Sitting on a wooden desk in a classroom turned teachers’ office -- Mwalimu Iddi Mloba gives a breakdown of the capitation fund his school receives from the government.
In his clean light brown suit, Mloba is a very cheerful and cooperative headmaster with a deep understanding of his school expenses to the extent that he can even tell you how many chalks were bought for the past three months and how many remain so far!
“The capitation fund is pittance,” he sorrowfully complains. “We cannot even renovate our office as you can see the conditions we are working under.”
In this staff room, the floor is un-cemented. So it doesn’t matter how shrewd a teacher is in shining their shoes, the dust in the room will always get in the way. When the wind blows, the faces in the room frown.
The walls in the room too have been left un-plastered both inside and outside with the room having no ceiling board – something which has allowed birds to establish an ‘informal settlement’ at the roofing poles.
There are teachers in the office marking the students’ books. However, there’s no appropriate and systematic place where marked papers can be kept.
These inconveniences notwithstanding, looking back on the journey he has had with the school, Mwalimu Mloba cannot help but stay in awe of the massive transformations Msanga B Primary School has brought to the communities which were reasons for its establishment.
“Now I can hear people here speaking Kiswahili,” says Mloba joyously, adding; “It was never the case. This is the change we sought.”
While Mloba is happy to see people now able to speak Kiswahili, students also had a reason to rejoice for education had finally come closer to their homes.
One of such students is Monica Nyanga, 12, who says that though she still spends almost an hour from home to school, the fact that she still can get to school makes her a little bit happier.
“I wake up at five in the morning every day,” says the Standard IV student, who dreams to be a teacher. “In the past, I wouldn’t be able to even attend school. Its good that the school is now closer.”
The same is the case for 13-year old Mussa Makasi, who though spends less than an hour daily walking to school, says that it’s better off than having not to attend school at all. “It is our school,” says the Standard VI Makasi, who comes from Msanga village, “[and] we are proud of it.”
Enrollment bigger than ever
During the “dark days” when the school had not been established, many students from nearby communities never completed secondary schools.
“Most of them ended in Standard IV. This is because of the long distance they had to trek to get to the Msanga Primary School,” Mwalibu Mloba states.
Indeed, one cannot currently name the best performing schools in the Chamwino district without mentioning the Msanga B Primary School.
Students’ enrollment too used to be at a very low point from children in surrounding villages. But with the building of this school the enrollment has almost quadrupled. “The number of nursery students enrolled is bigger than ever before,” says Mwalimu Mloba proudly.
Performance, too, has increased.
With the school being near their home, the number of students who go to secondary school from these villages has increased thanks to the established school.
But it has not ended there; “The communities here have also been educated on the importance of planting trees, doing gardening, and they have been taking lessons from what the school has been doing,” offers Mwalimu Mloba.
Challenges still abound
Despite the impressive achievements that Msanga B Primary has registered in recent years, it appears that there is no shortage of challenges.
The biggest one of these is the lack of water for there are no wells which provide enough water in the village.
“Water is only available during the rainy season,” Mwalimu Mloba complains, further stating; “during summer season water becomes a problem.”
There is also the challenge of electricity. Because of the pressure to make the school perform well during examination period, students would like to camp at night and study with the teachers volunteering to teach but power keeps holding them back.
The school’s administration is encouraging nearby communities to raise funds so that it can at least get solar power to solve the problem. But that has not come forth at least for now.
The school also faces a shortage of at least seven classrooms, 50 desks and seven teachers’ houses. There is an acute shortage of chairs, where the whole school has only two chairs.
Many teachers come from Chamwino and peddle on a daily basis to the school. They normally ride a distance of five to six kilometers, that being a shortcut. This drives the teachers’ morale down because they travel long distance and once they are here they tend to be exhausted.
One of the teachers, Nalinga Bakari, for example, says that when he rides to school he prays that his bicycle doesn’t get a tire puncture. “You’ll carry [the bicycle] on your back like it used to carry you,” he says.
The school also has inadequate number of toilet holes, it the only has six toilet holes, three used by boys and three by girls.
Total of 401 students and seven teachers are expected to share these toilets.
Because the school has only two main classrooms, in most cases students of various classes find themselves mixed in one classroom.
This poses great difficulty in teaching as teachers take turns in explaining to students.
This then creates another problem as this makes the required forty minutes not to be used appropriately. It makes it even more impossible for a teacher to complete a syllabus.
Despite all these challenges, the school receives very meager capitation fund of about Sh150,192 which itself is divided into five aspects.
There’s equipment which takes 30 per cent of the fund, maintenance 30 per cent, exams takes 20 per cent, sports takes 10 per cent, and administration takes 10 per cent.
“This is a very small amount which the school receives of which we struggle with daily to keep up with the operational costs of the school,” Mlobi, the headmaster, confesses.
The number of teachers is also unsatisfactory and it is expected to get worse as there may soon be a congestion of the students in the school following the number of people who come to establish shelters in the nearby villages.
More than 3000 residents of Chamwino District are set to be moved away to make room for the expansion of the State House in the region. It is expected that most of these people will establish shelters in the communities near the school and thus lead to students’ congestion.
Chamwino District Education Officer – department of Primary Education, Ms Zainab Ramadhan, said she was aware of all these challenges and shares the same concerns by teachers and students at the school.
In solving them however, Ms Zainab says that her office’s approach to dealing with the challenges is the same applied to all public schools in the district and elsewhere.
“The villagers should sit down with the school’s development committee and see what they can do to improve the school’s conditions,” she offers. “Once that is done, [the municipality] will see how it can topple up to the villagers’ efforts,” she adds.