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In 2010 Mr Parapia visited a school and children’s project in Nairobi, Kenya. With the support of Bingley Grammar School a teacher visit was organised with the aim of strengthening links between the three organisations. Swanland School is a small school funded by a charity linked to St Barnabas Church in Swanland village, East Yorkshire. The school provides education and shelter for children from Nairobi’s slum areas. The other project is an after school children’s club called the Kibera Kids’ Club located in Nairobi’s largest slum, recently featured on the BBC comic relief programme with Lenny Henry. Both schools are lacking in basic resources and lessons are taught in corrugated iron classrooms with no electricity. Swanland School often lacks running water and there are occasional food shortages. The situation in Kibera is desperate with many children orphaned by AIDS. 
Mr Parapia was accompanied by Geography teacher Miss Wales and Drama teacher Mr Atkinson. During the week the teachers undertook teaching activities in the school as well as exchanging resources with the Kenyan teaching staff. In the afternoon they helped out with the Kibera Kids’ Club.  Mr Parapia compiled a diary of the visit.

Today we visited a traditional Masai village. The Masai culture is taught in Year 7 Geography lessons so this was an excellent opportunity to take photos, interview the Masai warriors and children and experience life in the village.  We were greeted by a Masai village chief and Miss Wales was able to record an interview about how a traditional Masai hut is built. This footage will be used for Geography lessons. Miss Wales also bought some authentic Masai dress to use in the lessons.

After a lengthy drive looking for the dirt track that leads to Swanland School we eventually arrived and met the Head of the School, Pastor Hudson. I claimed confidently to know where the location of school was, but this was disproved fairly quickly as we circled around the area asking various locals for advice. Miss Wales and Mr Atkinson must have been wondering what they had got themselves into! When we did arrive most of the students were on holiday (which was a surprise to us) so Pastor Hudson took us on a tour of the surrounding area, known as Kawangware. Kawangware is a typical African slum, lacking basic infrastructure such as running water and electricity. We walked the journey to school that most of the students take each day, which took us through a rubbish dump and over a murky looking stream. We had a formal tour of the school and then came the revelation that the school had collapsed the entire timetable for the rest of the week especially for us (another surprise). We spent the rest of the morning planning a carousel of activities for the children focusing on French, Drama, Art and Geography. We then went to the supermarket to buy enough paper as well as drinks and biscuits for the children.
Our proposed visit to Kibera (Africa’s largest slum) had to be postponed as there were reports of unrest in the area.

We arrived (successfully this time) at Swanland School a little apprehensive about how the day would turn out. We started with a morning worship led by myself. The children began by singing Christian songs which was very uplifting. Then began our Bingley carousel. It took a while to organise the students into groups but eventually they arrived at the classroom to experience teaching and learning à la Bingley Grammar School. Mrs Maurice from Art had provided us with drawing equipment to take to the school to be used to draw the students’ local environment.  Bingley Grammar Students had produced some David Hockney style art for Swanland School and we would take back the Kenyan students’ work. Miss Wales set about teaching her debut art lesson. Mr Atkinson was in the main hall where he was helping students to present a drama piece on World War II.  When I saw him he was doing some sort of karate warm up. I set about teaching basic greetings in French. The classroom was basically a corrugated iron shack with a piece of chalk and a blackboard. There were no lights as the power was down. At break time we provided students with a biscuit and a drink.
After a quick cheese sarnie we made our way to Kibera. This was the slum featured on the recent Comic Relief programme with Lenny Henry. A local painter took us on a tour of the narrow streets. This is an eye opening experience. The streets are full of rubbish and there are open sewage streams flowing down the middle. There are usually two or three toilets per block which may house a hundred residents. HIV is rife with a 20% infection rate.  Remarkably we were invited into a family’s house. The house was small but clean, a far cry from the street outside. Despite its reputation Kibera is a welcoming and friendly place. Our aim there was to work with the Kibera Kids Club where some of the youth workers are sponsored by Bingley Grammar School. It was such an emotional experience to see the dedication of the local workers. I did my usual Bruce Springsteen performance with the guitar and we took part in some group yoga exercises with the children.  The children are among the poorest children in the world and their enthusiasm was so uplifting.
We returned to our hostel shattered after an amazing first teaching experience.

After careful evaluation Mr Atkinson concluded that he needed to change his approach as drama was not a subject that was taught much at the school. He decided to focus on script writing using the students’ experiences of local life. Miss Wales continued with the art project and began linking it to geography lessons. I continued with French. The 3 groups we worked with were separated into primary, middle school and secondary school. This meant we were teaching children aged 5-21! We decided to ask the Kenyan teachers to act as classroom assistants as the younger children we finding some of the activities difficult.  At breaktime I managed to speak to the teachers who revealed that they get paid around $60 per month. This does not provide much in Nairobi where prices are rising quickly. During the meeting I had to leave in fear as a huge African wasp flew past my nose. It was like a bird! Apparently they do sting. 
In the afternoon we went to Kibera to work with the Kids’ Club. This was my first opportunity to witness the dancing talents of Mr Atkinson who led a bollywood class to the sound of a traditional African drum. The children also presented their own drama and music performances, some of which were outstanding. This was a great day and we left feeling that things were really moving.

The day began in usual style and we began our carousel. Miss Wales focused on learning about different countries of the world and used the medium of art to look to portray images of various countries. Mr Atkinson was in full flow with the drama and as usual there were all sorts of noises coming from the main hall. I moved on to teaching numbers in French and the students produced a Swahili/French/English phrase book for Bingley students. We also played some games in French but this was quite difficult as the students were used to more formal lessons. Dan, the Kenyan  teacher who was with me taught his first lesson in French as part of our team teaching efforts. We used plain paper as mini white boards and the students played bingo to practice the numbers.
Kibera was the more relaxed part of the day as the Kid’s Club is designed to take children away from the streets. There were children aged from 1 - 16. Now it Miss Wales’s turn to show off her extra curricular skills as she led a football style game. The children really enjoyed the activities and we were known as Mzungu, which is the name for foreigner in Swahili.

Today was all about observing teaching and learning at Swanland School. Unfortunately the rain during the night had been torrential and we were unable to take the usual journey to school. We had to therefore take the students’ walk to school (see above). The mud was incredible both in and outside the school. Miss Wales joked that I was 2 inches taller because of the amount of mud stuck to my shoes. Anyway, we arrived safely and whilst Mr Atkinson met the head of the school to show him the video footage, Miss Wales and I observed lessons in Chemistry, Swahili and History. The lessons were more formal than in the UK but the students were attentive and learned a great deal.  Miss Wales and I also recorded some footage of the school facilities including the toilets. At Swanland School the students have to take water from a green pond and pour it down the toilet as there is not always running water.
After break we had a formal meeting with the teachers. Meetings are not as frequent as here so I think the teachers were a bit surprised at our request. Anyway we had a good question and answer session and learned a lot about the different education systems. We exchanged some resources such as schemes of work and the BLT plenary and assessment handbooks. 
We returned home on the Saturday exhausted and sad that our wonderful experience was over. We shall never forget our time in Nairobi.

Office posted the article on Sunday, 15th May 2011 at 11:31pm

Swanland Education Africa Trust is a UK Registered Charity, No.1140208.