Friday, 17 May 2013

Renewing Connections

Today has been somewhat frustrating, spent mostly at a meeting of local headteachers in a school in Oyugis, the nearest town to us. I have blogged before about the state of the road that runs outside our place but I don't think I have ever seen it as bad as it is at the moment. The potholes are now more like craters and the powerful surges of water crossing the road during the recent very heavy rain have narrowed the carriageway to the point where it could soon be impassable in some places. Fortunately the rain has eased up since Tuesday and is now back to the more normal pattern of lighter rain, mostly at night. I'm sure I am not alone in hoping that some repairs will be carried out on the road very soon. That said I don't think anybody is really holding their breath that they will happen.

This is a very interesting time to be in Kenya as a younger generation of politicians start to steer the country towards a more digital future. The ubiquitous mobile phone makes it very much easier for people to keep in contact and increased Internet speeds are making the goal of e-government more realistic. At present all of these plans are in their very early stages. It's still difficult to make sure that large groups of connected people (like the head teachers in our area) all receive the same information at the same time, hence the need for meetings. The meetings can be frustrating because they usually take a while to get started and it is sometimes difficult to hear all the information that is given out when people are still arriving because they have had to travel from some distance.

Despite the administrative difficulties the meeting was helpful in putting me in touch with a local teacher who is an IT Ambassador for a very forward looking project jointly sponsored by the British Council and Microsoft. His school has been chosen as a local hub for an Innovative Teaching and Learning program and has a computer room with 20 computers installed. I'm planning to pay a visit to his school next Monday. Having downloaded some of the software that Microsoft is making available free to schools on returning from the meeting it will be very interesting to see how it is being used locally.

It was also good to see some of the other headteachers and education officers who I have met at previous meetings. I find it very hard remembering names but I am beginning to recognise more of the faces now. I'm hoping that I will get to know them much better in the course of the coming year. My next meeting with the heads in our immediate vicinity will be at the de-worming training that I and one of our teachers will be attending next week. The schedule for the de-worming program in our area was the main reason for calling the meeting this morning. It was very encouraging to see how comprehensively the local education department and ministry of health are dealing with this important health issue. A small number of schools will also be treating their children to protect them against bilharzia (a water borne parasitic disease). According to Wikipedia bilharzia is a " chronic illness that can damage internal organs and, in children, impair growth and cognitive development. The urinary form of bilharzia is associated with increased risks for bladder cancer in adults. Schistosomiasis (the proper name for bilharzia) is the second most socio-economically devastating parasitic disease after malaria".

As the year goes on its becoming obvious that I'll be seeing a lot more of the local heads and education officers. I'm hoping that my memory for names and places will improve. I don't think my colleagues will have the same problem. Being the only white guy at the meeting makes me fairly unique.

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