15 August 2016, a group of four friends are celebrating remarkable results after 20 years of being introduced to Mikoroshoni Primary School (MPS) in Shanzu village near Mombasa, Kenya. What started as an opportunity to make a small difference in the lives of a few has resulted in a school providing free education and a free meal to almost 300 of the areas poorest children. Little did the holiday makers realise that a trip to Kenya would become a mission for the rest of their lives.
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. As both couples came from an educational background, they jumped at the chance to view a local primary school and were shocked to see a small shack open to the elements that consisted of six benches and one dilapidated blackboard. (See photo attached).
John Brooker commented, ‘We were shocked to find that this was a school for 130 children. Primary education in Kenya was not free at that time and the parents had to pay fees to employ a couple of teachers to teach their children to read, write and do maths. We asked the teacher what we could do to help and her answer was simple, she just wanted a solid roof before the rains came. We wanted to do something to help.”
John Brooker continued, “Over dinner that evening we decided to forego some of our holiday excursions that we had planned to do and use the money to pay for a roof. So before departing Mombasa we left enough money with our tour rep to get a corrugated iron roof placed on the school.
John Lloyd commented, ‘‘So for the rest of our holiday and on the journey home, all of our thoughts and discussions revolved around how we could raise money. It was then that we decided we needed to go back again to Mombasa the following year to continue our support for the school.’’
On 1st March 2000, “Friends of Mikoroshoni Primary School (FMPS)” was officially registered with the UK Charity Commission and the four friends became the founding Trustees. Over the years the Trustees have raised funds to cover every day running costs but also to carry out building work to expand the school and its facilities. Every August, the two couples would return for three or four weeks to oversee these projects. On retirement the couples started to visit the school twice a year. Now as the four friends enter their early 70’s, the time has come to hand the baton on to ensure the school’s long term future. The Charity now has 10 Trustees, all of whom are younger than the four original Trustees.
In 2005 a team from England and Ireland raised the money and travelled to Shanzu to construct a two storey concrete block building and to complete the construction of all the other classrooms. This effort resulted in nine new classrooms; a head teacher’s office, a library and staffroom as well as some firsts in the school which included running water, flush toilets and electricity.
“This building work completely transformed MPS. Before this transformation progress was slow because the four of us would take money out to Kenya every August and we would organise local builders and labourers to do a certain amount of construction work in the 2 weeks we had available. But once this major work was completed the school was unrecognisable. In fact, the children had to be taught how to use the flush toilets because they had only ever used ‘long drop’ toilets,” said John Lloyd.
In 2008 the head teacher informed the Trustees that a boy had collapsed in class because he had not eaten for three days. As teachers, the Trustees knew that children couldn’t concentrate if they were hungry. Funding was tight but in late 2008 they managed to begin a limited Feeding Programme that provided the 3 Kindergarten classes and the 3 Lower Primary classes with a millet porridge breakfast. The finances would not stretch to feeding the 5 Upper Primary classes as well.
However in late 2009, the SAGA Charitable Trust sponsored the 5 Upper Primary classes with a daily meal of maize and beans. From 2011 to 2015 the SAGA Charitable Trust sponsored the entire Feeding Programme for MPS. And since April 2016 the MPS Feeding Programme has been sponsored by Eversheds, an International Law Firm based in London. Eversheds has secured the MPS Feeding Programme until 2019, which means that MPS can provide a daily meal to just fewer than 300 pupils.
John Lloyd commented, “The FMPS charity now also gives each child a bag of flour to take home at the end of each school term. The children are so excited to be given this flour because it provides about 12 meals for their families. The smiling faces of the children is something to behold, it gives me a big lump in my throat every time I witness it.”
Thanks to individual UK sponsors and sponsorships from The Peter Carr Charitable Trust 23 of Mikoroshoni’s pupils have been able to go on to Secondary School. Of these 23, four MPS students have successfully completed college courses and five students have been able to go to University. In fact one student is now on a 5 year course, studying for a Law Degree at the Mombasa campus of Nairobi University.
Without MPS and the free education on offer, these College and University Students from extremely poor families in Shanzu may never have completed Primary School let alone go on to Secondary School and College or University.
The miracle of higher education for MPS students only became possible because John Brooker and John Lloyd joined Rotary International. It was through Rotary’s international connections that they met and became very good friends with Solomon Mutungi of the Rotary Club of Bahari in Mombasa. Solomon, a businessman, voluntarily gives his time to organise everything to enable these few MPS students to go to Secondary School and to enter higher education.
John Brooker commented, “Without Solomon’s support, further education opportunities for MPS students would have been impossible to organise from the UK. Solomon has been our linchpin, a real champion for our students. We can’t thank him enough for his support.”
The UK charity, The Friends of Mikoroshoni Primary School, needs to raise at least £35,000+ per annum to cover all wages, equipment, food, and school maintenance. MPS is a non-fee paying school offering a free education and daily meal to all their pupils.
John Lloyd said, “As Trustees we pride ourselves on the fact that over 98p in every pound we raise for MPS goes directly to the school.” The charity still needs supporters if the school is to continue to run and develop. We are looking for individuals who can sponsor a child for just £40; which is the total cost to educate one child at MPS for an entire year. It’s really not a lot when you compare it to the budgets of schools here in the UK.”
John Brooker said, “Looking back over these 20 years I am amazed at what we have managed to achieve. We couldn’t have done it without the sponsorship we have received over the years from various companies, organisations and individuals who have given so generously and selflessly to support and develop the school. MPS wouldn’t be thriving and changing the lives of generations of children without the fantastic support we have received over the years’’.
“The Friends of Mikoroshoni Primary School”
The Friends of MPS is a small non profit UK registered charity (1085334). It is based primarily in Middleton, Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire UK. It has grown from 4 Trustees in 1996 to 6 Trustees in 2008 and now has 10 Trustees in 2016.
MPS is also looking for organisations, Corporate Sponsors, Businesses of any size, Charitable Trusts that can support the development of MPS for the benefit of future generations in the Shanzu community of Mombasa, Kenya.