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Checking out newly built classrooms, handing out hundreds of pieces of stationery, footballs, volleyballs and netballs, providing study support and impromptu renditions of ‘500 Miles’; all features of the recent visit by 12 Trent College students, aged 15-18, as they visited Trent’s two partner schools in Kenya.
Since 2004 the Trent College community, including The Elms Nursery/Junior School and Trent Parents Association, has raised over £20,000 to support education and infrastructure projects at the rural Nyacaba Primary School and Gowan Mount View Academy, situated near Thika, about 50km north east of Nairobi.
The Trent College students saw how those funds - invested in vital structures such as toilet blocks, furnished classrooms, a kitchen at Nyacaba and a 40,000 litre water tank at Gowan Mount View, plus learning resources, books and an extensive tree planting programme - are helping transform the lives of local young people.
Trent first assisted Nyacaba over 20 years ago, witnessing it’s growth from a small makeshift classroom in 1993 to a school eductating over 1,000 pupils. Trent committed to extending support to Gowan Mount View after the Academy was established six years ago.
Mr Magnus Cowie, Trent College Deputy Head Pastoral and Kenyan Schools Partnership lead, believes it is important students see first-hand how the school’s community fundraising efforts are making a real difference on the ground.
He said: “Nyacaba Head, James Njuguna, said the school is performing very well, with good academic results, and they attribute much of this to the Trent partnership.
This is a very dusty rural area so building classrooms with concrete walls and floors and planting trees have a big impact on the learning environment. Many of the pupils walk up to three miles to and from school so the provision of a kitchen has provided them with two nutritious meals a day. It was uplifting for us to see how that has helped improve their lives.
Through spending time in the schools and with the families, talking to the pupils, parents and staff about what education means to them, our students connected what we do in school to the human impact it has thousands of miles away.
They now need to pass on their passion for the partnership’s work, and the personal lessons they learned about making a positive contribution to the lives of others, engaging with the wider global community and building relationships, back at school to keep fuelling the fundraising efforts to help our partner schools.”
The latest Nyacaba classroom under construction will help the school halve class sizes from 80+ and provide a much improved learning environment. All Trent students got a brief taste of Thika life by visiting the homes and meeting the families of the Kenyan pupils. They also joined the local pupils in outdoor sports matches, including volleyball, netball, sack races and apple-and-spoon races, before leading their hosts in mass sing-a-longs of the ‘Lion Sleeps Tonight' and '500 miles'!
The six-day visit to the partner schools was followed by four days at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in central Kenya learning about innovative, sustainable conservation. Here they met Sudan, the last remaining male northern white rhino, Baraka a blind black rhino, and bloodhound Scarf and social media sensation Diego (a Belgian Shepherd) from the reserve’s anti-poaching dog unit, while also herding cattle through tick spray and planting yellow acacia trees, a vital part of the ecology as the bark is a delicacy for elephants and rhinos. The students also visited the David Sheldrick Animal Orphanage, taking in feeding time for the 26 orphaned elephants, and spending time in the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi.
The tour ended with a walk in Karura Forest, just outside Nairobi, which was saved from developers by Nobel Peace Prize-winning conservationalist, Wangari Maathai. The reflections from the students who went on the trip show the impact it made on them and their realisation of how much they can contribute to the lives of others. Three quotes which reflect the views of all:
“Despite how little some of the people who welcomed us had, they all gave us such a warm welcome with nothing but smiles on their faces. I just found this astounding because they were all so unbelievably lovely.”
“I will never forget our time in the schools. It was incredibly humbling to walk into these classrooms and see the differences between our school life and theirs. Nevertheless, each student was so enthusiastic and passionate about their learning, and were so eager to welcome us; it was just so humbling.”
“Kenya has been the experience of a lifetime and I have so many memories that I will cherish forever. From the incredible animals of Ol Pejeta to the inspirational students at the schools, the trip has been nothing short of perfect and I one I will never forget.”
To view more images from the trip visit the Trent College in Kenya Twitter: @TrentinKenya