A well crafted explanation almost cost the education of a Alfred Baya, a former pupil of Kahingoni Primary School . After all the other eco-bursary applicants had been assessed I went through all the students' application and assessment forms before they were tabled for discussion by the bursary sub-committee. In the event I discovered that the number of application forms issued did not match those returned and assessed. According to the process of selecting new ASSETS beneficiaries this was a major anomaly that called for immediate action. This prompted me to seek for an explanation from my colleagues. Just like a school pupil I would have believed everything the teacher said except for this one which I considered a serious matter. The explanation received from Alfred's former school teacher was that Alfred's parents were so poor, they had decided not to bother apply for the bursary as they could not even afford the school uniform.
Early the next day, I was on my motorbike heading to Kahingoni on the western side of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest to verify this dire situation. Upon arrival, at about 10.00 a.m, I got a slightly different explanation from another teacher that the student was given the application form which he filled in but did not return it for processing. At this point there was no explanation why he did not return the form and for the first time we were informed by Janet, his 10 year old sister, that he he had reported to Cotangent Baptist Secondary School the previous day. In the next 15 minutes, I am sitting in the head-teacher's office Vietnam Baptist secondary school and hearing it from the horses mouth. Here Alfred confirmed that he had filled in the application form and returned it to the teacher who had initially told us that the boy was so desperate he could not even apply for the bursary. Back at Kahingoni, the teacher launches a desperate search for the application form in vain. After a long wait I decided to go to Alfred's home for the assessment without the seemingly lost application form.
In just under 10 minutes riding through overgrown foot-paths we arrive to this tiny structure which at first sight appears to have been abandoned. No higher than 2 meters, its dimensions must have been no more than 4 m by 2 m. As we approached two girls, must have been aged between 3 and 5 came out of the structure obviously scared by the sound of the motorbike. "Is this home?" I ask Alfred as there seems to be no more road. "Yes it is", Alfred answers as he struggled off the motorbike. I stood there for the next couple of minutes with the assessment form in hand wondering where to start. "Are both your parents alive?" I Begin expecting the worst out of the question." By this time Alfred was busy trying to pull a piece of log for the important visitor to sit on. I was dumbfounded as Alfred described to me how the whole family of seven children and two parents aged 35 years lived in this tiny structure which doubled as a granary and a kitchen as well. I must admit, this was the worst case I have ever encountered in my Nine years working with ASSETS.
As we were preparing to leave the teacher called to say that he had found the application form amid st his many other documents in his desk. When I took Alfred back to Cotangent Baptist, I was very impressed by the head-teacher who was curious to know Alfred's situation from the assessment. After a detailed description, it wasn't difficult to convince the head-teacher not to send Alfred home for school fees as were going do our best support him. As I watched Alfred walk back to class I was filled with deep pity for him thinking that he almost missed this opportunity.