Sunday, 30 June 2013

Young Leaders

After our shock on Friday with the sad news of our security guard James' death it is good to be able to write about a very positive event. I was really impressed with our youth group at church this morning. They were asked to lead a service a few weeks ago and their big day came today.

Most of the youth group live with us in the children's home so we were able to put in some good planning and rehearsal time this week - especially yesterday. Having commented on the blog about badly planned events in the past it was very encouraging to see how willing our young people were to commit their time and energy to making sure this morning's service went well.

I've taken responsibility for Sunday School for the youth group since I've been here so this morning's service was a bit nerve-wracking for me. It's like being the parent to a family of a dozen children at a major school performance. My faith in the young people is now at an all time high as they were brilliant from the first song to the last word of the preaching at the end. Our friend Ian videoed highlights of the service and the girls who were involved were able to watch it this evening. It will be the boys' turn tomorrow.

We celebrated the youngsters' achievements with sodas and sweets tonight. I'm looking forward to the next time they take the lead.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Sad News

We were extremely sad to hear today that James, one of our security guards, died in a local hospital. James was only a young man and had a wife, called Millie and two young children. James was a really good guy. Committed to his family and to our work. Always happy to lend a hand with a good sense of humour and a kind heart. We will miss him.

James had been sick for some time (about three weeks) and was initially treated for typhoid and malaria - two of the most common diseases out here. He was seriously ill with typhoid and experienced dehydration and delirium because of the illness. We heard that he was showing some signs of improvement in the hospital yesterday and were shocked to hear of his death this afternoon. His death is a reminder of the fragile hold that many of the people in our community have on health.

Our thoughts and prayers tonight are with James' wife Millie, the children and his sister Irene as they begin to come to terms with this sudden tragic event in their lives. We would welcome your prayers for James' family at this time.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Termite Queen Vacancy

On the grounds that a picture paints a thousand words I thought I would post a couple of pictures I took today as the "termites eating my house" saga continues to unfold. Further investigation in the house today revealed a bigger problem than I had initially thought. After identifying a termite mound in the making just outside our front boundary fence we resorted to buying in the services of our local Termite Terminator. We now have what looks like a small crater by the fence which, on closer inspection , revealed a couple of large underground chambers where the termite queen lived. Our ever diligent security guard Benson brought the evidence of the recently killed queen over to me on a shovel to show the results of operation exterminate. The two pictures below will give you an idea of the size of this insect. We have also poured copious amounts of poison down the visible cracks in the floor in my house so I'm hoping that we are getting on top of the problem now. It will be interesting to see what has happened by the morning.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Under Attack

Firstly my apologies for the somewhat intermittent posts on the blog over the last few weeks. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to manage the life/work/blog balance and the blog is losing out at present.

We've had the normal busy time over the last few days. This week is the start of the second half of the school term. Our Year 7 and 8 pupils immediately faced a zonal mock examination and sat papers in Maths, English, Kiswahili, Science and Social Studies. I've questioned the value of this particular exam before and this week's experience did nothing to make me any more enthusiastic about them. There were problems with the Maths papers which drew comment from schools around our zone. The English and Kiswahili papers were also of questionable value. We'll have to wait for the final results for our pupils for a little while as the Kenyan National Union of Teachers called a strike on Monday, so public school teachers have been out on strike since then. The marking of English and Kiswahili composition papers and final compilation of marks for the exams are now on hold until the strike is over. This could be some time. The union officials are predicting that it will be the "father of all strikes" according to a newspaper report. We will, in the meantime, get on with the next phase of our school's project to make learning more exciting.

