away. And even in our short visit it was clear corporal punishment still reared its nasty head.
After a tour of the school, we made our way down the road to see Mama Mogere, who was waiting on the front porch. True to form, she already had lunch made – ugali, eggs, sumaweki, bread and blue band, chai and the dreaded sour milk and porridge! As cheesy as it sounds, we formed such a bond with Mama Mogere in 2010, that it did feel like coming home! What made it even more special, was that – thanks to the 4G – we were able to Skype in Matt, my project partner, all the way from Spain!
As always, leaving was a challenge, but I am so glad I took the time to visit our old friends and Masosa. It was a nostalgic visit, realising that the places where I have such strong memories have changed but reassuring that this was often for the better. It was also fantastic to see the long-term results of EPAfrica’s investment in Masosa. The combination of four rounds of project workers and an inspiring headteacher has created a successful school that has improved the lives of the hundreds of young people it serves. But, that said, there is still plenty more that can be done for schools in the area. Project workers of 2018, you have a busy and rewarding summer coming up!
By Fiona Rushbrook