The Desai Memorial Primary School is run by a Charity (mainly made up of Rotarians). It serves one of the toughest and poorest slum communities in East Africa. The Kawangware area of western Nairobi has about 250,000 people living in slum conditions and many thousands of children do not get the opportunity of going to School.
10’ by 10’ corrugated tin shacks cost between 2000 to 4000Ksh per month (about £16 to £32). Weekly wage rates for those lucky enough to have jobs as security guards or house servants are little more than these figures. Water has to be bought, and there is one toilet for each 15 houses.
All the teachers live in the slum area and are initially secondary school graduates who are then trained in Desai to teach. The School has no electricity or regular water supply.
Children are often like Brian here:
This is 8 year old Brian. He is an orphan and is HIV positive. He is a bright boy who is number one in his Class for Literacy and Maths. Without Desai he would have no chance of an education and be condemned to a life on the streets. The School encouraged a neighbour to take him in. At 14 Brian will take the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) at Desai. This will enable him to get a job.
Desai operates for 3-14 year olds. In 2011, it had the third highest pass rate in the KCPE (Kenyan Cerificate of Primary Education) for all School in western Nairobi. It is dedicated to giving girls (50% of roll) and boys a chance in life. With a KCPE they have the chance of a job or of attending Secondary School.
Desai is a model for how Schools can operate and thrive in slum areas. It is twinned with Goddard Park Primary in Swindon and teachers support one another.
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.
There are 436 on roll in Desai and with the intended support of a Rotary Global Grant we will construct four more classrooms to enable a further 120 children to attend.
We have raised £9,500 towards this, but want to raise this figure still further for the installation of electricity, additional toilets and a kitchen.
Can you help?
- We raise £600 each month to run the School. If you could contribute £3 towards this it would greatly assist. There is a form below which you can fill in and send, or contact Fiona Godfrey at Goddard Park 01793 342342 / email@example.com
- I’m happy to present for 20 minutes to your group, Club or organisation on Desai: contact Mike Welsh 078 765 60 765 or firstname.lastname@example.org