In August 1996 four friends (John and Yvonne Brooker from Middleton in Greater Manchester and Pat and john Lloyd from Stoke on Trent) travelled to Mombasa, Kenya for a holiday. All four were teachers in England so while on holiday their African tour rep offered them a chance to see a local primary school. The holiday makers jumped at the chance but were shocked to see a small shack open to the elements that consisted of six benches and one blackboard. The tour guide explained that this was a typical school in the poor Mombasa area of Shanzu and that 130 children were being educated by one teacher. If that wasn’t bad enough, the holiday makers were told that the parents were forced to pay to send their children to school which meant the more impoverished children from the area were not being offered any education opportunities at all.
Realising the enormous disparity between the children of the United Kingdom versus the children in Mombasa, Kenya, over dinner that evening the two couples determined that they were going to make a difference and help the children of Mikoroshoni Primary School and somehow improve their ramshackle school. So before departing Mombasa the friends left enough money with their tour rep to have a corrugated iron roof placed on the school. And so began these holiday makers journey of involvement and improvement to Mikoroshoni Primary School.
On 1st March 2000 “Friends of Mikoroshoni Primary School” was officially registered with the UK Charity Commission and the four friends set out to spend their free time fundraising as best they could since three of them were still in full time employment. So for the next almost 20 years the two couples have returned at least once a year at their own expense to help oversee various improvements to the school. Now as the four friends enter their early 70’s, the time has come to establish a larger and younger team to ensure the schools future. So over a period of a few years six new and younger trustees have been added to the original team of four trustees.
Early Days at Mikoroshoni Primary School
The school originally had three kindergarten and three primary classes and each year from 1996 another primary class was added until 2002 Mikoroshoni Primary School had all eight primary classes and they retained the three kindergarten classes.
In 2002, as the friends continued their fundraising efforts and as sponsorship grew via the new UK charity, the Trustees started to pay 50% of the teacher’s wages, then in 2003 they started to pay 66% of the teacher’s wages and in 2005 they were able to pay 100% of the teacher’s wages. So in January 2005, funding from the parents ceased at Mikoroshoni Primary School. And in 2006 the Trustees decided to open the doors to only the poorest pupils in the area.
Other holiday makers who travelled to Mombasa who visited MPS made donations and became annual sponsors. The original Trustees were asked to give talks to a variety of groups including local primary and secondary schools and Rotary Clubs.
Every August, the two couples would return for two weeks to oversee the progress of new building work. With the money they raised they would return to Mombasa to buy building materials and pay the workers. Building work at the school developed very slowly in the early years.
Then in January 2005 a couple from Bury, Greater Manchester who had visited the school decided to raise money to build a two story concrete block building and complete all other classrooms that were only partially completed. So this couple from Bury organised a team of twelve builders from England and Ireland to travel to Mombasa for six weeks to construct the new school/ When the team left MPS, the school had a brand new building with nine classrooms, a headteacher’s office, a library and staff room for the teachers. The school also had running water, flush toilets and electricity. The children had to be taught how to use the toilets because they had never seen them before.
In July 2005 Stone Outward Girl Guides in Staffordshire visited MPS and now MPS has their own Guide group. In July 2010, five of MPS Girl Guides along with their Headteacher, and the District Guide Leader for Mombasa, came to the United Kingdom to join in celebrations for 100 years of Girl Guiding. This visit was entirely funded by the Girl Guides of Staffordshire.
Mikoroshoni Primary School also began a Chess Club with the support of Dr. Philip Mwashe, a County Chess player in Kenya. Some of the MPS teachers learned to play chess so that they can help out at the weekly Chess Club. One MPS pupil who had never seen a chess board was found to be extremely talented and has represented MPS in International Chess Tournaments in Nairobi.
Many years ago the Trustees felt that they should help broaden the education and experience of the students at MPS with school trips. Since many of the families were so poor that they rarely left the Shanzu village. So the Trustees now fund three different field trips during the students eleven years at MPS.
