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.
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.
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.
It is on a Wednesday morning, the 28th day of January. It is 8 am as we leave our Gede office. We are visiting ASSETS schools to establish a list of the pupils who scored atleast 320 marks in the final exam; Kenya Certificate of Primary Education(KCPE). Our Maruti crawls through a dusty road and before long , we arrive at Mijomboni Primary School.We issue the head teacher with an A Rocha Kenya newsletter before the Wild Life Club patron hands us the names of the pupils who, out of the 500 marks, were able to garner 320 or more. We have bursary application forms that we give to the patron, the pupils are to get them from him.This is what we are going to do in each of the other schools we are yet to visit.
The next school on our list is Girimacha and we drive along a dusty route winding on the edge of Arabuko Sokoke Forest. From here, we drive to Malanga and our car has to pass through an eroded path full of potholes and sometimes confine its wheels between gulleys. At around 11 am we arrive at Bogamachuko Primary School. The patron, here, gives us the list of the top perfomers and dares to inform the head teacher, who is in a meeting with parents, that ASSETS team has arrived. The head teacher comes out promptly. I see it on her face that she is very happy that we are here. 12 pupils. That is the number we get here, the largest so far.We leave Boga ( this is how they proudly abbreviate the name of their school here) and drive to Kahingoni, then Nyari, Mzizima, Mida and back to Gede in the evening. What a round!
We look at the list.We have 45 pupils with atleast 320 marks. Then we remember that our budget is not as fat and we will have to recruit only 30 of them to the bursary scheme this year. We would later do assessment which involves collecting the application forms and visiting the pupils in their homes to interview them. One of the decisive criteria in this assessment is living close to Arabuko Sokoke Forest or to Mida Creek atleast 3 years before sitting the exam.
At some point I remember what Peter and Miranda Harris, the A Rocha founding couple, said," [E]very A Rocha family that we visit around the world, we tell them how ASSETS has brought hope to the young generation and is progressively changing people`s perceptions and attitudes towards conservation" This reminds me of Boga, the best ASSETS school this year. I have taken one photo of a few pupils standing in front of their school`s sign board and realised that some other pupils in a room, that is worthy quite a trouble of upgrade, were staring at me and I can not quite tell the speed with which I captured them too, when their teacher said," These are visitors from A Rocha Kenya. We need help and I know that they can help us" Faces of pupils yearning for hope.
Here at A Rocha Kenya, we are glad that our readers, supporters and donors do not disappoint. They are a generous lot that progressively are making ASSETS be a story of hope.
Remember the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19? How Jesus healed them and only one came back to show his appreciation to God? I will never forget this one time i attended a Sunday school service in one of my friend's church; Moses, a Reverend at St. Andrew's ACK church. The teachings for that day was about the ten lepers-after reading the bible verse he asked the children what they thought about the story; one little boy said,"Jesus must have been so happy that somebody thanked him" i was marveled at the response of the little boy. How many times do you seat down and reflect on the countless blessings God has bestowed you and appreciated ? We are pleased by the letter below that one of the ASSETS beneficiaries Ngombo Lillian Tabu wrote us showing her sincere appreciation to ASSETS and the A Rocha Kenya in general.