A Good Pub Meal or Education for a Year?
Sponsir a child in Mnarani, Kenya
Imagine, if you can, a village with approximately the same number of inhabitants as in Stoke Ferry, yet at least twice the number of children. The nearest town is about 4 miles distant and the closest city 30 miles away. Here, however, the similarity to Stoke Ferry ends, for this village covers an area of only 1 km2 or so, has no electricity, piped water or drainage. The people, despite the conditions, always smile and like anywhere else in the world are determined to try to do the best for their children. Unemployment is in the region of 90%, and the only source of income comes from the local plantation, the nearby hotel and for those lucky enough to have a boat - fishing.
The country is Kenya, the village is Mnarani, and is the home of a unique project: the Mnarani Primary School Project, initiated and run by the Mnarani Club Hotel and the local sisal plantation in co-operation with the school governing body. The Primary School, like so many in Africa, consists of a number of open-sided mud buildings, a play-ground and a huge problem. The problem is similar to that in the UK: insufficient funding from the government for material and facilities. Unlike the UK, however, education is not free to all and the majority of the parents in the village cannot afford to send their children to school. Many children, therefore, receive no education whatsoever. Those that do, work with the minimum of equipment and learning aids often using slates and pieces of chalk gathered from the beach. Their class-room being the play-ground, class stopping when it rains.
Mnarani Club Hotel and the plantation recognised the needs of the school some years ago and have tried to improve the facilities by initiating a programme to provide equipment for the school, such as desks, and to date over 400 desks have been provided, courtesy of the project. The current and possibly most exciting initiative is to provide funding for children, who otherwise could never go to school. This has been done by individual sponsorship. Incredibly the cost of sponsoring a child for a year's education (including uniform and some materials) at primary level is only equivalent to a good pub meal for two: £40.00 per year. To date over 300 children are now assured of education throughout the primary phase, that is to 12 years old.
The project is, however, not just about sponsorship, but also provision of writing materials, books and even educational or other toys for use within the school. Normally, the cost of transportation to Kenya means that donations of this type are impossible. The project has, however, amazingly persuaded their national airline, Kenya Airways, to ship any donations free of charge directly to Mombasa, where they will be picked up by members of the project. Future plans include the supply of a generator to the school in order to supply electricity to enable greater utilization of the school buildings and eventually to facilitate the use of computers in order to give the older children the opportunity to use the educational resources of the Internet.
As I said earlier, this project is unique in that it is designed to prepare the children of this village to help themselves in the future. The help and sponsorship is not subject to government interference or corruption. Indeed the present government in Kenya have recognised the scheme by donating 15 acres of land for the development of a much-needed Girls High School.
The reason for writing this article is really two-fold. Firstly, to demonstrate that despite difficult political conditions there is real action in countries such as Kenya to improve the status of their children. The other more obvious reason is to make you aware of what you could do to help underprivileged children for very little trouble or expenditure. The benefits of education need not be spelled out to anybody.
If this article has raised your interest, please e-mail me. I will keep everybody informed as to future developments that are in the pipeline over the next few months, hopefully with some correspondence from Kenya itself.