Last week-end we were made aware of a very sad, but unfortunately not uncommon, case of hardship and suffering. A young widow came to see us and explained that she had been forced to leave her home just outside Oyugis (the nearest town to us) because of violence against her committed by members of her community. Her brother-in-law was involved in what sounded like a nasty fight during which he badly cut his opponent with a panga (machete). In retaliation some members of the community burnt the lady's house and its contents down, leaving her homeless and in fear of her life. She quickly took herself and her four children to her mother's house which is close to us. This is a far from ideal situation for her family. At least one of her children in suffering from malnutrition and the food situation for the whole family is very dire. The baby that she brought with her was born as a result of the lady having been 'inherited' by a man in her late husband's family shortly after the death of her husband last year. This practice does little other than cause unwanted pregnancies and help to spread HIV/AIDS. We were, once again, left in the unenviable situation of 'playing God' with this lady and her family's lives. We gave her some food to tide her over and will see what else we can do to help when Mary, our manager, returns from taking a few days leave tomorrow.

I wrote about some unwanted visitors to my house last year and the steps we had to take to dislodge them. I am unhappy to report that my house is, once again, under attack from termites. For the last couple of days I've been waking up to find a new heap of soil from their digging in the living room and a good number of termites, (which look like a horrible cross between a maggot and an ant) swarming around the hole in the floor that they come up through. I think that this termite activity was triggered off by the rain we had a few days ago. I've been trying my best to stop their activity by pouring washing up liquid and boiling water down the hole and then blocking it up with small stones. I thought I'd been quite successful until this evening,when I noticed a termite mound with attendant termites half-way up the door frame of my office. The battle has now entered a more serious phase and strong chemicals have been poured down the the most recent hole. I'm hoping this will deter the creatures from starting again in another part of the house for long enough to get any remaining holes in the floor sealed with concrete. I hate to think what it looks like under the house. I have visions of the whole house collapsing into a maze of termite tunnels. Unlike many of our neighbours I am fortunate in having a very solidly built house. The termites cause a huge amount of damage to the local houses which are made of compacted mud and timber - ideal materials for termites to destroy completely.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Noises off

It sounds like its trying to rain outside. This would be a good thing - we haven't had much rain for weeks now and could do with a nice heavy downpour to fill up our irrigation tanks. It might also help to dampen the enthusiasm of the party goers attending a very rhythmic event that started last night somewhere in the neighbourhood. As I sit typing in my room it sounds like the noise is coming from the field to my left but I know that when I stand outside it sounds like it's coming from the opposite direction. Whatever the 'celebration' is in aid of its obviously raking in a good attendance and will probably last all week-end. If I didn't know better I'd say the noise frequently sounds like the kind of drumming that usually leads to bad things in old movies.

Half-term seems to have flown past this week. We will soon be back in the thick of term two, starting off with exams for our two oldest primary school classes. Our manager Mary told me yesterday that we had missed a meeting of the local headteachers to confirm the arrangements for the exams. Its a serious business. All the primary schools in our zone (about 25 altogether) sit this exam and a league table is eventually compiled to 'encourage' us all. The last one was a bit chaotic so I'm hoping that this one will go a bit better. I'm not really convinced that this cycle of exams is especially helpful a the moment but we don't get much choice about them. When I called the headteacher responsible for convening the meeting to explain that we hadn't received any information about it he was very helpful and apologized for not informing us. I've become more philosophical about these communication problems and am working hard at building bridges with my colleagues in the area.

We have some good events to look forward to in the coming half-term. Once the exams have been completed we'll be trying a three day practical project, combining science, maths and social studies in a problem solving activity. The pupils will be given the task of finding out how long we could continue to run all of our activities if our borehole suddenly packed up. (It's actually quite a scary thought). Our primary school teachers are very positive about it and I'm hoping that it will build on our previous encouraging experience with a special maths project. Being in a position to take bold steps with our teaching and learning makes me feel very privileged. It's very exciting being able to drop the normal timetable and do something different. At the risk of sounding a bit corny it's what I first went into teaching for. Any similarly motivated teachers would be welcome to join us.

The drumming has picked up a bit now and the rain noises have stopped - looks like being another hot, noisy night. At least the 'music' has stepped up a gear - it sounds more like the rhythm section of a Santana concert now.

If you'd like to watch a Santana concert follow the link below.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


Its been a busy few days since my last post. We are on half -term at the moment so there aren't as many children around as usual. The keen ones are coming in to do some revision for the exams they will be sitting next week. I've had some fun maths lessons with them (I had fun - I hope the children did too).

