A Rocha Kenya offers a great opportunity for conservation awareness and action to the community living around Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek.
This year’s ASSETS camp kicked off on a high note with a total of 18 students from different schools and two parents to watch over them at A Rocha Kenya’s Mwamba Field Study Center in Watamu. It was a two days activity that seemed too short for every one of them. It was their time away from books, their two days were preoccupied with motivational, live skills, career choice talks as they also had fun and games on our quiet nature trails and incredible beach.
A walk by the beach that also involved them in knowing more about rock pooling and different types of fish.
On leaving every student seemed saddened but they had to go...this was made clear by the comments they all left us on how they all rated the camp. Most of them requested that next time such an event should be given more days and more students to be involved since it was a very good experience for them both socially and academically.
Girimacha Primary school is among the 10 schools supported by the ASSETS programme. However the for the past few years that has not been possible because of poor performance. The school has recurrently recorded poor results in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education(K.C.P.E) exams. For this reason , a meeting headed by the ASSETS chairman Mr. Hemedi Ndonga, was scheduled on the 30th of July 2015 between parents, teachers and the ASSETS committee to evaluate the cause of the performance drop.
The parents were saddened by the fact that teachers were not concerned about the pupils well being and they cited an example of the head teacher who arrives in school at noon everyday yet he is the one being looked upon by the pupils. The issue of having tuition for the children also arose and it was noticed that there is only one teacher conducting tuition among the pupils.
A lot more issues were raised between the teachers and the parents but the important thing was, both the teachers and parents were ready to work together as a team to make sure their children performed well academically.
Mr. Hemedi emphasized to both the parents and teachers that education is the best gift they can give a child and they should work together tirelessly to ensure that discipline is maintained in the school from the dress code, punctuality and good morals among the students and teachers.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Doris(left) with A Rocha Kenya's volunteer Rebecca Eastwood. Despite having passed her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (K.C.P.E) examinations highly in the year 2010 at Kahingoni Primary School, Doris Furaha’s future seemed bleak. Her parents; who are small scale could barely afford to enrol her in a secondary because of their meagre earnings. The second born in a family of two could only pray for luck to come her way. And lady luck sure did knock on her door when she was selected as an ASSETs beneficiary in the year 2011.She was enrolled at Bahari Girls High School where she obtained a mean grade of B- in last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (K.C.S.E) examinations. “Teaching these young boys and girls keeps me busy and helps me avoid bad company but to top it all sharing my knowledge with these young people gives me satisfaction. The sight of me here, is an enough motivation for them to work even more harder despite the challenges they face.” She said at Kahingoni Primary School where she volunteers as an English, Kiswahili, Social Studies and Science teacher. Doris has been a volunteer teacher at Kahingoni primary since May 2015.
Doris with her mum Even as she keeps on equipping these young ones with the knowledge she still holds onto her dream of becoming a clinical officer someday. It is her prayer that she will be able to join the university and study her dream course. ASSETS is a well targeted sustainable development programme that provides secondary school scholarships, meeting the economic and social needs of the local community whilst promoting the conservation of two of Africa’s most important ecosystems: Arabuko Sokoke and Mida Crreek in the Kenyan North Coast.
Rebecca Eastwood is a summer field course volunteer at A Rocha Kenya from The United Kingdom,staying at Mwamba Field Study Centre in Watamu. She has been with A Rocha Kenya for a month and during her stay she got to participate in the various activities carried out by A Rocha Kenya.Below is her story.
"It’s been a great experience for the past three weeks and we’ve had the opportunity to work on so many different projects which have been a major eye opener in terms of conservation. On Saturday 18/07/2015, we visited Kuvuka community plot in Gede where we learned about the ASSETS programme and a Farming God’s Way.
It is amazing how one can practise sustainable farming on a small plot of land. For each crop there were two plots, one depicting normal farming and the other one depicting Farming God’s Way. The key difference was that for Farming God’s Way, mulch was used to conserve the soil moisture and to suppress the growth of weeds and compost used as an organic fertilizer. The purpose of this plot is to demonstrate to the local people how farming sustainably can produce healthier crops with higher yields than normal farming, whilst being friendly to the environment in both short and long term. Having completed the short tour, we were set to harvest the maize.
This was a new experience for me, and I could definitely see a difference in the cobs harvested from the two plots. Once harvested, we uprooted the stalks and then dug new holes for the next crop which we filled with compost made of plant material collected from the plot, and then planted new maize seeds.
For the Farming God’s Way plot we had to cover the soil with mulch. This involved spreading back over the old layer of mulch, followed by the uprooted maize stalks, and then a final layer of grass which is grown specifically for the purpose round the back of the office. It really was amazing to see how sustainable farming can be, and how waste maize stalks can be reused.
As we worked ,we captured the interest of little kids who were playing nearby. This group of children who live in the vicinity came out to help; it was great involving them in the tasks and they got to learn a bit about Farming God’s Way as we worked. Our final job for the morning was filling little bags with sand to create pots for the seedlings in the tree nursery, before rounding off the trip with a taste of fresh coconuts. I must say it was a great experience to see how A Rocha Kenya is working with local coastal communities to promote sustainability and improving livelihoods."
