Thursday, August 6, 2015

Education as the key to fighting poverty

Have you ever wondered how it was like growing up in Kenya? Forget the documentaries and the 'amazing' photos from CNN , BBC and the rest.

For the people who have been part of our journey, they need to know our past so they can understand our present.

My name is Soni. I grew up in the communities of Mt.Kenya and the Aberdares. My father, his father and their fathers before him have always been coffee producers. My people have lived and continue living from one coffee season to another. We have had good and hard times, good times like after the anxiously waited coffee payments where my father would make sure we got dressed in our ''sunday best''- we each had 1 or 2 nice dresses that were only reserved for sundays going to church or for special occasions- headed to Karatina Shopping centre where we would be treated with sausages and chips with tomato sauce that had more water in it that the tomatoes.

We had our hard times when we encountered the 'thin times' which is basically the period when income derived from previous harvest ran short. This period lasts for a minimum of three months every year. We struggled like the rest of the families in the community, and still toiled in the coffee fields in the hope of a better tomorrow.

women coffee farmers delivering coffee cherries at a wet mill in Nyeri

My father believed that the answer to our poverty situation was through education. He still believes to date that education is the long term key and answer to poverty eradiction.Me and my siblings grew up knowing that education was the only means we could later use to overcome our situation. My family like most of the others in the village didnt own big tracts of land and neither did they have work opportunities in neighbouring towns, they were simply coffee farmers. From my upbringing i have come to learn, to understand and to believe that when a child has access to education, then their way in life has a chance- they have a chance to see the world, chances beyond the farming villages of the Aberdares. Poor people's access to information is very vital for communities to develop. But how is this possible if their children do not have access to learning facilities?

my father supporting kids in Ndurutu primary with new school uniforms in 2014
I go back to my childhood, i am 10 years old. I am in class 5. I live in a village in Nyeri where the singing of birds wake you up in the morning. Its 5:30 am, my mother wakes me up to get ready for school. I wash my face, brush my teeth and put on my school uniform. At 6:00 am we have breakfast together with my siblings, which is basically corn meal from previous night or if we are lucky a slice of dry toast with a cup of tea. At 6:30 am we start walking and half running to school which takes 20-25 mins to get there. At 7:00 am we are supposed to be in class seated and ready for our prep-lessons. At 9:45 am we have our first 15 mins break of the day. 12:45 we break for lunch which is a mixture of kidney beans and corn with ''swimming onions'' in a transparent broth.

Our afternoon lessons continue from 14:00 pm and end at 16:30 pm when we leave the school and head home. 17:00pm i reach home and do my chores of the day which involves collecting firewood or water from the Chania River and when am done i play with my friends outside.

18:30 pm and i start helping my mother to prepare dinner for the family which in most cases will be Kales and Ugali. We drink water from the river and call it a day.

20:00pm we go to sleep. Its been a long day for my parents who have been working in the coffee fields since morning. This goes on from Mon-Fri. And then on Saturday instead of heading to school at 6:30 am we head to the coffee fields, to help our parents bring in the harvest in time.

Thats the real life for the children of coffee producers if they are lucky to be able to attend school. Nothing much has changed since my time- they still toil from dawn to dusk with  minimal or no returns from coffeee production.There are many kids whom during my time their parents couldnt afford the schools fees and they spent their days helping in the coffee fields.

I grew up and left to go to college, see the world and drink Cocacola instead of water in the evenings, or if the gods were on my side a glass of Chardonny.

Three decades later so many things have changed, but not the lives of the communities who produce our coffee.The education sector changed, but my village is still a farming village.

In 2002 the democratically elected government in Kenya came into power, and on January 6 2003 the governement of Kenya introduced the implementation of Free Primary Education. For once, primary education was free and all that was required was for every child regardless of age to walk into a school near where they lived and be registered to start learning. From then on the child was required to fully participate in school until they completed the fully cycle of primary education which requires 8 years of learning. Enrollment in schools increased with figures of upto 46% as released by Kenya's Ministry of Education in 2011.

The program has achieved measurable successes but this increase into the number of pupils going to primary school brought as well a major infrastructural problem.Most of the rural schools especially are underfunded in terms of teachers,learning materials, buildings among other amenities.

the deterioted infrastructure; a classroom Ndurutu Primary

Daniel in one of the classrooms in dire need of renovations- Ndurutu Primary

Its these challenges that have made us at KEDOVO e.V concentrate most of work on the education of the children of our coffee producers.

For sometime now we have supported schools like Karindundu, Kirichu & Ndurutu Primary Shools with various projects below:

We have had other projects within the community but Education for Sustainability is what we believe we can use to give the children of our coffee producers chances beyond primary school and keys to rebuild their future. We believe through ensuring that they have a chance to better education then their way in life has been paved, they can have hopes and dreams to see the world- i did.

Zackie delivering a tank in Kirichu Primary school so the kids can have access to clean water

Yesterday the Kedovo gang in Kenya officially opened a newly constructed library in Ndurutu Primary. The school is really in dire need of text books as in most cases the pupils are either sharing 10 kids per book and in some lessons only the teacher has a torn text book that she uses for teaching.

Arrival of the materials to begin library construction

Davie & Daniel helping with the construction

work in progress

Not only did we set up the shelves for the library we supplied as well various text books, though not enough! The school has currently approx. 170 pupils.

some of the new text books

Zackie the program coordinator & kids from Ndurutu Primary saying ''Together for ndurutu''

The gang also officiated the school closing day for this term and organised a prize giving day for the pupils who had perfomed well.The best perfomed pupils received prizes of books, uniforms, geometrical sets, pens etc as motivational items to work harder.By supporting this generation we can develop the community and rebuild our village. Who knows, among them there might be enterpreneurs in the making.

Davie introducing our volunteers Erika & Daniel at Ndurutu Primary

Erika giving out book prizes to best performed student class 2

All this would not have been possible without the support of our partner Sandtorkai Handel Papenhagen. To Nicole & Heinz, i know i have said thank you a thousand times- but your committment to support my community hasnt been in vain. We now have hope. 
the new sign at the entrace to the offices & library

the new books to replace the old torn text books
an old text book that the teacher was using to teach with that start on page 27 :(

To all the Roasters in Germany who purchase our coffee- my sincere gratitude.I cannot list all of you here but please know your contribution doesnt go unnoticed. To Loppokaffeeexpress, Asante sana for your comittment in supporting our projects even beyond the actual coffee buying, Reinhold in Telgte- it was amazing meeting you last time- thank you.

meeting with the ''Jungs'' from Telgter Kaffeerösterie in Telgte

 To continue supporting these communities we have on offer Green coffee (Rohkaffee) from Ndurutu Wet Mill late crop 2013-2014 F.O.T Bremen as well as late crop 2014-2015, transport within Germany & the EU arrangable at a cost. Please contact Soni Schneidewind or Nicole Boedgter for information on samples, prices and contract.

For those interested in Kenyan Single origin roasted coffees kindly purchase from our Online Shop or visit our offices in Kaltenkirchen. Our handcrafted coffees are also available at Engel Eis Cafe on the Hamburger Strasse 23 in Kaltenkirchen , visit the shop & Cafe 'Ein Welt Laden' located at the VHS in Kaltenkirchen , am Kretemoor 40, or pass by at the Kaltenkirchener Wochenmark every Saturday from 07:00 hrs to 12 noon.

And the story continues...