Two of our trustees have visited the Libraries this year – Jenny in January 2016, and Carly in February. This issue of the newsletter is dedicated to their visit.
Jenny says: “it was just over 2 years since my last visit. It was wonderful to be with old friends again and to make new contacts”. For Carly, it is only a year since her first visit but this time she was with her family. Her brother who is a doctor was able to spend some time with the staff at the Hutton funded health centre, seeing patients, advising on new techniques in first aid and helping to re-stock the supplies.
For Jenny, one of the highlights of the visit was meeting with our bursary and ex-bursary students: “I arrived in time to meet our current bursary students before they returned to school for the new academic year. We hired a minivan and brought the Kakuyuni students to Dabaso. This was the first time they had visited Dabaso and the first time all the students had been together. It was a great day and I was able to hear their stories about school life and their ambitions. The national teachers’ strike in September/ October had been a major disruption but they also spoke about the shortage of resources in some schools, including a shortage of water. The Libraries and our librarians had been an important support for them at this time. I was struck by the pride they felt in being an Akili bursary student and by the high ambitions they have set for themselves. I think we may have created a precedent as everyone wanted to have an annual get-together, which the trustees have now agreed to. This year we have been able to offer five extra bursaries thanks to some external funding. Everyone was delighted by this news.”
During Carly’s visit she was able to meet the mother of one of the newly selected students in Year 1. She was there on the actual day the announcement of the selection was made and the mother said that they had given up hope of finding funding so the effect on their family and life was profound, in her words that ‘life had been turned around because of the offer’. She said that the child would not otherwise have gone to secondary school.
On another day Jenny meet with 15 of our ex-bursary students (out of a possible 26). Their stories demonstrate the opportunities that have been opened up to them through the Akili bursary scheme. Most are pursuing further studies ranging from freight management to clinical medicine. They all expressed their appreciation for the bursaries they had been given and a desire to put something back into their communities as well as pursuing their opportunities.
Carly met on of the former bursary students who is now working at Dabaso School as a teaching assistant. She was able to discuss his future training programme and watch him teaching an excellent lesson on Health / Religious Education. It was a very good standard lesson and showed good engagement with the class.
A fuller report of the Akili bursary programme can be found on the website at https://www.akilitrust.org/akili-community-libraries/bursary-students/bursary-students-reports/
Both of the main libraries were looking well stocked and organised. We are fortunate in having a stable, committed and effective group of Librarians and IT assistants.
Both libraries were delighted by the last shipment of books, especially the children’s books. They really appreciated the metal shelving that we sent with the shipment which is well suited to their climate – and could make use of more. So many thanks to Grafton School in Islington for this donation and please could any libraries undergoing refurbishment please consider passing on their older shelving to us.
Jenny was able to instigate a number of improvements to the libraries. The makutis (outside thatched shelters) at both libraries were in a poor state of repair and we were able to find local materials and workmen to restore them. We also engaged contractors to build a toilet at the Kakuyuni Library, which had been made more necessary by the lack of water in the school.
She attended meetings of both library management committees and was able to see how well supported the libraries are locally. The committee at Dabaso have now invited a representative of the ex-bursary students to join them. The Dabaso meeting considered the community’s proposal for a pupil engagement and achievement project and it was clear that the Library could support aspects of the project, in particular involving current and previous bursary students in giving motivational talks and offering the Library for extra reading sessions to be led by the school’s English teacher.
During Carly’s visit the new nursery building at Dabaos was opened. Carly says that it has a much higher spec than any other classroom in the school, with high ceilings and fans, good facilities and areas for storage. The teachers are really happy to be there.
Many of the computers, which we supplied in 2012, have reached the end of their life; the dust at the Libraries is a particular problem. Jenny arranged for louvered windows to be fitted at Kakuyuni to mitigate this, as has already been done at Dabaso. With Cornelius she purchased a number of reconditioned computers so each Library now has four fully functioning computers with internet access. The bursary students requested extra computer classes during the holidays to improve their IT skills and both Libraries are now offering tuition in computer skills to the local community.
Carly was able to sit in on a class Cornelius was teaching on basic IT skills to a group of 16 year old girls from the village who are not at school. They hope that these basic IT course will help with some employment opportunity, but whatever the outcome she says the girls were really enjoying the class.
Extending our support
Both main libraries have links with other schools in their areas whereby teachers borrow collections of books from the library for the use of their pupils.
In addition we have helped three other local schools: Watamu Primary, Kirekwe Primary and Kakuyuni Secondary. All these schools have struggled in the past and have very few resources but now have enthusiastic and competent headteachers. Both Carly and Jenny were able to meet with them to see our books in situ. They were extremely appreciative of our support which they felt has contributed to the improvements that have been made in the schools. We have given a bursary to one pupil from the Watamu School this year.
Jenny spent a wonderful day taking the books to Kirekwe School which is on an island in the local creek. The local community board has recently provided a boat which school children can use for free so there is now an exchange of pupils between the island school and those on the mainland. Jenny received a very warm welcome from the whole school and realised what a contribution our books made to the school. Most of their classrooms are literally made of pieces of corrugated metal sheets and a simple blackboard, but their enthusiasm was infectious. By the time of Carly’s visit the books were unpacked on shelves and being used.
One of the teachers at Watamu Primary has instigated a whole reading session on one afternoon each week and Carly was able to visit at this time to see the whole school sitting under the trees reading. The teacher believes that this will really help develop a reading culture in the school. The students have free choice and can sit with their friends but were reading in silence. Carly said it was an incredibly powerful experience to see this in a school which last year only had enough books for the students to share.
Jenny Pitkin and Carly Hardman (with many thanks to the librarian at Dabaso, Fred, for helping to arrange their very well organised programmes).
Best wishes and thanks from all the Akili Trustees