Volunteer Eilis sends news from Kenya

Its Friday morning here in Lodwar, Kenya. Its very warm out but there is a strong breeze which blows through the house as the only glass in this house is in the window of each of the two bedrooms. This breeze carries a layer of dust that covers and invades everything in the house. It is not too hard to get used to everywhere having a feeling of grit under your fingers or feet. I wash my floors every second day but I might as well be idle as there is no time when I can think “Now its clean!”
There are all these little ants running around the floor and I keep hoping the mopping has got rid of them but back they come day after day. I spray my room in the early evening and put down my mosquito net and so far I seem to be safe from creepy crawlies and mosquitoes when I am in bed. There is no need at all for a blanket on the bed here, even the sheet is too warm. I have to keep the fan on all night as it would be too hot to sleep.
I have my positive discipline programme well under way. I have 10 schools around the town and it takes 2 weeks to get a round of visits done. I can only go there in the afternoons as of course I don’t want to disturb the academic activities of the morning. So I arrive as teachers are finishing their lunch and work with them for 2 hours. Many are very tired by then but then with classes of around 100 children in each class, so well they might be tired.

Bare, sandy, school playground

Typical Lodwar school playground. Nobody can stand on the sand until around 4pm. Children shelter in whatever shade there is – very little! They try to encourage trees to grow but most seedlings don’t survive – they get shrivelled by sun or gobbled by goats!

Schools here are better built than those of Uganda. I haven’t found a mud floor yet and all the schools seem to have windows and doors for each classroom. And all schools also have electricity with light and sockets in all staffrooms and reasonable quality blackboards.
These are all town schools and apparently it is very different in rural areas. And these schools were selected for me by the diocesan education secretary. My only criteria is that I need to visit schools where caning of children is the order of the day.
The baseline questionnaire teachers have filled in so far suggest that almost all the teachers I am dealing with are caning children regularly and think that is the best way to make children disciplined! I think there are many teachers at home who would be inclined to agree with them – at least sometimes!
But two weeks ago a child from near here died from the caning he got from a teacher! Many teachers showed me disfigured ears and scars inflicted by teachers at school.
All at school get dinner every day including the teachers. It is supplied by a food programme that many countries contribute to. It is one reason why children come to school – and teachers also!! Nothing grows here except a few hardy sceach like trees and bushes. Some have skinny leaves and even flowers but they are grown for the very necessary shade they provide from the scorching heat. All fruit and vegetables are carried by road from Kitale a distance of 300km. The muddy lake has some fish and goats, sheep and hens appear to be in plentiful supply.
A lady comes around to collect left-overs for her goats so all peels and skins are eaten.
Water is at a premium too but there is a good piping system installed by generations of missionaries, many Kiltegan men among them. But the Kenyans are like the Ugandans in their respect for water. If its there, they will think nothing of leaving the tap turned on. Cooks use many more gallons than we would at home. There appears to be a delight in sloshing it around. We somehow would expect it to be used sparingly but that’s not how it is at all.
“Carpe diem” is surely practiced. Everything that is available is used here and now. Tomorrow just does not count.
I’m living in the compound of the diocese – a huge dusty rocky, hilly, grey volcanic area with no blade of grass anywhere to be seen – sure if there was any grass the goats would have it gone anyhow! There is good security round the clock. Inside here is the Bishop’s house, a couple of convents (each with 2 or 3 native or foreign sisters) a church, guest-house – where seminars are held, a house for Indonesian brothers ( 4 or 5 of threm), workers houses, 6 semi-detached bungalows for volunteers, a boarding school for 400 boys, the offices of the chancellor with secretarial and printing offices and a plethora of things I haven’t heard of yet.
Next to the compound there is a petrol station and garage that looks after the 300 diocesan vehicles. A VMM colleague ran that garage depot for years and had everything in ship-shape but I gather things are not quite so tight there now. People cheat every chance they get, especially with vehicles!
Across the road are training centres for all sorts of things – all supported and regulated by the diocese. A former bishop of Lodwar, called John Christopher Mahon from Cork was the person who started most of this. He ran the diocese and founded schools and activities to support the local people. He only died 11 years ago. The diocese is bigger than Ireland – at 70,000 sq miles! Now nearly everything is run by well educated locals – with a few mzungus still needed in key positions. VMM colleague Tony is the chancellor, and finance is strictly controlled by an Irish American Brother Louis.
Right now the bishop is in the Phillipines for the Eucharistic Congress. He is free to deal with spiritual matters and is a keen scholar so temporal things of the diocese don’t worry him so much.

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