Thomas Barow, senior lecturer at the School of Education and Behavioural Sciences, is teaching for three weeks at Murang’a Teacher Training College (TTC), Kenya. From there he is blogging about his observations and experiences.
It took me more than 17 years to come back to Kenya. In 1994, as a student, I was working for one semester at a boarding school for mentally handicapped children in Meru, within sight of Mt. Kenya. Africa’s second highest mountain is also close to my current work place, the Teacher Training College of Murang’a, some 70 km north of Nairobi.The first days in Kenya, however, I stayed in the capital which was already busy in 1994.
Nowadays, the city is bursting to the seams. During the last two decades, the number of inhabitants has doubled to more than three million inhabitants. Although there are attempts to get a grasp on the enormous traffic, there are ties-up day in, day out. The roads are dusty, and the air pollution burden tends to be extreme. The living conditions are highly problematic, and especially in Nairobi’s shantytowns supply of water and electricity is still not sufficient. The sanitary facilities in those settlements are far from fit for human beings. NGOs like the Undugu Society of Kenya are still making a great job to improve the situation. Not least because of Undugu’s efforts, street children are nowadays less visible in the central business district of Nairobi.
However, Kenya is also affected by international developments. During the last months, due to the strained situation in the Horn of Africa, prices for basic food stuffs like maize meal and sugar has exploded. For many Kenyans, this is resulting in tightening their belts even more.
Karibu Kenya – Continuity and Change
But there is also good news: The way to a multi party system was often stony, but the political system went through a considerable change. The importance of freedom of opinion becomes obvious when switching on Kenyan TV news. Due to the Green Belt Movement and its charismatic leader and Peace Nobel Prize winner, the late Wangari Maathai, attempts exist to re-afforest clear-cut and desolated areas. And Kenya is on the way to become an information society: mobile internet and mobile phones are stridden ahead.
Not only in Nairobi, but in the whole country, higher education is expanding. Only some days ago the Post-Modern Library opened its doors on the campus of Kenyatta University. But also in primary education there is some perceptible progress. In the 1990s, very few children with disability could get an education. Only some boarding schools hosted children from families who could afford the school fees and additional costs for e.g. school uniforms and feeding. Meanwhile, the concept of education for all (EFA) could gain ground. More and more special units for children with disabilities have opened as an integrated part of ordinary primary schools.
One thing seems to continue despite of all societal changes: the impressive friendliness and hospitality of the people. Kenyans are very open and interested in contact with guests from abroad. On my first day at Murang’a TTC, while writing this blog, I heard more than a dozen times: Karibu Kenya – welcome in Kenya!
Text: Thomas Barow
Photos: Stanley Kamau (profile picture)
Esther Muchiri (garden picture)