Guest Post – Written by Gabriel Oguda via Facebook
Amani Primary School is a public school, situated in Mikindani area of Changamwe Constituency. Changamwe is a high-density constituency. Their current MP is Omar Mwinyi, of ODM. He is a first timer, having inherited a seat that was occupied by veteran Coast politician Ramadhan Seif Kajembe (KANU 1997, NARC 2002, and ODM 2007).
Chagamwe has in excess of 87,000 voters, with Port Reitz, Kipevu and Mikindani wards being the most populous. Kipevu is mostly known for having the largest oil depot in Kenya. Storing 326,233 cubic metres of oil, pumping three times the capacity of the Nairobi Kenya Pipeline Depot. It also has an oil refinery. Changamwe, put simply, is the cog that drives Kenya’s economy.
Of all the 6 Constituencies in Mombasa County, none is occupied by a Jubilee affiliate party. Nyali’s Hezron Awiti Bolo and Jomvu’s Badi Twalip – both of Wiper Democratic Movement, being the only non-ODM MPs.
Amani Primary School derives a majority of it’s students from surrounding informal settlements, or slums. These are no ordinary slums. I had a chance to visit Bangla, short for Bangladesh, slum and I can tell you the conditions where I lived in Kibera look like a picnic camp. I am told Kopa Koppa, Kwa Kipofu, Kwa Mwanzia, Kwa Matei, Jiji La Ng’ombe, and Ngamani slums, all surrounding Amani Primary, are way off worse than Bangla. Everything that could go wrong for a child born to attend Amani Primary have all gone wrong. It is expected that Amani Primary receive, and produce, the dregs of our society’s children. And they haven’t disappointed.
The 2015 Class of final year students have already registered for their KCPE exams. Their names, and corresponding Index Numbers, are boldly displayed on the dilapidated school noticeboard just in front of Standard 8Q, or Queens, as I saw someone inscribe with a fading chalk when I paid them a visit today. In total, wait for it, the number of students that will be flying the flag of Amani Primary this year is 196 students.
One hundred and ninety six. That’s right. One hundred and ninety six Standard Eight students. All divided into only two streams of 98 each. Ninety Eight students crammed in one room they call a class. Let me take a sip of pelele as we let that fact sink in.
You would think the government have put in contingency measures to prop up the staff shortage and scarce resources in Amani Primary. They haven’t. You would expect Amani Primary school depleted and demoralised staff to sit back and demand they be transferred to better serviced and well-run public schools across the nation. They haven’t. Instead, they have taken it upon themselves to change the situation one child at a time. And they are beginning to witness the fruits of their hard labour.
When I visited Amani Primary this morning, I found a very elaborate model of student mentorship already in place. When you graduate from Amani Primary, the school retains your contacts for follow up. Those admitted to national schools, particularly, are encouraged to come back and mentor the kids whenever they are back to Mombasa. Today, one of their former students, who scored 82 out of 84 points in last year’s KCSE at Loreto Limuru, was in class 8 taking them through a lesson in Mathematics. As she waits to join Medical School later this year.
I also met two former students of the school – one who was in Shimo La Tewa and the other Alliance Boys – helping the teachers compute marks for a test the Class 8s had done last week. They are also the same ones who have been helping in setting up the IT structures in the school, online registration of the Class 8s and those computer stuff that overburdened teachers have no time for. They do all this for free. They do this to give back to the school which mentored them. As they wait to join the university later this year.
The best Kiswahili teacher the whole of Mombasa County teaches at Amani Primary. You can go check your records. Amani Primary have topped the Kiswahili charts, 5 years back-to-back, without competition. However much your school might try, there is a formidable Kiswahili team down there that can not be bought by silver and gold. They are there for the children. Children of the poor men and women of Changamwe struggling to make ends meet. Children who need help the most. Teaching at Amani Primary School is a calling. The team down there have been approached by numerous private proprietors to quit public service and teach for money. It warms my heart when I meet people who have refused to be bought by notes which will be eaten by rats, or coins submerged in salty waters. It warms my heart knowing that Kenyans who serve this country without the bitterness of neglect still exist. You are a million times more favoured than the aristocracy in this country hellbent on wanton plunder and shameless pillage. Keep going at it, your reward is in heaven.
And what happens to the slum girls struggling to stay in school while battling the bloody mess that comes with their biological clock? Picture a situation where a girl living in a one-roomed tin shack with seven siblings and a single mother, an absentee father, one who cant even afford twenty shillings for lunch, starts receiving her menstrual blood. I know you cant imagine, so lets skip that part. Picture a Class 8 boy whose father chased the mother away, drinks like fish, and makes no effort at scavenging for casual labour to fend for his three children. Maybe you can relate. This is the calibre of pupils coming through the gates of Amani Primary School every single morning, without fail. Children who have nothing but education to look up for. Education which is utterly compromised and severely mutilated. One of the teachers told me today that the children might think they are coming for education, the teachers have learnt to teach them more than that. They have learnt to lace the drug of education with the precious chemical element they call hope. Hope for a better future, hope that all will be well. Hope that you can be what you want to be, if you word hard at it, and school. Hope that there will be a better tomorrow. The audacity of hope.
The children are really having a go. They struggle to deposit all their problems at the gate every morning they come in. And you can see that urge for knowledge reflected in the three internal exams they have done so far this first term. Out of 196 pupils who sat for the latest test, 16 had 400 marks and above. Those are national school material. Unless private developers who own this country decide to smuggle their cerellac babies through the back door to take their seats.
This is to everyone associated with Amani Primary bending backwards to pull those children out of that sticky mud that wont let go. Your reward is in heaven.