Sunday, May 16, 2010

Well it’s been another busy couple of weeks with the addition of two new staff members and planning for a series of entrepreneurial trainings for groups to be funded by the VHI micro-finance program. I’m also getting ready to go for a Safari with my parents who arrive in Kenya on May 24!! I am looking forward to some time off and will hopefully be positing some interesting animal pictures the next time I write here!! J

So the past week took us to visit a number of people who are members of HIV groups. These are difficult people to visit for many reasons but logistically they generally live quite far apart from each other and they always seem to be in the upper reaches of the mountain just before the forest. I think I have mentioned before that HIV still holds a very bad stigma, in fact I have found that several members of these HIV groups will claim they have not be tested or they are negative. I find this curious as I am told the members often meet each other when they go to the clinic for their ARVs (Anti-RetroViral drugs) and start their groups that way rather than teaming up with neighbors. I imagine many of these folks are afraid of what I may think and are perhaps fearful of their status getting out to their relatives and neighbors. On the other hand there are many who say they are “positive living positively!”

So on a more observational note I wanted to write about how I really dislike the schooling system here in Kenya. As you know my apartment is about 15 feet away from an all girls’ primary boarding school. I am generally an early riser at about 6am and find the lights to the school already on and the girls saying their lessons, singing or cleaning their classrooms, often awaken me. They are up by 4 every morning and work until 9pm every night! I’m not sure how much free time they get and they are in classes both Saturday and Sunday. The academic year is divided up into trimesters January 1 to March 30, May 1 to July 31; September 1 to November 30 with breaks in April, August and December. These month-long ‘breaks’ often include a period of 2 weeks called “Tuition” where the kids are basically ‘studying’ rather than having time off. I am not sure the percentage but I think more than half of the Kenyan youth in school are attending a boarding school. These schools are often far away from home where their mother tongue is not spoken. I’m not saying boarding school is bad, it just seems the value of family is overshadowed by it.

Living so close to a school has certainly increased my awareness of how strict it is and how much time the children spend there. I must say that during the month of April I was actually able to meet school aged children while doing home health visits. It was lovely! I realized how much I missed kids. I’m not talking about a classroom of children staring at me and saying hello with an annoying nasal intonation, but kids at home with their parents or out exploring with their friends and doing things kids do! I remember the time I spent in Senegal was enhanced by the presence of children. They have a lot more patience than adults and when they are left to be kids, they have a lot more time too.

Recently I’ve been talking with some of my Kenyan friends about Meru culture and how it seems to be dying out. When the only singing you hear is old English hymns and dancing is pretty much non-existent and the schools in town are looming and closed off and exclusive its no wonder the culture is dying. It seems that globalization and access to images of foreign things that represent success and gratification add to the problem. This is not to say that globalization is all bad. Without it I would not be here now distributing mosquito nets in an attempt to lessen the occurrences of malaria and malaria related deaths. But as I do this work and reflect on my few experiences living outside the US, I am constantly brought back to the question of, how people survived and evolved for thousands of years without any of the conveniences of modernity when we cannot seem to now?

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