The ASSETS programme, since its inception in 2001, has solicited for Eco-bursaries which have benefited hundreds of needy, bright students from around Arabuko Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek. A Rocha Kenya works closely with Muvera wa ASSETS members (parents whose children have benefited from the bursary scheme) to actively involve the children in conservation of the environment. A Rocha Kenya together with parents(Muvera wa ASSETS) and pupils, organized a tree planting activity at Chipande Primary School( a school that has benefited from the ASSETS programme) and managed to plant more than 300 seedlings of indigenous trees.
Establishing tree nurseries and maintaining woodlots at home is one of the key requirements Muvera wa ASSETS members have to fulfill. This minimizes the pressure exerted on the forest when communities need wood for fuel, construction and other household uses.The pupils on the other hand were expected to take care of each tree and monitor the growth of the various trees planted.
It was an opportunity to widen their knowledge on trees as they were taught the botanical names and the significance of various indigenous trees as well as forests.For instance the ability to provide: food and medicine to humans , a suitable habitat for endemic fauna, and acting as carbon sinks.
Marxine Waite (above) is an intern at A Rocha Kenya in the Environmental Education department. She is a recent graduate of Pwani University with a degree in Science. She attended the April 2015 ASSETS camp which changed her life. Below is her story.
Armed with beddings, mosquito nets, juice for the kids, and most importantly hope in our hearts, we piled onto jolly old Kiboko and headed to day one of the ASSETS camp. Kiboko is our old truck that did quite a number on us during the trip. On the way I pondered about the lesson ahead and how to really impact the teenagers. I was interrupted from my train of thoughts by drizzling that was eventually seeping through the canvas as we rode at the back of the truck. Eventually, it turned out to be a heavy downpour that would send us into a frenzied struggle to keep dry. We held on the canvas, attempting to stretch it out even further ( as if that would work) ; meanwhile old Kiboko was already tired of the muddy, bumpy road and decided to let loose dense black, sooty diesel exhaust fumes to the carrier of the truck and the struggle ensued until we got to our destination. So here we were, finally, at Bogamachuko Primary School late and drenched in water, with patches of soot, blackened beddings but in one piece.
Bogamachuko, which produced most of new ASSETS beneficiaries last year, was voted the venue for the camp. We headed to the classroom where the parents and students were eagerly waiting. Session one was on what A Rocha is, our main goals and the connection between A Rocha and the ASSETS program. My favourite presentation was by Mzee Katana, who sits in the ASSETS committee, during the second session. It is not uncommon for the elderly to speak their mind freely, but this particular man was just in a class of his own. Not only did he speak freely indeed he did it with confidence, flair and comedy seasoned with 36 years of experience as an educator. He sizzled his speech with flowery Swahili, English and hints of Giriama (local tongue) so that everybody felt included; young and old, literate or otherwise.
Marxine conducting an Environmental Education session.
One by one we gave our message to the children and parents, each in their special way, through stories and jokes and motivational talks. I had the privilege of conducting an environmental lesson through games and chalk and board. I pray the message of my lesson hit home; the scarcity of fresh water on a global scale and the need to conserve it. It was finally the end of day one sessions, and as the students left, it was time to unwind. This marked the drill for the days to follow. Evenings were a special time for me for there was always chicken for dinner; and what a fine meal that was! Our accommodation was also something to remember forever, who would have ever thought I would camp in a staff room? With the special privilege of being the only female, I got to camp alone in the office and could spend long hours reminiscing childhood times as I read fairytales and storybooks that formed my fundamental literature in my early years. This was the order of the next two nights as we visited Malanga, Nyari, and Mijomboni Primary Schools. As we finally headed back to A Rocha, thankful for the successful visits and Kiboko holding up; I reflected on the events one by one. Although I was a beneficiary of a scholarship program myself, this experience made me appreciate the magnitude of the sacrifice that parents and donors make. I walked into that camp hoping to impact lives and walked out having been changed myself.
Beneficiaries and their parents during the camp.
Last week, ASSETS coordinator, Festus Masha, visited the students whom A Rocha Kenya is supporting in their schools. The aim of such trips is, normally, not only to pay fees but also meet the beneficiaries and see how they are fairing in their studies. We seek, through this kind of interactions, to give the students moral support, too. It is also imperative that we get first-hand report of the students` class attendance and discipline from the school authorities. Both hard work and discipline are key requirements for ASSETS students.We are currently supporting 123 students. Jackline Kazungu is one of them. She hails from Kahingoni; one of the villages that border the Arabuko Sokoke Forest. She schooled at Kahingoni Primary School and is now studying at St Thomas Girls` Secondary School in Kilifi. Her parents supplement subsistence farming with charcoal burning and ASSETS pays up to 80% of her fees to discourage her parents from raising bulk of the fees from illegal logging or other forms of unsustainable use of resources. The bursary scheme continues to change perceptions and attitudes of such financially unstable parents from around the forest. Jackline is hard working and she is always at the top of her class. At Manghudo Secondary School, Agnes Furaha Katana was very happy when she learned that Festus Masha was around to pay her fees. Agnes comes from Bogamachuko; another village bordering Arabuko Sokoke Forest. She was worried since her father paid only an installment of this term`s fees and she was not sure whether he would be able to come back to offset the balance before schools close for the holidays.
Agnes Furaha Katana in her school.
Jackline Kazungu in her school.