We are occasionally asked to provide a bed for children that have been brought to the District Children's Officer for one reason or another. Yesterday we were asked to look after a young lad who had somehow managed to find his way to Oyugis (our nearest town) from Kisumu which is about a two hour drive away. When we asked the lad how he had come to Oyugis he said that he had 'got on a vehicle' with his brother and somehow managed to stay on it until he was thrown off at Oyugis. He was brough to the the Children's Officer by an Assistant Chief yesterday and finally found his way to our place, where he stayed last night.

As we had been planning to go to Kisumu today we called the Children's Officer last night to ask if he wanted us to re-unite the lad with his family. The boy told us that he lived close to the airport in Kisumu and we were able to confirm the location of the school that he said he attended from a contact in Kisumu.

We set off for Kisumu at about 7.30 this morning, little boy in tow. On arriving in Kisumu Mary took responsibility for finding our visitor's school, home and family while the rest of us set off on a variety of shopping tasks - mostly buying school resources for the next half-term. It was a very successful day from that point of view. We now have a good selection of chemicals, scientific apparatus and new text books. I have been promising some of the lads who live at Hope and Kindness that I will teach them how to play the guitar and was very pleased when I managed to buy a decent guitar for them to learn on at a good price.

On our way home Mary filled us in on the story of our surprise visitor. Mary found the boy's school very quickly but he seemed to have been a bit economical with the truth regarding his attendance. The Head Teacher told Mary that the he hadn't seen the lad for a couple of years and that he was (in Mary's words) "a very bad boy". His story sounds, unsurprisingly, like something out of an earlier century. His parents are no longer together and his mother has effectively abandoned him. As he hasn't been to school for some time he is living a fairly chaotic life, in and out of trouble. When Mary went to the boy's home area she said the neighbours hid, as they thought she was an official of some sort and that trouble was in the making. Mary identified the lad's Grandfather who promptly completely ignored him. Mary eventually found a step-grandmother who seemed to care about the boy's welfare. Just before she left to meet us in Kisumu Mary noticed that our new friend was wearing a stop watch which we hadn't seen last night. He'd stolen it from one of our boys before leaving for Kisumu this morning.

It is sad but true that this story of neglect, abandonment and damaged character is played out daily all over Kenya. The West has its share of problems with children who do not enjoy the love and nurturing that they need but it takes on another dimension out here, where life is lived so close to the edge of death and desperation. It is heartbreaking to think of little boys (and girls) being so badly damaged by the circumstances they find themselves growing up in.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Day of the African Child

The Day of the African Child was celebrated up at Kosele Primary School with all due ceremony today. Speeches were made and children from local schools performed a variety of songs, dances and poems. As planned we set off at just after 10 a.m. and the day finally got started at 11.30. Celebrations like this follow a pretty standard format in Kenya. The guests of honour at the meeting (various sponsors, headteachers, local government officials and leaders from the local community) sat on the 'dais' at the front on plastic chairs under a couple of awnings. The children sat in rows of desks.

The meeting started with a prayer and over the course of the day the speeches and entertainment unfolded. Many of the children's performances were very good. One group of girls performed quite a long musical drama following the story of an unfortunate girl who suffers a variety of indignities but ends up being able to finish her education. In a society where the rights of women and the 'girl child' are still a serious issue the protection of girls is a major concern and the theme was presented in a number of ways during the day. The children were very well behaved and appreciative of the entertainment. I'm not really sure what they made of the speeches. As the 'token white' at the meeting I was also called up to make a speech. Trying to just occupy a place in the background is very hard, despite my best efforts not to draw attention to myself. Two of our children were called on, as guests of honour, to make speeches and did a very good job. I was very proud of them.

At the end of the meeting the head teacher of Kosele Primary School (the host of the event) called all of the heads to see him and invited us all to a meal at the Administration Police (AP) canteen just up the road in Kosele. I chatted on the way to the canteen to a fairly recently arrived head of a primary school about five kilometres up the road. He was a mine of useful information and encouragement. He is, amongst other things, an assistant chief examiner of English at a national level. I'm hoping to chat to him in the future about ways of strengthening our English teaching.

