Revisiting Ikenye: An EPAfrica school seven years on

By Lucien Georgeson 

Back in the summer of 2007, I was a fresh-faced first year university student travelling to Kenya for the first time, as a Project Worker, with what was then Kenya Education Partnerships. I worked in partnership with Ikenye Secondary School, located South of Kisii town on a hilltop surrounded by lush fields of tea plants and the most spectacular panoramic views. Almost every EPAfrica alumni probably says this, but Ikenye really is the most beautiful location. The incredibly vertiginous walk up to the top of the hill through the tea plants was always worth it for the greeting we received from our partners at Ikenye, and that incredible view. The headteacher, Mr Zachary Keronche, was a force of nature who led the school with determination, dedication and respect.

While at Ikenye, Jen Danvers and I worked on a number of projects, including supplying the school with textbooks, backing them and providing a secure place to store them, improving the school’s stock of science equipment, setting up links with a local health clinic to provide year-round health talks and information to the students, and running a sports day hosted with fellow local ‘KEP’ school Boitang’are Friends. We even put up a sign (featuring the Kenya Education Partnerships logo of course, at the request of Mr Keronche!).

This summer, a full 7 years later and with KEP now fully transformed into EPAfrica, I had the chance to return to Ikenye. In my third visit to Kenya as a coordinator, and part of the 2014 Kisii Summer Team, I was to conduct a visit to Ikenye to assess the progress that the school had made since we last partnered with them in 2009. This was both incredibly exciting and incredibly scary; I was excited to return to the school that I had known as such as a vibrant place and to see old friends, but 7 years was a long time. What would the school like now? Had the work that we had done as KEP volunteers all those years ago helped the school to develop and grow?

When I arrived, the school environment was safe, secure and welcoming, the library (only a shell when I had last been there) was now a complete structure and soon the students would be using it. The science laboratory was in great condition, with the lab equipment looking as good as the day it had been first bought from Kisii town! Zachary was still there, and as we discussed the school’s progress in the last few years since the charity had last visited, it became clear he led with that same spirit. The school now had electricity (with the connection being brought from the nearest town 40 minutes walk away!) and also a photocopier for producing mock exams. They still had enough books and science equipment, and health professionals still came to see the students multiple times each term. Even the sign was still looking great!

But what mattered to me most was that the implementation of these sustainable projects, and progress with exciting new ones, had helped improve the quality of education for the students of Ikenye. And that, most excitingly of all, was certainly true. The school’s MSS (the average measure of student performance in their final KCSE exams) had doubled since I had last been there, and had held steady at that level for the last 3 years. More students were going to university, and the current students that I met were confident and bright, and proud of their school. It is always fantastic to see that there are such positive results from the approach that EPAfrica seeks to take; by investing time and resources in projects that will hopefully have long-term positive benefits in our schools, by working with the school’s management to make projects sustainable and give the school ownership of them, and by fostering a long-term relationship with all of our schools. I hope to be able to go back in another 7 years and see what the school is like again!Want to go back and re-visit your old EPAfrica school? Apply now to be on the EPAfrica Summer Team!