Today was a crash course in the government structure of Meru County! We travelled to the current headquarters of the county assembly, near Kenya Methodist University. Their real home is in the downtown area but it is under renovations. Everything is still fairly new with this government. The current system only started in 2010, after the last general election where Uhuru Kenyatta was elected as president.
Our first meeting of the day was with the Speaker of the Assembly. We filled his office and spent about 45 minutes talking about Canada and Kenya. He explained that the Assembly sits Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning and afternoon and Thursday afternoon, except for August, January and April (I hope I have the months correct!) He said that the national government is the same. Our friend, Jennifer Murogocho, is one of 69 members of the County Assembly. Under the Kenya constitution, at least one-third of the members have to be women. (I like that!) Jennifer is on the Education and the Budget Committee. She is one busy person! We are very lucky that she finds the time she does to work with us at Farmers Helping Farmers.
What’s interesting is that the members we have met from the Meru County Assembly would like to build a relationship with the P.E.I. assembly, and come to Canada to learn from them. One of the areas they are most interested in is our waste management system – Waste Watch! Salome and Mwendda mentioned this as well…how much they loved the way we sort our waste. It’s a real issue in Kenya, where there is no real garbage system whatsoever. So who knows? Perhaps we will have some Kenyan visitors someday soon. Though we have suggested to them that they don’t want to visit during the winter!
Our second meeting was at a hotel near the Nakumatt where we sat at a horseshoe-shaped table, with the Meru county officials at one end. Jennifer had invited the Minister of Education for the county, who also brought her director. We were also joined by a couple of other Members, including the Majority Leader, who is elected by the members from the party with the majority. Jennifer gave them a great history of the work of Farmers Helping Farmers. The Minister of Education then spoke very eloquently about the priorities of her government.
I wasn’t aware of the Kenya government’s Vision 2030. The dream is to become a “middle level” industrialized country by then, with a skilled and educated workforce, lifting their people out of poverty. I think that’s an admirable vision and I look forward to seeing what the country can achieve.
I was also surprised to learn that Kenya had a commission in 1980 that transformed the education system away from the British model…and they adopted the Canadian system! No wonder it sometimes feels so familiar in the schools.
I also liked the closing quote from the Education minister: “Aspire to inspire before you expire!” Nicely said.
After lunch at the hotel with the Meru county delegation, we headed back to Buuri for our final visit. We divided into 3 groups: Technology, Geography and Waste Management (talking about composting). Each group had about 50 students, and then we rotated.
I was part of the technology group. Only a handful of the Buuri students had ever even touched a laptop. So the first part of the lesson was learning to use the touchpad for the cursor. Already that was two new words!! After that, we looked at the Word program and they each typed “My name is” and saved the file. The final two groups moved through that pretty quickly so we started making a Powerpoint presentation, using photos from our time at Buuri. That was fun!
Then we started looking at videos and laughing a lot. Sadie started using Photo Booth and making funny faces with the students. At another computer, Gikundi showed them video games and a group of boys was thrilled! I’m not sure how many useful computer skills they learned from there on but it sure was fun.
Our visit wrapped up with some dancing by the students. And then we handed out the gifts we had brought from P.E.I.
When it was time to say good-bye, Daniel brought out a football and started throwing it around. It was kind of symbolic to end the visit the way we started: joining together in sports. There were a few more photos and then it was time to load into the Combis.
As we drove along the road, many of the students were making their way home in the setting sun. We waved at everyone we passed. And then we made our way back to the guesthouse one last time.
The group is just doing their final reflective activity of the trip. It’s interesting to listen to their observations of what they have learned, how it has changed them and what they plan to do next.
A lot of people have used the word “life changing” whenever we talked about going on this trip. I think we have all changed in a lot of ways. For example, we are more aware of the larger world we live in: the kind of challenges faced by people who live in a different geography and climate from ours. The climate here is incredibly challenging. We grumble about snow, but drought is far more deadly. The lack of water causes so much hardship. And yet the Kenyans persevere!
The Kenyans have taught us a lot…about being joyful, and humble, appreciative and giving. It wasn’t all about us giving them gifts. We received as much or more in return.
There is so much more to say but I will leave it there. On the way home, the youth will be working on their final blog posts. I will also be posting a “Behind the Scenes in Kenya” story with photos!
It was been an extraordinary two weeks.
Asante sana Kenya!