Welcome to Desai Memorial School
The Desai Memorial Primary School has 400 children from one of the world’s poorest communities. It serves the Kawangware slum in western Nairobi, Kenya.
The School was founded in 1996 as the Prodigal Rescue Primary School. A group of students from New College in Swindon on a visit to see primary health care happened to stop outside in their minibus whilst in the area. They were invited to look around.
On her return home, one of the students, Zoe Gove-Welsh, wrote a poem about this experience:
The Six Classrooms
6 classrooms made from iron
6 classrooms built upon sewage infected land
6 classrooms with views which caused my heart to weep
6 classrooms of poorly clothed and dusty children
6 classrooms bare, no pens, reading books or learning tools
Computers what are they?
6 classrooms with young bodies crushed together struggling for space and air
6 classrooms full of happy and eager children with beaming smiles from ear to ear
6 classrooms bursting with children's laughter and song
6 classrooms filled with children proud to attend their community-created school
6 classrooms full of children with the desire to learn and the will to work
-By Zoe Grove-Welsh after visiting the Desai Memorial School
This poem made a real impact upon the staff of Goddard Park Primary School, Park North, in Swindon where Zoe’s Dad was Headteacher, Mike Welsh. He wrote to the Headteacher of Prodigal Mr Gerald M’papale and their Governors agreed to twin the Schools in 1997. Children in Goddard Park began to study Kenya and wrote to the pupils in Prodigal.
In 1998, the landlords of the 6 classroom school decided to evict the school with three month’s notice. The Classrooms themselves were built as 10’ by 10’ mabati (corrugated tin) houses. The Governors of Goddard Park gave Mike permission to travel to Nairobi in an attempt to save the school. Mike went during the summer holidays and the first half of the Autumn term. Without any backup or knowledge of the Kenya and especially Nairobi this was to be a very steep learning curve. A local teacher in Swindon heard about the trip and let her husband, who was still working and living in Nairobi know. Peter and Veronica James had lived in Nairobi for 30 years. Peter was a Director of Fuji Film in Kenya. He arranged an apartment for Mike in the Westlands area.