The Administration Police provide security for the District Commissioner's compound in Kosele. Their canteen is a very nice place and serves a very good chicken and chapati. There own security seemed a bit provisional though. Someone seemed to have stolen all the cutlery from the canteen so we all ate with our fingers! Still. When in Rome ...... The walk back to our place from Kosele was a welcome break from my normal routine and finished the day nicely.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Time flies

It seems hardly any time since I started this visit to Kosele but half-term is already here. Its been a busy time with a number of new projects started and so far going well. Our new remedial teaching in the primary school is probably our most ambitious new venture. It involves a small group of twelve pupils from our two eldest primary classes. Every afternoon they spend two hours together and receive intensive coaching in subjects where we have identified gaps in their learning and capability. The feedback I've had from the teachers involved has been very encouraging so far. One of the biggest gains for a number of these pupils has been a major boost to their self-confidence. Pupils who don't usually raise their heads above the parapet and get involved in lessons with a big group are finding their feet in this smaller group and are beginning to find their voices in their morning lessons as well.

The teaching part of our youth club session with the youngsters tonight focused on a similar theme. I have read a book by John Ortberg called If You Want to Walk on the Water You've Got to Get Out of the Boat a couple of times now. The author writes in a very accessible style and puts a serious message over very effectively. We talked a bit tonight about faith, trust and walking on the water. I often wish I'd taken the gospel message at face value earlier in my life. I think that RE lessons and a very boring experience of church in the first couple of years of secondary school built the foundations of a long period of being very anti God and any type of religion. I'm still not very fond of religion but I do regret the missed opportunities that were caused by my unbelief.

Tomorrow should be an interesting day. Instead of going to church and Sunday School all of our youngsters will be attending an organised event in a local school celebrating the Day of the African Child. There seem to have been a lot of these type of events this year (this will be the third that has involved our children). I'm not quite sure what to expect, as I have not been around when they have taken place in the past. Our invitation said that the proceedings will start at 9 a.m. The consensus is that we should set off at about ten to arrive in time for everything starting, hopefully, at around eleven. I do remember seeing a request for financial support for sodas at the event so there might be a bottle of coke in it as well as some entertainment and encouragement. Our girls have been practicing a turn in case they are asked to sing. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, 13 June 2013


One of the things I really like about working out here is the variety of activities that I get involved in during a typical week. Every once in a while I find an opportunity to abandon the planning, management and execution details of running our schools and indulge in some much more basic practical work.

Giving students opportunities to carry out science experiments is a major challenge in many schools in Kenya. Funding difficulties, lack of resources and lack of training conspire to make many of the experiments and demonstrations that students typically experience in schools in the UK and the US uncommon for our young people over here. I walked in on a science lesson on electro-magnets this morning and felt compelled to spend a few hours assembling one for demonstration purposes. I had to scavenge round a bit for the materials and experimented with a number of nails, wires, batteries and windings before I found the best design but I ended up with a convincing piece of demonstration equipment. This then set me thinking about constructing some more basic electrical training equipment. Its certainly not 'rocket science' but it would make quite a difference to our children and teachers. We start our half -term holiday next week so it should be possible to find some time to experiment with a basic design for our 'electricity lab'.

On a completely different note we were mildly encouraged this evening by the first rain for a couple of weeks. Compared to the biblical scale of the rain earlier in the year tonight's shower was hardly enough to give our crops much of a watering. We're really hoping that the heavens will open soon. If they don't we probably have enough water stored in our irrigation tanks to last about three weeks. After that we'll have to resort to using water from our borehole. We've only really used the borehole in absolute emergencies so far. Its been a very reliable source of water for us but we had been concerned that it was slightly salty, which could cause problems in the long term for the fertility of our land. We had a visit from 'the man from the ministry' (Water Management Board) yesterday evening and he told me that our water salinity level was 0. (It was written down on his inspection form). This was something of an answer to prayer. After discussing the water situation with Duncan, our farm manager, I'd been planning to find out the best way of testing the water in the borehole. Right on cue our friend from the water board turned up with the answer to my question. Its good to know that if the worse comes to the worse our borehole is a good source of water for the farm. However, on the grounds that we'd like to continue irrigating with the water stored in our tanks from our 'roof harvest' we'll continuing praying for rain.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Thinkpad Nostalgia