The Kindergarten 3 children are sent to Halla Park, a conservation area, which is close to the school, where they see lots of different animals including snakes, giant tortoises and giraffes. The children in Class 3, the top class in lower primary to a little further afield to another conservation area to see a bigger variety of animals. And pupils in their final year are sent to Malindi for the day. They go to see a river (something they will never have seen before), the Gedi Ruins and have a tour of Malindi Airport.
In December 2007 the charity promoted Joshua Kadenge to Headteacher of MPS. Today Joshua Kadenge continues as Head and has become the driving force for improvements in educational standards at MPS for the benefit of staff and students.
The school now has about 300 pupils.
New Challenges for MPS
In 2008 our headteacher told the Trustees about a boy who had been in distress at school. He was sweating profusely, shivering and was finding it very hard to concentrate on his school work. When the teacher asked him what was the matter the boy replied that he had not eaten for three days. The Trustees discussed this further with the headteacher and the Trustees realised that the children came from families who were so poor that they were not able to earn enough money to be able to eat even one meal a day.
The Trustees realised that the charity could afford to feed just six classes of the youngest children (so the three Kindergarten classes and the three lower primary classes). So in 2008 these six classes were given a millet porridge breakfast which has continued ever since.
And in 2010 with the help of sponsorship by the SAGA Charitable Trust a feeding programme for the five upper primary classes began. With this extra sponsorship the Trustees were able to provide these additional classes with a maize and bean lunch every day. So from 2011 to 2015 the SAGA Charitable sponsored the entire feeding at MPS.
In 2016 thanks to the sponsorship from a charitable trust of an International Law Firm based in London the feeding programme at MPS is once again secure from 2016 – 2019.
So now in 2016 Mikoroshoni Primary School is not only committed to feeding all 300 children in the school with one meal every day, they are committed to providing a free education to over 300 children aged from 3 to 15 years, Annually the UK charity, Friends of Mikoroshoni Primary School needs to raise at least £35,000+ a year which pays for staff wages, vital equipment, food and provides a small maintenance budget for the school.
The Support Given to MPS
In recent years MPS has been supported by various companies, many different organisations and individuals who have given to further develop the school.
In 2012 The SAGA Charitable Trust made a generous donation which provided the funds to build a new classroom, a ‘small kitchen’ for the cooks, more toilets and provided the means to dig a well which now provides the school with its own clean water. Prior to this the school had to purchase their water for their cooking and drinking requirements.
Many individuals have supported MPS from the beginning and have even visited MPS and seen the progress that is being made.
Thanks to the individual UK sponsors about twenty three of Mikoroshoni’s poorest pupils have been able to go on to Secondary School. And four MPS students have successfully competed college courses and five students have been able to go to University. In fact one student is now studying for a Law Degree at the Mombasa campus of Nairobi University.
This miracle of higher education for students become possible because Trustees John Brooker and John Lloyd both joined Rotary Clubs around 2003. And through Rotary’s international connections these Rotarians were able to link up with the Rotary Club of Bahari in Mombasa. At that Rotary Club in Mombasa they met Rotarian Solomon Mutungi. Solomon, a businessman, voluntarily gives his time to organise everything to enable these few MPS students to enter higher education. Without this Rotarian it would have been impossible for the UK Trustees to organise everything needed to enable these students to go to Secondary School, College and University.
The Kenyan School System
The Kenyan system of education is totally different from the UK system and it is not possible to make any comparisons between the two systems. The Kenya school year is January to November. Children start in the first of three Kindergarten classes at the age of 3 years. They then go through eight years of primary school before taking their KCPE – Kenya Certificate of Education, in Class 8. This is a national exam taken by all primary school children in Kenya.
The Kenya system is such that the pupils in Classes 1 to 7 take their annual exams in November each year, and they have to gain more than half marks (50%) when they total up the results of all their exams. If they fail to gain at least half marks they have to stay down and repeat the year. If they fail the following year they are expelled from school.
Consequently all the primary classes have children of different ages in them and generally the earliest a pupil leaves primary school is 14 years of age. The Kenyan system then has four years at Secondary School. The earliest a pupil finishes Secondary School is 18 years of age.