Week 3 and 4 Kisii update!


With the PWs back from a lovely weekend relaxing in the tea-growing hills of Kericho, it was time for Week Three in the schools in Kisii – the week wherein the Project Workers start their buying, start their implementation, and really use all the information that they’ve absorbed about the school to make firm plans about their budget and what to spend their money on. Having had lots of meetings with teachers, head teachers, students and community members, we were excited to see what plans they’d come up with to tackle some of the really pressing issues in the Kisii schools. About far more than just the buying, their thoughts and actions on making their initiatives sustainable, holistic, and tangible were key to really making the biggest difference they could to the quality of education and life experience the students receive in their schools.With the project workers hard at work, the Summer Team certainly didn’t have time to rest! Plenty of school visits were waiting, and with Jan and Bobby back from a trip to Nairobi to help one of the Project Workers resolve a medical issue, (and Bobby deciding to extend his time and surprise me by coming back to spend one more lovely week in Kisii! He just couldn’t bear to leave KEP, which made us all very happy!) we had lots to do. We were really glad to welcome Laura Smith onto our awesome Summer Team too, and she fitted right in! Laura picked up school selection like a duck to water, and was soon going on courtesy calls to old KEP schools, data collection visits to improve our monitoring and evaluation data, and school selection visits even to the furthest schools in Kisii land, without blinking an eyelid! The personal element of KEP really came to the fore when both Laura and I returned to our old schools to see how they were getting on – Laura to Omobiri, and me to Chibwobi. Laura was pleased to see how well Magda and Jan, the current PWs were doing, with a new Headteacher at Omobiri (and the old HT has even applied with his new school, he missed KEP so much!), especially regarding their plan to implement electricity, and really get the lab used. For me, returning to Chibwobi was a real high point of the trip, because amazingly their MSS has increased to 7, from 3.2 in 2009!! Such great evidence of the amazing work KEP can do in a school, when it has got the right management who will just run with the initiatives we implemented, and were inspired by the work we had done. It was amazing to see the teachers had all remained at the school, with a steely determination to improve evermore, despite now being 8th in a big district with 4 provincial schools! It was real testament to KEP resource investment and PODS, as well as the very reputation and motivational impact of having that boost of energy that PWs can give to a school.

Really buoyed up to find the best schools for next year, the Summer Team continued our hunt by day, and by evening we sat and discussed, and decided, the LTP24 Central Pot expenditure! This exciting pot of £4500 of money was donated by Tom Bishop and co, who cycled from London to Paris in 24 hours (well, 23 and a half, to be precise) and raised a huge amount of money to invest in safe water harvesting tanks at schools, and electricity projects. The PWs applied to the Central Pot, putting their schools forward for projects they had thought through, cost-estimated, and evaluated, and we were going to choose which would receive part of the money. With a mandate to have the biggest impact on the most students in the neediest schools, we really had to think long and hard about which to choose.


Jan meets aqua clara


In the end, (and with some assistance from schools putting forward a bit of their own money too, which really does show how desperate they are for these water and electricity solutions and their real commitment to the project) – we will have linked up one school to the electricity grid, allowing them to use already donated computers and create a computer usage IGAP scheme for the local community, which will give a really need school IT education and a reliable income that will also be benefiting the village around. (Nyamburumbasi Secondary). We will have provided safe, and most importantly, enough, drinking water to schools where they didn’t have sufficient water harvesting capacity previously, by buying 5 water tanks of 5000 litres each, as well as combining these with incredible Aquaclara (a Kenyan-American NGO) water purification biosand filters, that last for ten years and cost the school very little, but provide essential clean water for students that otherwise suffer water-borne disease infections regularly. (Nyanko, Iranda, Turwa and Kerongeta, the latter of which was self funded though benefiting from the reduced prices associated with our central buying). And finally we have hooked up Riagumo school with really exciting computer technology which will network computers the government donated, allowing them to start implement e-learning and access the internet – the only modern facility in a huge distance around, that will offer the students and community endless opportunities in a very rural and remote community. As something that KEP might be looking to doing next year, (promoting e-learning, in line with the government and many HT wishes, in an increasingly ICT-literate world) watch this space for how LTP24 has allowed Riagumo to potentially become a pilot for the direction KEP may be heading in future!The LTP24 Central Pot really has been a fantastic addition to the KEP summer, allowing PWs to implement water and electricity in really needy schools, which, with the money they had fundraised alone, they would not have been able to do. With their presence in the schools though, we know that the projects will be carried out to the very highest standards, and we’re so excited to see what they will look like at the end! Thank you so much to Tom, Austin, Greg and co – Kisii and Kakamega have received a huge boost because of this, and it’s going to make a fantastic difference.

