My day started off with a muddy motorbike ride through the small town that cropped up outside of Daystar University’s Athi River campus to the Daystar Mulandi Primary School. I arrived with muddied shoes and high hopes for the day and was greeted by one of the teachers. Only three of the schools’ eight teachers have arrived from the town of Athi, located a half hour away, whereas most of the students had already arrived.
Around 8:30 the students lined up in front of the flag pole to say their morning prayers and hold Bible study. The school hosts grades baby class to grade 8, comparable to the US’s preschool and grades K-8. Teacher Randson introduced me to all 127 students and they greeted me with warm words and big smiles.
As 9:00 rolled around, head teacher Pauline arrived with the rest of the staff. Her face was lit with excitement for her school as she invited me into her office. The office is the size of a small janitorial closet—two shelves full of textbooks and paperwork hang on the wall next to the door and a small table covered in a stained white tablecloth stand against the opposing wall. The walls themselves are sheets of iron hung with a few encouraging posters and a class list.
“Our school is two years and three months old,” she tells me with pride. The need for a school in Daystar was initiated by Lukenya Pillars of Transformation (LPT), a group of Daystar students dedicated to helping their community. Before the school was built, children would walk 14 kilometers through the bush to get to school in the town of Athi. Because they used bush routes, away from the main road, some students were kidnapped and raped on their walk to and from school, Pauline says.
When LPT discovered this, they found a woman called Momma Mulandi, who provided the school with 1 acre of land to start, and found more donors to build 3 classrooms. The classrooms themselves are just skeletons compared to what is found in the US. Grades 1-8 share a long skinny building made of 2x4’s and large sheets of metal, like those found in Pauline’s office. The only difference between the office and classrooms is the classrooms all have dirt floors.
Pauline is a woman with such pride in her school but the means for her to make it great just aren’t there.
“Our school has many challenges,” Pauilne says. Only six of her eight teachers are paid for by the government. That means the parents of the students have to pay for the two teachers not supported by the government, which many times doesn’t happen because many families that attend Mulandi School live in poverty. On top of the poverty that many children find themselves in, Pauline says, “75 percent of my kids are orphans and others have single parents.”
The needs at Mulandi do not stop at the pay for teachers, with a school of 11 grade levels, they need more. Hannah Schaap, a student from Trinity Christian College in the Chicago area, completed part of her student teaching at Mulandi School and her absence is felt harshly. Multiple grade levels now have to share teachers.
During the morning assembly, Teacher Randson asked the students what their school was lacking, a chorus of answered cried back: “Better classrooms, books, colors, chalk, pens, rubber, sharpeners, bags, footballs, test books, rulers.” Pauline affirmed the list the students yelled out and added, “I need classes and text books for my kids mostly. Water gets into classes and it distracts the kids and when it gets hot it becomes uncomfortable.”
The preschool section of the school is an actual one room cement building with real floors and a porch, complete with posters, chalk boards, and a nap corner, but next to it lays a half-finished building with no roof. Pauline has to go to manufacturers and donors to ask them for help to build things for the school but the money doesn’t always come through.
“I would like them to construct classes. The number is growing big and the classes are too small,” she says.
For Purity Muthoni, grade 6, LBT’s gift to the community is greatly appreciated. “It is not far, it is close to my home and I don’t have to walk a far distance to reach it.” She is in a class of 11 students, all of whom share 4 workbooks.
As my conversation with Pauline continued in the afternoon many of her statements ended with, “Another thing which we need.” Though Mulandi School may lack a fence, they do not lack in creativity. Kids use old papers crumpled together to make a soccer ball.
“Starting a school is no joke,“ Pauline says, “We just go step by step, step by step.”
On April 3, the students from Mulandi School competed in districts for athletics and 10 of their students placed first and will travel onto the next round of competition. The small school competed against schools of over 800 students and came out victorious. The students who will be attending the next round lined up before school and their classmates cheered them on. Teacher Randson commended the kids for their encouragement to the athletes. Pauline’s pride for Mulandi School is contagious with her students.
“Come back in ten years. You will not find iron sheets; we will be as rich as Nairobi. Maybe we will even have electricity,” Pauline boasts with high hopes. But for now, Pauline is stuck with taking money from her own pocket to pay for exams.
Teacher Tom and student wait outside the office storage before the school day begins. The office space is one of the few places at the school with cement floor.
A student peers out the chicken wire window before class starts. With the start of the rainy season ahead the school looks forward to muddied floors and loud classes as the iron roof amplifies the rains’ noise
A group of 10 students from Mulandi Primary placed first in athletic events and will proceed to districts in early April. The school of 100 competed with schools of almost 1,000 students and triumphed.
Preschool students take their government mandated exams in the schools only cement classroom. Exams in Kenyan education usual consist of 60-80 percent of the final grade
Head Teacher Pauline visits classrooms before the exams officially start
A single latrine stands on the property for a school of 127 students. More latrines add to the growing list of needs for the school.
Head Teacher Pauline stands proudly in front of her school.
The school has one water tank that has been badly damaged. This is the only source of water on the grounds and has no sanitation.
Teachers meet before classes in the makeshift teachers’ lounge opposite students in their dirt floor classroom. The school only has 4 rooms with cement floors.
A student from form 3 becomes distracted by things happening outside her classroom. During the rains it becomes even more distracting for students as the iron roofs amplify the rain’s noise and seeps into the classroom.
If you would like to help Daystar Mulandi Primary School please email Koly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information