The Long View in Primary Education in Rural Kenya
It seems that is the theme of my life, at least in the past five years since I left my comfortable home and life in suburban Maryland in the summer of 2005 for a country in Central Asia that most people never even heard of. After spending over eight months in Uzbekistan I left in a hurry and barely said goodbye to my host family and the three young men I had grown close to whom I worked with side by side for majority of those eight months. I hear from one of them on occasion but have lost contact with the others even in this age of Facebook. They are all in their mid to late twenties, married and even have kids. Life continues though relationships do not. I was reminded of these lost friends and ex-coworkers when speaking with Francis, my local education counterpart this past week. We were talking about me leaving soon and he shared how sad it is and that my time here was too short. I tried to comfort him by telling him that the new Education Program Manager, Lindsey Kneuven, will do a fabulous job as she is already here going through the turnover with the team and I. Francis mentioned, yes the team will be fine and Nuru will continue but he will miss me regardless.
That’s when it hit me. Francis has been with the education program from the beginning. He has seen it grow from the baseline data we collected with Meghan through the various programs we tried with Chelsea to the choosing of the new sponsorship school approach with me and now will see the sponsorship take off with Lindsey. And he is right; it isn’t the work that will suffer. Lindsey will do a great job of helping to see the sponsorship school through and finding income generating activities to make it more sustainable and scalable. Francis and the Education Coordinators are also more than capable of moving forward with the education program. But imagine working so closely with someone for six months and then having that person leave the country so that you may never see that person again. It has already happened to Francis twice and will happen a third time this week. I reflected on how difficult this could be for him and how much I will miss him and the rest of the education team. In fact, it is sad that we worked so closely and intensely together for the past six months and then I pack up and leave the country with no certainty of coming back. Of course this is also true in the other programs, especially in the agriculture program where they have spent almost two years with Jake. Ut will be extremely tough to say goodbye not just to coworkers but to friends. Maybe you are thinking, oh, I wish I never would see my coworker again. But anyone who has worked overseas will know it is not merely a working relationship. These people you work with so closely on a daily basis have welcomed you into their community and into their homes, not as coworkers but as family. We leave behind families back in the states and basically adopt new ones, in a new country, in a new culture, which makes our newfound relationships that much more special. And now we have to say goodbye.
This is my last blog for this run here in Kenya and I am truly blessed for the experience. Lindsey is here now and she has taken over as the Education Program Manager and will work closely with Francis and the Education Coordinators to develop income generation activities and find more model schools in other divisions. A program update before I say goodbye. Last week’s video blog described a meeting with the District Education Officer that was postponed. We held it this week, though he did not show again. We were able to secure approval from the current sponsor, the area chiefs, the Division Education Officer and most importantly parents of Taragwiti Primary School to become official sponsors of the school. It is our first step, albeit a great one, towards developing a model school that will benefit the entire community.
About Thomas Hong
Leadership Program Director — Thomas has worked in education and leadership development in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Mongolia and Uzbekistan. He holds a B.A. in Economics and master’s degree in teaching from the University of Virginia and an MBA in international organizations from the University of Geneva.Read More Stories of Hope