Moving the goalposts …

If you haven’t already heard, EPAfrica is celebrating 25 years since it started from humble beginnings with a group of Cambridge undergraduates looking to provide sustainable development in education. It should be no surprise then that the calendar of the summer project, and ceremonies within it, follow a suitably arcane structure – and so at the end of our third week in Kenya we had our second-week meeting.The second week meeting is an opportunity for Project Workers to convene and discuss their plans with both each other and the experienced Summer Team. It was encouraging to see everyone co-operating to solve problems. We also allowed time for story sharing, tea and mandazi. This blog post, however, is dedicated to a fifteen minute prelude, where we reflected on the five goals we had collectively set ourselves at the beginning of the project:
Goals #4 and #5 did not require any changes: we all still aim to make new friends (‘mzungu’ is a commonly used word to describe a foreigner i.e. us), and we all still sought solace from the Zuckerburg-shaped monkey on our backs – though we do encourage some use of technology to keep in touch with home as snail mail takes on a whole new meaning in Kenya.

Goal #3 required the addition of a word to make grammatical sense, an error solely on my part.Then we took a closer look at goal #2 and realised that our cultural exchanges were anything but two-way. Not only are we diverse as a group of UK-based students (the Kisii Summer Team alone come from 3 different countries), but each person we meet in our schools, the village community or from wider Kenyan society has their own story and personal take on Gusii culture. We wanted to move from an ‘Us exchanging with Them’ mentality to a much more open and unassuming one. Thus the first amendment came to recognise the multiple levels of exchange possible when you immerse yourself in a community for eight weeks. An even longer time was spent deliberating over goal #1, which concerns the projects themselves. The Project Workers spent the two weeks between the conference and this second week meeting getting to know the situation of their schools and understanding the challenges they were going to work together to improve. Not all of these changes can be measured with a ruler or test score, nor would all the improvements be felt within the school itself. So it was unanimously decided that we should strive for “practical and qualitative, sustainable improvements in our schools and communities.” Goals might be moved by an insecure keeper to keep the ball out, or by a government not willing to admit it failed, but in this instance I think it shows humility, and an ever-improving understanding of the subtleties of our partnership with EPAfrica communities.