What a day!!

9 Aug

Current Issues in Kenya

  • Riots in secondary schools: Some weeks ago students of hundreds of secondary schools (class 9-12) went on strike, burnt down dormitories and refused to take exams. This led to a discussion on the education system. by the way: Caning (Prügelstrafe) was just abandoned from schools last year.
  • Water shortage: Due to a broken dam and few rainfall, water supply is unlikely to serve until the next rain period. So water supply to households was cut to 2-4 days per week depending on the part of the city you live in. Washing cars with piped water is forbidden. See the daily nation for more detail. In our house we have a tank on the roof and a pump so that we can store water for the days were the tabs are running dry.
  • Terrorism: On Thursday was the 10th anniversary of the bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi which killed over 200 Kenyans and some US-americans. I visited the memorial, where the embassy used to stand. They designed a small park where the embassy used to stand, where they display all the names of the victims and show a photo gallery. The discussion about terrorism is still going on and newspapers and politicians still see a risk.

What a day

The day started like a usual day: I got up at 5.45am, left the house before seven and after preparing a lunch package. Then I spent one hour in the traffic jam (5 km to town), walked the last 1,5 km through the Industrial Area and reached the secondary school just ten past eight.

In class 10 (Form2) we gave a lecture on HIV and especially on condoms. First I showed them how to use it and finally they all practised using a condom on a banana we had brought. At the end of the lesson we distributed the rest of the 100 condoms to the kids telling especially the boys that it is not a sin to practise at home. We could clarify a lot of myths about condoms (allergies to the lubricants, they can stay inside the women, two condoms are better than one condom…).

Form3 were very interested during the German class, they asked me whether I could explain them what the Hakenkreuz means and how the german political systems looks like. They had heard that Germany is not ruled by a president and found that an interesting approach to let the parliament rule the country. I felt pretty challenged by describing the Nazi time in just 5 minutes and at the same time passing the message that Germany can serve as a role model in regards to learning from historical events.

Generally I have the impression that our lessons in the secondary school actually make a difference in the kids education. They are rarely exposed to other cultures and beliefs (example: They simply laughed when I told them that there are people in the world who do not believe in god, because it was such an incredible idea for them) and young teachers. So they dare to ask things they would not ask otherwise and we also use “alternative” methods as group work and presentations.

Just around 10 a loud bang interupted our class. The metall walls of the school were shaking! An explosion… how far away? What caused it? Was somebody injured? I just hoped that it was not a terrorist attack. We didn´t want to panic in front of the pupils so we kept on teaching. Through the window we saw that all the primary school kids and lots of slum inhabitants were gathering outside and staring in the direction of the city center. I went outside and saw black smoke coming from the slum. A fire in our slum, just on the other side of the river, maybe around 500 metres from the primary school, around the place where we usually pass when going to the girls meetings. We went back to the classroom because we couldn´t help anyways.

After some more culture classes we left the slum for lunch at the only restaurant in the industrial are. From the bridge we were able to see the fire. 2 hours after the explosion the flames were still meters high and several houses were on fire. The fire brigades couldn´t reach the place, because the streets are to narrow. People brought water in buckets from the river. Someone told us that most probably a tank of coooking gas exploded. We were advised to walk around the slum and not through it because on such unlucky days slum inhabitants might be aggressive towards Mzungus.

In the afternoon we watched the first 30 minutes of the opening ceremony of the olympic games. Oh, please remember I have a colleague from China and one that claims to be from Taiwan (not from China!). So that caused some discussions between the girls…. Then we had a 90 minute session with the girls on “I have a dream” and how to put your live vision (e. g. dream job) into reality and stressed on the importance of education.

After the session on of the girls approached us and suggested a topic for a next session. “Everybody knows that pre-marital sex is a sin” (ok, well, I stopped arguing about that…) “but I want to stress on something else: A lot of youths engage in other activities that harm their body” (I had no clue what she was talking about) “I am talking about Masturbation. Girls use toys, such as vibrators. Please make a session about it” (I thought she wanted to promote Masturbation instead of early sexual intercourse and was not so sure whether this would be worth a session) “Nowadays we know that Masturbation makes girls infertile and boys impotent. Youths need to be educated and stop engaging in such activities”. Now I was simply speechless.

On the way back I talked to another girl. She is 19, never went to school (cannot read or write) and washes dishes in a restaurant to sustain herself and her mother who is partly disabled since she was victim of armed robbers. Her dad died when she was very young and her brothers moved away from the slum… Sounds like a hopeless story. She believes that god has a plan for her and that everything will one day make sense. To help fortune a little bit I will try to find an alphabetization course for her that she can take during the evenings.

On my way back to the city (traffic jam of course…) I had enough time to think about the day. The stigmatization of sex is obvious. I hear very often that early (meaning below 25 years!!) sex is a bad thing if not a sin. On the other hand the numbers are there… young mothers, HIV positive youths… it seems that the combination of stigmatization by the society combined with insufficient knowledge is what makes it so hard to fight the desease. (Any comments appreciated!!)

I arrived at the AIESEC office just half past seven and finally found Danny, the LCP, to talk to. While having my “lunch” I discussed what happened during the day. It feels really strange expressing everything in english and I feel really limited when I cannot express myself clearly. So talking with the other german intern helped a lot. I really feel that some of the AIESECers really do understand my issues and are interested in the topics of the slums. They share their knowledge and explain me a lot about the kenyan culture, e. g. the non-existing sex education in most families. I really enjoy these conversations, apart from joking and laughing (“Use the equipment before it gets bad” as a direct comment of one university student on my citation of “25 being the best age for first sexual intercourse” by a slum girl) it gives me insight and ideas for sessions.

Half past nine I went to my matatu stage with another AIESECer Jude (my bodyguard 😉 and arrived at home just at ten. No traffic jam after 9.30pm, yeeha!

Now I will finish writing and upload the long text (sorry, Stregi;-)) tomorrow… Good night 🙂

One Response to “What a day!!”

  1. Matthias August 17, 2008 at 5:49 pm #

    now this WAS a day 🙂
    I can soo imagine how some of the topics challenged you 😉

    cheers & rock on


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