As part of the drive to improve our use of laptops in the schools I've spent some time today restoring a very old IBM Thinkpad laptop. This particular model was first made in 1997 and is, I think, my all time favourite laptop design. Very early in our work I was given a couple of these laptops by the school I was then working in and for some time they were the mainstays of our admin system. They have since, obviously, been superseded by more powerful machines but I have a great fondness for them. Getting the Thinkpad into a usable condition involved a bit of fishing round on the Internet to find some software to make a memory stick work on it. When it finally managed to find the memory stick I was very pleased - laptop 0 me 1.

As I type the restored Thinkpad is churning its way through tidying up all the files it contains. Over the years the way computers work have been increasingly obscured from view so it makes a change to almost be able to see the computer 'thinking'. For any computer buffs among my readers this computer is running Windows 98 and I'm 15% of the way through defragging the hard disc. Anybody old enough to remember doing this will appreciate the beauty of watching the hard disc being re-arranged on the screen in front of you.

Writing my blog on a very modern laptop with the most recent version of Windows on it with a fifteen year old machine churning away beside it provides a powerful reminder of just how much computers have changed in a very short time. It will be interesting to let our students see the difference. I'm also reminded just how good the old equipment was. The Thinkpad was such a good design that a Chinese company bought it up.

The Thinkpad is going to be used as a basic administration machine in the Primary School initially. Recycling such an old machine is very satisfying. It will be good to see it in use again.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Machine vs Road

To describe the rough track that runs from our place to Oyugis, our nearest town, as a road would be an abuse of the English language. It is, currently, seven kilometres of potholes and ruts and is getting worse by the day. We are experiencing a hot dry spell at the moment with very little rain. If this continues it could be another threat to our farm but we are hoping for an improvement. During the unnaturally wet weather that we experienced earlier in the year the road to Oyugis became a boggy quagmire. Very deep ruts were formed as heavy lorries plied the route and the edges of the road became broken down leaving fairly large drop offs in some places. The hot weather has since baked these new features and they have become rock hard additions to the route.

At about eight pm. this evening I received a call from Mary, our manager, to say that she was 'stranded' in Oyugis because there were no vehicles available. It's incredible how quickly our area shuts down once it becomes dark. The only way to rescue Mary from Oyugis was to drive down in our trusty Landrover and pick her up. Since my last disastrous trip in the Landrover at night (which ended up with the vehicle stuck in a ditch and a damaged gearbox) I've been a bit reluctant to drive after dark. Fortunately this evening has been very dry so the only problem on the journey was the state of the road and the dust, which made it difficult to see very far after another vehicle had passed. I was accompanied by one of our night guards on the trip and we chatted about the usual stuff - the condition of the road, the threat of hijackers at night and other cheery topics. Lurching along in second gear was actually good fun - when the weather conditions are OK it's a good challenge to try and avoid the lumps, bumps and obstacles (dogs, bicycles and a lorry with only one headlight). We reached Oyugis safely, if somewhat slowly.

It's always been a mystery to me how a 'road' can look so different when you travel back along it in the opposite direction at night. The sections that seemed the worse on the way to Oyugis had miraculously smoothed out and the previously comfortable sections became more challenging. After dropping one of our staff members off close to her home we made it back to our place about an hour after starting out. I guess fourteen kilometres an hour at night is a decent enough average speed out here

Friday, 7 June 2013

Good Sports

Answers to yesterday's brainteasers are:

1) 6 one pound coins, 2 ten-penny coins, 4 one-penny coins

2) John can buy 156 bars of chocolate.

