Checking out newly built classrooms, handing out hundreds of pieces of stationary and sports kit, providing study support and impromptu renditions of ‘500 Miles’ were all embraced as 12 Trent College students aged 15-18 visited its two partner schools in Kenya in July.
Since 2004 the Trent College community, including The Elms Nursery and Junior School and Trent Parent Association, has raised over £20,000 to support education and infrastructure projects at the rural Nyacaba Primary School and Gowan Mount View Academy, situated near Thika, about 50km northeast of Nairobi.
And the Trent College students saw how those funds - invested in vital structures such as toilet blocks, furnished classrooms, a kitchen at Nyacaba and a 40,000 litre water tank at Gowan Mount View, plus learning resources, books and an extensive tree planting programme - are helping transform the lives of local young people.The latest Nyacaba classroom under construction will help the school halve class sizes from 80+.
Trent first assisted Nyacaba over 20 years ago, with the school growing from a small makeshift classroom in 1993 to now educating over 1,000 pupils. Trent extended its support to Gowan Mount View after the Academy was established six years ago.
Mr Magnus Cowie, Trent College Deputy Head Pastoral and Kenya Schools Partnership lead, believes it is important students see first-hand how the school’s community fundraising efforts are making a real difference on the ground.
He said: “Nyacaba Head, James Njuguna, said the school is performing very well, with good academic results, and they attribute much of this to the Trent partnership. This is a very dusty, rural area so building classrooms with concrete walls and floors and planting trees have a big impact on creating a much more pleasant environment for learning.
"Many of the pupils walk up to three miles to and from school and the provision of the kitchen enables them to have two nutritious meals a day, which was also uplifting to see. Through spending time in the schools and with the families, talking to pupils, parents and staff about what education means to them, our students connected what we do in school to the human impact it has thousands of miles away.
“They now need to pass on their passion for the partnership’s work, and the personal lessons they learned about making a positive contribution to the lives of others, engaging with the wider global community and building relationships, back at school to keep fuelling the fundraising to continue helping our partner schools.”
The Trent students got a taste of Thika life by visiting the homes of some of the Kenyan pupils and also joined the local pupils in outdoor games, including volleyball, netball, sack races and apple-and-spoon races, before leading their hosts in mass sing-a-longs of the ‘Lion Sleeps Tonight' and '500 miles'!
The six-day schools visit followed four days at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in central Kenya learning about innovative, sustainable conservation.
Here students met Sudan, the last remaining male northern white rhino, Baraka a blind black rhino, and social media sensation, Diego the Belgian Shepherd, from the reserve’s anti-poaching dog unit. They also herded cattle through tick spray and planted yellow acacia trees, as the bark is a delicacy for elephants and rhinos, before visiting the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and Giraffe Centre in Nairobi too.
The tour ended with a walk in Karura Forest, just outside Nairobi, which was saved from developers by Nobel Peace Prize-winning conservationalist, Wangari Maathai.