The weekend of third week brought safari for the Kisii PWs, and off to Masai Mara with our good friends Saif and Geoff, they had an amazing time, seeing lions aplenty, rhinos, zebras, wildebeest…! Although they missed a viewing of the Olympics Opening Ceremony from a Kenyan Bar (always a fun experience! Mr Bean was incredibly well-received!), safari represented a well-earned break at the end of a very productive week in the schools for the PWs, and by Sunday they were back and raring to go – many of them ordering textbooks, lab equipment and materials for health, careers, science and sports days at their schools. Visiting a few of these was really fun for the Summer Team, and proved to us just how well the PWs were settled in at their schools and doing something the schools themselves would never have got round to doing. Holistic education – in health, life skills, careers, and extra curricular activities – is taken so much for granted in the UK, that to hear some of the questions the students had put forward as things they wanted to find out for the day reminded us once again how much there can be to do in some KEP schools, and how much the students would get out of a nurse coming in to talk, for example. Running as ever to TIA time (a few hours late) and even in the rain for some of them, the days have been really successful, and have been instituted in many cases as part of a wider programme to address our key PODs.

Backing books was the order of the day for some, with Maillie and Becky meticulously mastering sticky-back plastic for their books in the library at Kerongeta, which will now be a much-needed study space reading room for the students, allowing a reading culture to be introduced which will help the students no end with their English especially. The PWs were also writing their applications for the Global Education Fund, which last year gave St Don Bosco (upon submission of Bobby and Charlotte’s application 2011) 5000 CAD for expenditure on a boarding dorm. As such, we will be submitting 3 more applications this year, to be decided in Kisii from Iranda, Riagumo, Tendere and Kerongeta which have all applied for the funding. We wish them the best of luck, as this would be an incredible achievement to get for these schools which would really boost the students’ quality of learning, as they could spend less time walking their long and dangerous trek to schools, and more time learning with their peers in a safe and friendly school environment.

A particularly touching night for the Summer Team was Thursday of fourth week, when, following on from a slight restructure of KEP in Kenya, we have now instituted a Kisii Site Board, and a Kisii Head teachers Executive, as we will for all our sites over the course of the summer. Essentially recognising the work, logistically and pastorally, that our Kisii friends do for us each year, finding us accommodation, looking after all the PWs and the Summer Team, offering us advice, being on hand whenever we need anything, and most of all, representing a friendly face in the chaotic town of Kisii – the Kisii Site Board of Geoff, Eliud and Saif was announced at our KEP Friends Night Dinner. Having spent an afternoon in the kitchen, Jan, Laura and I produced a (well done Jan!) amazing Moroccan Stew, which our KEP friends loved! We chatted about KEP, then announced the new site Board, and thanked them as ever for all their extremely hard work. They were very touched to be recognised in this way. The Kisii HT Executive was also announced, consisting of Peter from Botoro, Zephaniah from Kiogo and Janet from Matongo. Recognising them as very trusted and valued HTs of ex-KEP schools, we wanted to recognise the advice they offer us on our work in KEP schools, their presence at the HT Conference and Debriefs, and their input on strategic matters while the Summer Team were in country. With Saif’s new puppy running around at our feet, eating dinner in the Kisii house, the KEP friends evening was a great success, and I’m so pleased we had the chance to officially thank and recognise such great friends of the charity we have here.

So, five extremely busy and extremely productive weeks have passed in Kisii, and we couldn’t believe it but it was time for the handover meeting in Kisumu! Going to a lovely poolside cafe, Kisii, Kakamega, and the Uganda researchers all met up to discuss the first half so far, and to handover for second half, as wel as between the sites, and between Uganda researchers! (Matt and Rona had just returned from Umbarara, Jan and Lizzie were about to go to Iganga!). Hearing how everything had gone, and having a real debrief about all the progress we had made (as well as recognising mistakes and places to improve we’d spotted too, of course!) really made me feel incredibly happy about a great first half to the Project, and very excited to see how it would continue! Returning with Rona to Kisii to finish our handover, I feel absolutely confident that she will do  a fantastic job as PM!

All that is left to say is – firstly thank you to all the PWs, who have been absolutely brilliant – what a great group, I’ve loved working with you all! Such talent, and real passion; I can’t wait to see the end results in our schools.  And secondly, thank you to the best Kisii summer team I could possibly have wished for– Jan, Bobby, Molly, Chain, Laura, and now Rona – the most hard-working group of innovative and committed people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Good luck also to Jan who’s now in Uganda researching expansion with Lizzie Dobson (the Uganda Expanders…!), which is making expansion look suddenly very exciting and very real! Being PM has been a great experience and, whilst now very tired, I’m so happy about how our project is going this summer. Well done to all.

To an extremely successful end of the project, Rona and Gabriel, all the coordinators and PWs – I wish you all the best and look forward to seeing you at debrief!

Jenny Jones, Project Manager, Kisii First Half, Summer 2012