|By Maria Gitau|
For many of us, our knowledge of Turkana (and Northern Kenya) in general is limited to what we have seen on television, read in newspapers and books or what we bump into on social media. The headlines will usually revolve around drought, poverty and on a rare occasion, the discovery of oil deposits in the county. While these headlines may not be entirely false, they do a great disservice of not painting the full picture depicting the beauty and ingenuity of Lodwar, Turkana.
On the 27th of February 2022, a group of four students: Maria Gitau, Wairimu Manyara, Mercy Mwikali, and Hillary Renson Nyongesa embarked on a journey to Napetet Village, at the heart of Turkana County. This was to become our home for the next six days.
The team was tasked to conduct remedial classes for standard eight students at St. Michael’s Primary School. With only a week to the start of their national examinations, we were eagerly prepared to cover as much revision material as possible given the limited time we would have with the students.
We were warmly introduced to the school principal, as well as the 60 registered candidates of the school. Later, we would be joined by an additional 100 students from the neighboring school. Needless to say, we had our work cut out for us.
Our days would begin bright and early at 7a.m. Each of us would be tasked with two subjects that we would be teaching that day. With the students divided into four classes, we would take turns, rotating the different classrooms throughout the day. We had three scheduled classes in the morning followed by a half-an-hour break, three classes mid-morning followed by a one-hour lunch break and finally one class in the afternoon and a group work session for the rest of the afternoon that would typically end at 6p.m.
The candidates were a wonderful lot to teach, eager to learn as much as possible! It was extremely encouraging to see them come out of their shells and ask questions, challenging the answers we gave until we came to an understanding. I can never forget when a student named Vincent came up to me with a math question and told me not to show him the answer; instead, he wanted to show me the methodology and reasoning behind how he arrived at his answer. He requested that I only stop him if I could point out the mistake he had made. In my C.R.E class, I would even have students quoting the Bible as we discussed different concepts.
The students taught us so much, both within the classroom and life lessons. The hardships they face have not stopped them from reaching for the stars. Even with limited access to resources and a shortage of teachers at the school, they were determined to make the most out of this opportunity and soak up all the knowledge that they could. This taught us the values of resilience and hard work.
Outside of this, we had the remarkable opportunity to look around the town . We visited River Turkwel, swam in Lake Turkana, took a drive through the empty fields and saw the night sky glittered with stars, visited the local market to buy fresh Nile Perch fillet and enjoyed local delicacies at a local restaurant. Needless to say, it was a magical experience all round.
I would like to thank our friend, mentor and host, Fr. Imo. We are eternally grateful for his warm hospitality and generosity throughout our stay in Lodwar. From our mealtime conversations to exhilarating adventures, we are eternally grateful for his mentorship and guidance.
This is an initiative of the Community Service Centre, through its newly started Strathmore Turkana Educational Program.
Maria Gitau is an Informatics and Computer Science student and Female Academic Representative, Student Council.