With schools still closed in Kenya, both Dream Education Centre and Petals of Africa School have begun offering enrichment programs to some of their students. At Petals, the 8th graders come once a week for computer lessons, art classes, life skills training, and guidance and counseling sessions. Right now they are participating in a 4-week art project designed by a volunteer in the United States. With the school’s new projector, she is able to send instruction videos for the students. At Dream Education Centre, the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders come to school every day for various activities: journalism, technology, drama and music, home science and life skills training. Students in other grades come two or three days a week and participate in some of the activities, as well as arts and crafts and general fitness. The Dream Head Teacher reports that the oldest students don’t want to leave at the end of the day. In many ways, Dream feels like their home.
During this challenging time in the world and with schools in Kenya closed, we became concerned that the children who attend both Dream Education Centre and Petals of Africa School might be going hungry. This was a concern of the boards of the schools, too. As the economy imploded, many parents their lost jobs, and out at Petals, heavy rains ruined much of the maize crop, making food shortages acute. There is no social safety net in the county, and parents desperately needed to feed their families. Thanks to generous donors, we have been able to supply basic food rations to the orphans at Petals and to the Dream families in need. The first distribution of food took place at the end of April; the second at the end of May, and the third is scheduled for July 11th. A board member wrote to us, “Because of you, many children were saved from hunger, many housewives were spared desperation quarrels, many orphans have been well fed and have become darlings of their foster/adoptive parents.” Our thanks to all who are helping.
Most of the children at Dream don’t have many experiences outside of their everyday routines, so the school tries to provide new and expansive opportunities for them. Last year the school had a talent show and took a field trip to climb Mt. Longonot in one of Kenya’s national parks. There was also a visit from Mbaari Kinya, PhD, who is a member of the Nairobi church. She talked with the girls about careers for women in science and technology, and she shared the impact that Christian Science has had on her life. Mbaari returned a few weeks later for a year-end gathering and remarked that she would never forget the love that the children showed to her when she arrived. On a recent trip to Dream, E3 Board members were delighted to be interviewed by the journalism club, play chess with members of the chess club, watch the gymnasts from the acrobatics club, and plant a tree with members of the environmental club. Dream is definitely giving the children opportunities to develop and display their talents.
For the second year in a row, Petals of Africa School was the #1 school in Migori County on national testing. There are over 800 primary schools in the county, so this is quite an achievement, especially for a small rural school with limited resources. The KCPE exam is taken by all 8th graders in Kenya and the results determine where the students go to high school. Of the twenty students in the Petals graduating class, eighteen were invited to attend national high schools, a big honor. These consistently excellent test results are one of the reasons that the school has experienced such growth in enrollment. The students have a reputation for being hard-working and disciplined, and better yet, a reputation for not cheating. The school expects to have a “Prize-giving Day” in the spring to congratulate the students and to especially to honor the teachers.
In early November, E3 brought together teachers from Petals of Africa School, Dream Education Centre, and Sunrise of Africa School to attend a five-day workshop in Nairobi on the new Kenyan curriculum. It was the first time that teachers from the three CS-based schools in Kenya had ever gotten together, and they had a wonderful time learning from the excellent trainer and getting to know each other. For some of the Petals teachers, it was the first-ever trip to Nairobi. For many others, it was the first real professional development experience. The pictures of the event show the teachers active and engaged in the activities. The teachers have told us that they would like to meet again, and that they took away ideas that they can immediately incorporate in their classrooms.
The 6th graders at Dream are a close-knit group. Earlier this year, they asked the Head Teacher if they could stay at school until 6 pm to do their homework. Since there is an adult at the school until that time, he agreed, although the kids work unsupervised in their classroom. Recently when the Head Teacher was working in his office at about 6 pm, he heard the children say the Lord’s Prayer, the Daily Prayer, and Mrs. Eddy’s verse for the Little Children, “Father-Mother God, loving me...” before they headed for home. When he peeked outside, he saw the students in a circle, holding hands as they prayed. In many ways, Dream provides a safe haven for these students, and we trust that the spiritual lessons they are learning will give them a strong foundation.