Olng’arua School is a small rural primary school serving a pastoralist community in Isiolo County.
We believe that the marginalized parts of the world will never achieve sustainable development if all they are ever offered is a deeply marginalized education. It is not good enough to say there are schools when they are too far away, or too unsafe for many children to attend. It is not good enough to say there are schools when there are no books and no teachers. To improve the future for those in northern Kenya we must improve the education offered to our children.
Olng’arua school has only modest financial backing but we aim to show that with care and thought it is possible for any school to provide good quality education. An education that encompasses some of the most modern ideas in child development and that allows a child to remain connected to their own community and environment as well as being part of the global community.
Olng’arua school is a family and we place as much importance on the child’s emotional and physical welfare as we do on their studies. We believe that happy children learn well and that if subjects are made interesting they will learn with enthusiasm.
We follow the Kenyan national curriculum but lavish as much attention on arts, culture and literature as we do on the core subjects of language, maths and science. As a remote school our community and the environment are very important to us, we encourage the children to take an active and responsible part in both. The school is located in a community managed conservation area and wildlife and environmental conservation features highly in our curriculum.
A School Day
Our school day starts with a morning meeting, where we sit in a big circle in the open classroom. We talk about what we are all going to be doing that day and find out if anybody has any problems or any suggestions for the day.
Classes are 45 minutes long with a 15 minute break between classes, this gives both children and teachers a chance to stretch and refresh their minds before the next class. Teachers are encouraged to be creative and flexible with their classes, covering subjects at a pace that suits the children and allows time to follow any ideas and questions that may come up in the childrens’ minds. We restrict class sizes to 15 children or less, so the teacher always has time to give each child the individual attention they need.
Food is a very important aspect of the school. Many children here come from poor families and are often sent to school without anything to eat. When they arrive at school in the morning they all get a breakfast of vitamin enriched porridge. At the mid morning break the children get a cup of milk. The lunch they receive at school is often the largest and most nutritious meal the child gets in a day. We always serve a balanced meal with special emphasis on fruit and vegetables, something most of the children are unlikely to get at home.
Each week the children get several classes that are more practical than class based. These teach skills, provide practical experience and help expand their understanding of the world around them in a tangible way. These classes include work in the school garden, practical classes based on wildlife, conservation or the environment, and working on projects to benefit the community.
At the end of the day the children clean their classrooms and then gather for the end of day meeting. Each day a different child chairs the meeting, asking the other children (and adults) what the highs and lows of their day were. This is a time when any problems that occurred during the day can be discussed and the children can help each other to find solutions. It is also a time to share stories and feelings about the good parts of the day, scoring a goal in football, seeing elephants near the school or mastering a difficult problem in class. It is a good ending to the day and sends everybody home with a smile on their face.