Bull encounters!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009- The highlight of the month has been the school Harambee. Harambee is KiSwahili for ‘lets pull together’ and a Harambee is a type of community fundraising event. The school committee, in conjunction with the chief and clan elders, decided to organize one to raise funds for the second classroom. The committee predicted that we would raise around ksh 70,000 (GBP 600). As they have a tendency to overestimate and exaggerate I was privately expecting something closer to Ksh 40,000. But the reality exceeded all our expectations when the actual total was over Ksh 200,000 (when the value of materials donated are included)! This is brilliant not only in terms of the actual money, but also in terms of what it shows about the desire of those who come from Ondati and the surrounding villages to see a girls’ secondary school established. The main event on the 15th Nov also provided a good opportunity to promote the self-sufficiency vision of the school. Many excellent speeches were also made highlighting the broader importance of girls’ education.

The school term finished last week (Friday 20th), which signifies the end of the schools first year and the completion of Form 1 for our first seven students. End of year exams have been completed and marked, showing that all of the pupils have made progress during the year.

We have been busy promoting the school for the next year when we hope to get a large turn-out for Form 1. I have given promotional talks with the standard eights (the last year in primary school) from all six of the surrounding primary schools. The girls were all very enthusiastic and many of them have expressed interest in coming to the school next year. However, at the moment girls face many barriers to making it to the end of primary school, dropping out because of pregnancy, early marriage, or poverty. For example, in Ondati primary school, the cohort currently in standard eight started as 46 in standard one but is now only 12. The broader task of improving the educational status of girls in the area is therefore a big one.

On the business front, most of the grain from the grain storage has now been sold. Unfortunately it has not made the expected profit, partly due to the market price never reaching the expected peak and partly due to damage from rats. However, hopefully we can learn from the problems encountered and make a better profit next time. For the dairy business, the caliandra for the cows has been planted and we are working hard on redoing the budget to work out the best way forward. We are also planning to start a bee-keeping business as the schools third venture. Plans are well under way and we have located an excellent local ‘bee expert’ who is helping us complete the budget and get started!

While not working I have being having some interesting encounters with village animals. The family I stay with have become used to me going into my room to sleep at night and then running out again in surprise at the creatures found in my bed, weather it be rats, bats, chickens or whatever else! I also had a run-in with a bull on the way to school a few weeks back. I met the bull as I was crossing a path and the bull decided to break free from its owner and charge at me, sticking its horn into my thigh and lifting me off the ground. While the actual injury was quite minor, village gossip is such that by the end of the day the story going around was that I was in hospital after being almost killed by a crazed bull! My new Luo sentence that day was ‘Mary ohero pussy gi gwok gi dhiel gi rombo. Mary okdowa dhiang (Mary likes the cat and dog and goat and sheep. Mary doesn’t like the cow)!

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