I've just finished a good coaching session with my fledgling maths group. Their appetite for improvement and practice is impressive and their willingness to put up with my coaching is commendable.

A couple of weeks ago I was asked by Daniel (our oldest lad) if I would be up for a bit more active form of coaching. He is very keen to start up a football team with the other lads in our Technical School. I explained that I would be a very keen supporter of the team but that they would do better with anybody but me coaching them. I am probably slightly worse at dancing than I am at football but there isn't much in it. Dan wisely took my advice and went ahead with getting the lads sorted out. He came to see me tonight to let me know that he has arranged a match with Kosele Secondary School on Sunday at the 'stadium' in Kosele. To do justice to whoever is responsible for maintaining the stadium it does now have permanent goal posts (so we won't have to bring our own) and there is a small covered terrace for spectators - a big improvement on the situation last year. We had a really good supporters group last time we played a match at the stadium. While Dan and the team get on with practicing their football skills I'll see what we can do about making sure the supporters are geared up to cheering the team on.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Maths bug

It's no good - I've been bitten by the maths bug. It's been a fairly intensive week for maths this week so I guess it's not really all that surprising. The teachers' training day yesterday provided a good focus for strategies to make our pupils more confident mathematicians and was the springboard for a good deal of research for me. I have this tendency to go to town on the research for new ventures, especially if they have the potential to transform a situation.

In my research I've discovered a fascinating new condition called Dyscalculia. This is defined in a book called The Trouble With Maths as "a perseverant condition that affects the ability to acquire mathematical skills despite appropriate instructions." I've also been surprised by the pervasiveness of maths anxiety amongst adults (especially trainee primary teachers) and have found out that young people's maths difficulties are very difficult to pigeon hole. This makes me all the more determined to do what I can to help our teaching team to ratchet up our pupils' maths abilities.

My five 'guinea pigs' for a maths makeover have completed their first diagnostic test for me. Two of them volunteered last night after a coaching session, one was added at the beginning of homework time tonight and two more asked if they could have a paper when they saw what the others were doing. It's fantastic having such keen students.

If you fancy exercising your latent maths talents have a go at these two questions, taken from a book called Mathematics Explained for Primary Teachers. (Real challenge is not to use a calculator and view them as mental arithmetic problems).

1) I have 34 one-penny coins, 29 ten-penny coins and 3 pound coins. Apply the principle of 'exchanging ten of these for one of these' to reduce this collection of coins to the smallest number of 1p, 10p and £1 coins.

2) John was given £50 for his birthday and thought he might spend it all on his favourite chocolate bars. They cost 32p each. How many could he buy?

Answers supplied in tomorrow's post. Give yourself an extra pat on the back if you worked both answers out in your head!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013


Today has been a very rewarding day spent training with our primary school teachers. We are continuing with our mission to make lessons more active, stimulating and enjoyable for the children and had a lot of fun trying out some new ideas and planning a new project. I'm afraid I ran out of time to write the blog last night due to the length of time I spent putting the resources for our training together.

I think the hit of the day was discovering that darts (as any self respecting darts player knows) is a great game for developing a number of maths skills as well as hand eye coordination. Only one of our teachers had played darts before so we had to start with the basics of scoring. Once we'd established the rules we had a mini tournament with three teams. The session lasted for about ninety minutes and was hilarious. The teams were very competitive and we had some interesting adjudications on borderline scores. We were using magnetic darts which have different ends to normal dart and tend to sit exactly on the border line between sections of the board. I can't wait to see the children getting started on this particular activity.

