The letters we receive from children we are sponsoring through school give us an insight into their life under lockdown in some of the poorest communities in Kenya.
When the first case of the Coronavirus was detected in Kenya on 13th March 2020, the government responded immediately by closing all schools. All children were sent home on 16th March with instructions to study at home. For many families, this means an extra pair of hands to work the small family plot, but it also means an extra mouth to feed and another person sleeping in an already cramped living space.
As well as COVID-19, they are coping with heavy rains and, as if that were not enough, parts of the country have swarms of locusts ravaging their crops.
Many of our students are from single parent families, some live with grandparents, other relatives, or neighbours. They are all grateful for their scholarship. One, a young girl called Praise says,
“thank you for giving me the chance to be at high school which seemed to be a dream to me and my parents”.
This break from school is disruptive for all, especially the Form Four students who are due to sit their final KCSE secondary school exams in November.
Derick writes that,
“the situation has forced us to be on an unplanned holiday. To me, it’s like a small prison. Everybody is restricted at home and not going out. However I am now used to it and helping my parent with home / house chores and then some physical exercise.
Even helping out at home is problematic, as Lyn explains,
“we are in planting seasons (for maize) which have been very difficult since some of our crops are being carried away by floods because it is raining heavily”.
“Before we were released from school, we were given some homework and some to be downloaded from our school website.”
For children like Derick, Lyn, and Praise, this is easier said than done. Few have access to a PC or laptop at home. Downloading study material means going to a nearby internet café (or cyber as they call them) – and this costs money. With work already hard to find and companies laying off staff, there’s not much around right now. And no work, means no food. So downloading study materials is a luxury few can afford.
“my grandmother works for other people to sustain our living but at times she comes back with very little money, just enough to sustain us, so there is no money to download the assignments.”
“Another challenge is home lighting. We don’t have electricity or solar lighting. The smoke from the paraffin tin lamp irritates the eyes.”
“being at home is a bit boring but we have to get used to it and we are really looking forward to reopening of schools as soon as the pandemic subsides”.
And some like Abigael are being inventive,
“we made a discussion group with my comrades whereby we discussed several things. We are not squandering our time because we acknowledge that time wasted will not be recovered”.
To help the students make the most of the opportunity their scholarship gives them, we’ve provided revision books to those in Form Four so they can prepare for their final exams. And for all the sponsored students, we’ve sent funds to our local contacts to download school materials and make photocopies so the children can study while at home.
And despite the difficulties, the children are all thankful for the chance to further their education and express their gratitude to their sponsors. Winstone described being,
“overwhelmed with joy for your support”
and Calvin wrote to his sponsor,
“I take this opportunity to thank you in a very special way for your love and generosity which has made you my ‘father’ in sponsoring my secondary education. Infact I lack words to express to you my thanks.”
Our scholarships really matter. They’re giving children the chance of a different life.