Karibu! Welcome!

Since 2004, EWB@ MSU's professional and student volunteers have worked with community members in Khwisero, Kenya to provide water and sanitation infrastructure at the district's 58 primary schools, making it easier for Khwisero's children to avoid waterborne disease and get an education.

In that time, the group has grown from a small club to one of MSU's premier student organizations, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund seven borehole wells, six composting latrines and a biogas latrine that serve thousands of community members.

Thank you for joining us as we continue to work hand-in-hand with local partners to make a difference in one small part of our world. As Western Kenya's limited internet access allows, we will update this blog while in-country with the successes, stories and lessons provided by our work.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Education Day in Khwisero

On our team's first full day in Khwisero, we found ourselves
at the largest gathering I've seen there. Over 500 people, ranging
from government officials to teachers to schoolchildren in
multi-colored uniforms gathered on the fields of the Khwisero Primary
to celebrate what I was told was "Education Day."

As near as I could tell, the event was intended to recognize the
district's best students, teachers and schools, based on scores on the
national exams administered to graduating primary school students
(eigth-graders, by our rubric).

I should probably mention that Kenya's national exams make the SAT
look like child's play. Everyone seems to take them extraodinarily
seriously. Results, along with students' names, are posted in public,
and the scholarships awarded to high-achieving students are often the
only way they can afford to continue their education.

The event's secondary purpose, it seemed, was to give all manner of
local politicians a chance to speak. It's probably fair to say that
public officials give far more interesting speeches in Kenya than in
the US. One middle-aged woman in particular spent a good half an hour
ranting about female students being forced to drop out due to
pregnancy (sometimes caused by their male teachers).

Being educated makes you more beautiful, she said, which I thought
summed things up rather nicely.

It also nicely underscores how important education is to the people of
Khwisero, and the reason we were asked to bring our project there in
the first place. When it comes down to it, knowledge is the only thing
that can carry the child of a struggling subsistence farmer out of
poverty, the force that propels Africa's long, often-halting struggle
towards development, and the most effective way I've heard of to
empower women to take control of their lives.

And that, in essence, is why a bunch of college students from Montana
are here in Africa. Beyond and despite the cultural novelties,
day-to-day discomforts and new friends, we can only hope that, when we
return to America, it will be at least a bit easier for Khwisero's
children to obtain that education.


1 comment:

Kathy said...

Beautifully written! It is exciting to hear about the community pride for education and hope that your project will be another opportunity for the community to join together for the good of all. Thanks for taking the time to share with us.