I ended up having a mathematical evening as well. Two of our Technical School students came to see if I could help them with some maths problems involving percentage discounts. It's been a little while since I tackled this kind of problem so I had to look up the solution method before getting started on the teaching. It soon became apparent that my two students didn't have a very good grasp of their multiplication tables so we ended up trying out some strategies to help them master these basic facts. We've agreed to have a few maths 'boot camp' sessions to boost their confidence and help them to understand the more complicated concepts and operations that they are encountering now that they are at secondary school. It might seem like an unlikely activity to develop a real enthusiasm for but maths is one of those subjects were you can witness the magical 'penny drops' moment when a student finally grasps something fully for the first time. I'm now honing my maths coaching skills in anticipation of some good results.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Words of wisdom

I've been working with our team of teachers again today to start some new initiatives with our older pupils. As part of the preparation for the meeting we had today and our training day on Wednesday I've been reading a book called Creating Tomorrow's Schools Today by Richard Gerver. It's very inspiring and contains some of the best observations I've read about teaching and learning for a long time. Including:

“Every day, I stand in front of these young people, their faces full of expectations and hope, their energy radiating across the stale air of this room, and as I look at them, I think to myself, somewhere in this room could be the person who finds the cure for cancer, the solution to world peace. Could be the person who writes the next great symphony that moves mankind. There could be a future leader, doctor, nurse, teacher, Olympic champion. I don't know, but what I do know is that they are out there and it is my job to identify and nurture that talent, not just for their own benefit but for the possible benefit of others. Is there any greater responsibility or opportunity than that? I am blessed, that is why I thank them.”
(From a 70 year old teacher in China who bucks the trend of the 'lecture style ' approach in China and tries to really engage with his students).


“Why is it that every generation mourns the passing of the last and fears the birth of the next?” (Anon)


“Three of the greatest crises facing humanity today – the economic crisis, the environmental crisis, the ethnic and social crisis – were all created by previous generations. Our children are aware of them, frightened by them and feel excluded by them. However, it is their generation that will have to find the solutions if we are to have a meaningful future.”

When you put it that way there is no more important job than teaching. It's certainly food for thought.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Changing Rooms 2

The transformation of the kids' sitting room is now complete. Over the last three days all of the children have taken at turn at scraping, sanding, washing and painting the walls and ceiling. Some of them made a pretty good job of painting themselves as well. The room looks great. It smells a bit overpowering just at the moment but should be ready for use tomorrow evening. The first job for the first group will be moving all the furniture in and making the room feel more homely.

I had a very rewarding afternoon re-arranging our Standard 8 classroom. It's a job I've been meaning to do for a while. Inspired by the activity in the sitting room I bit the bullet and got on with it today. I was surprised how many spiders and cockroaches had taken up residence in dusty corners – underneath the filing cabinet and book cupboard especially. I was also surprised just how fast cockroaches move. You have to be really quick to stand any chance of dealing with them. I have never really been the world's best at classroom displays (my wife Judi is the expert at it) but I did manage to rescue some posters and make a decent display of science topics on our notice boards and maps around the walls. It was interesting watching the children's reaction to the changes in the room. I've re-arranged the desks to create more space and I think they were surprised how different the room now looks and feels. I was encouraged when two of our older girls in the Technical School said that they had then gone and copied the idea in their classroom.

As far as I'm aware our mini earthquake zone has now gone back to sleep again after a bit of a rumble last night. Fortunately nothing was damaged.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

And the earth shook

Livewires club again this evening. Ninety minutes of fun, song and story-telling. This is session three of our new approach to Saturday evenings and the youngsters have really got into learning new songs and games. It’s a somewhat exhausting session to keep on top of but it’s a great reminder of how very simple fun and games can capture young people’s imagination and enthusiasm. They do, of course appreciate TV and videos but a good active workout still takes a lot of beating.

Living where we do we are subject to a little seismic activity every so often. I’ve visited homes where concrete water tanks have been built into the ground and seen how easily they can be cracked by earth tremors. It’s one of the reasons why we use plastic tanks for storing our water. Immediately after we had finished our session s this evening there was quite a strong earth tremor which took us all by surprise. I’m sure there is nothing prophetic in it but it does stir you a bit.

 ESPECIALLY WHEN IT HAPPENS AGAIN. As I was typing we had a second, even stronger tremor (strong enough to shake my chair). After a quick whizz round the compound everything seems OK. All the adults on the site are surprised by these tremors. Duncan, our farm manager, says that they are the strongest tremors he has experienced. I hope there aren't any more.