Kenya: a teaching experience
I taught in an English-style preparatory school in Kenya.. I was head of English and I quickly learnt that the best way to fill the final five minutes of any lesson was to get the children to tell a story about a game park. They love stories about baboons stealing tubes of toothpaste from tents of unsuspecting campers!
The school has a pre-preparatory department for the youngest children, while the rest of the school catered for children up to year 6. Once in their final year, children would sit a common entrance examination.
Lessons start at 8.00am ‘til 2.00pm, followed by an hour and a half of sport. The children love all kinds of sport but they often to had to play on murram pitches which were like concrete.
Resources were sufficient. We had a good computer room and an excellent art and music block plus a brilliant library run by a dedicated parent. The sports facilities were good but not quite as good as those of UK prep schools.
It took forever for orders from the UK to come through, but there were so many natural sources of education around us. For instance, how many geography teachers have a visual aid like the Rift Valley on their doorstep?
Located right next to Nairobi National Park, it’s a bit weird writing end of term reports and listening to the sounds of hyenas in the distance! Then there was a family of warthogs that wandered across the school cricket pitches, even during matches, with their tails in the air like radio antennae.
Kenya is not the safest country in the world. An elderly aunt came to stay with us for a few weeks and she thought that it was quite exciting when we were chased by a black rhino. Like most of the teachers, I had one of those little four wheel drives and I was absolutely terrified! As well as the wild animals that might want to tread on you or eat you, there were little things to give you nasty diseases like biharzia.
The great things about Kenya
Somehow when you are actually living in Kenya you do not think about the dangers because life is so exciting and it is such an amazingly beautiful country. From our school bungalow we could see the Ngong Hills, famously featured in the film ‘Out of Africa’.. Then there is the Rift Valley and the lakes, the amazing game parks and the Indian Ocean.
It’s easy to find affordable local help to assist with household chores. Most of the teachers had some form of help, and one teacher had no less than four types of domestic helpers: a driver, a cook, someone to look after her horses and so on.
And the not so great…..
The really bad news is that at my school teachers were paid in the local currency, Kenya shillings. It’s not the most stable of currencies and in one week my salary lost 25% of its value.
My wife and I decided to sell our home in the UK and to move to Saudi Arabia. When we left Kenya, our domestic helper, Mwangi was crying. So were we.