Volunteer Teaching in Kenya
Before starting my journey I was sad and excited at the same time – sad because I’ve never been that far away from home for such a long time and I knew I’d miss my friends and family; and excited because I felt so curious about the upcoming experience and couldn’t wait for starting my trip.
The first impression
Before starting my journey I was sad and excited at the same time – sad because I’ve never been that far away from home for such a long time and I knew I’d miss my friends and family; and excited because I felt so curious about the upcoming experience and couldn’t wait for starting my trip. After having endured the turbulent flight to Nairobi we finally arrived at the airport late at night. We were picked up and brought to our host family. Nairobi by night seemed to be really nice; the streets and the buildings reminded us of Europe. But the more we departed from the city (our host family lived about 45-minutes-drive away from Nairobi centre the more we could see the real Africa: streets in a really bad condition, deep pot-holes, chaotic traffic, run-down huts, rubbish everywhere. On the one hand I was shocked about the housing conditions being even worse than I’ve imagined it to be – on the other hand I was fascinated by the crowded streets full of Kenyans trying to sell food or transporting heavy things on their heads. I felt like having entered another world – like wandering around in a dream.
The host family who was chosen for me and my friend welcomed us very friendly: when we arrived the dinner was already prepared and we were bombed with questions about our travel and about the German living conditions – but that was exactly the thing I loved about my host family: very open-minded, always a smile on their face and very interested in the German culture. Before starting my trip I really worried about the security in Kenya – especially in the poorer regions around Nairobi; lots of friends were very concerned and you can find a travel warning in almost every guide book. But our host family managed to make us feel secure as they always accompanied us leaving the house; so we were never on our own. The flat we lived during our stay was really nice equipped and we felt comfortable from the very beginning. Furthermore the welcoming surrounding by our host family really helped us to immerse into the Kenyan culture so that we could get used very fast to… …the foreign food (Ugali, Shabati, Mandazi & Co)
…the different time schedule for eating (in the morning as well as at noon you hardly eat anything whereas in the evening you have a really rich diner)
…different drinks (you just drink Kenyan tea)
…foreign hygienic conditions (“toilet” means a hole in the ground, “taking a shower” means pouring yourself a bucket of cold water over your head)
…another form of religion (in Kenya most of the people are part of several sects and live right after the rules of the same)…foreign climate (there’s a permanent change of temperature up to 10°C) ….and in doing so we were allowed to get to know a foreign, fascinating culture. We also had the possibility to discover other parts of Kenya as our host family took us for a visit to the parents of our host father for example; they lived in a really rural area near the border of Uganda. The drive was – like every drive in Kenya – nerve-racking and exciting: on the one hand because of the chaotic traffic, on the other side due to the permanent breakdowns (which are fortunately always solved by the Kenyans, also if it’s just for short duration). The rural life is really different from the urban one – there’s neither electricity nor water; the people are living in tiny huts built out of clay. The landscape is very idyllic but life’s really hard to manage for the people living there: they are growing foods and keep cattle for nourishing themselves. In every case we’re really grateful that we had the possibility to get to know the rural life of Kenya and in this way to widen our horizon.
Teaching at school
The first time I saw the school we’d teach the next few weeks I was shocked by the conditions within the pupils learned and worked. In the Primary School (for the really poor children) there were 10 classes in total. The building was just fixed in a very makeshift manner with some corrugated iron and stocks so that the pupils got wet when it was raining. For lots of classes there were no boards and the 130 children were sitting on way too less benches so that it was impossible to concentrate on learning. But what frightened me the most was the bad looking after: as there were only four teachers and one principal in the school lots of classes had to practise their things on their own. We really had the feeling to be needed from the very beginning on, supporting the kids with our knowledge. Most of the time a teacher randomly gave us a book for Mathematics or English and sent us to one of the classes. Since we had no guidelines how to teach these kids I just enjoyed the school so much doing riddles with the kids, playing several games, teaching them German songs. The children were so enthusiastic and always asked us at break if we’d come to their class next. They were really looking forward to seeing us every single day, touching our skin or stroke our hair. That just touched me in such a deep way and now – two weeks after my return back to Germany – I’m missing the kids, their lively cheerfulness, their singing and dancing. According to that my farewell was really hard; on the last day some of the children had prepared a little performance for us and every teacher had given a short speech. As most of the kids can’t even afford to buy their own exercise book we bought one for each of them in they end and gave them some sweeties. Some of the kids sang “Viel Glück und viel Segen” in canon (which we had learned them) to farewell us – it was very sad and moving for all of us.
This stay had both ups and downs for me. There were a lot of moments were I felt like not being able to cope with the foreign culture, the huge amount of distress I saw or the lack of security (especially in the week of the assassination and the hostage-taking of Somalia terrorists in Nairobi). Nevertheless it definitely was the ups that predominated my stay in Kenya: I’m just incredibly grateful and happy for having had the opportunity to gain such an experience. I really had the feeling that I really achieved something and above all: the gratefulness of the kids will let you forget every negative experiences as well as all the little worries of life.