First encounters

19th January 2001 at 00:00
Michael Allen recalls his work experience in Kenya

This summer I spent four memorable weeks at Chura primary school in Kenya. Its beautiful, peaceful, rural location, more than two miles from the nearest road, was a welcome change from the hectic pace of east Berkshire.

I'd arranged to go there for some teaching experience and, perhaps, contribute to the education of some of the children. I also wanted to establish a north-south link between New Scotland Hill primary in Sandhurst and Chura. I took several books to start a library. Chura educates 250 children with equipment that would be considered less than basic in England. Blackboards in each of the eight classrooms and a piece of chalk, if available, are the limit of its resources.

I was made welcome and, even though a student, I was seen as somebody who could help. After one morning of observing, I took 30 Standard 6 pupils (11 to 12-year-olds) for double English. This set the pattern for my visit, with everyone keen to ensure that every class had the opportunity to have Enlish taught by a mother-tongue teacher.

During the past few weeks I have listened to the tapes of the interviews I conducted with some of the children, trying hard not to become too emotional. I have looked at the hundreds of photographs, attempting to sort out the best. I have spent hours discussing my impressions, attempting to find the most appropriate way to stimulate primary pupils and others who may be able to help develop this project and raise money to buy books for the Kenyan school.

While I was at Chura and wondering how to prepare other student teachers to help, I wrote: "You will be excited and appalled, fascinated and horrified, delighted and dismayed. It will be a culture shock that will leave its impression on everything that you say and do."

I intend to go back this year - this time, I hope, with others who are prepared to change their lives and have an effect on the lives of families in Chura village.

Michael Allen is a mature BABEd student at Reading University. email:

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