For many the school run involves bundling the kids into the back of the car and driving them a couple of miles to school and back each day. In the northern territory of Kenya the story is very different. Children as young as four walk up to 10km through the wildest bush-country to school each morning and return home just before dusk each day, after which they have to help bring in the cattle and help milk the goats.
We first became aware of the plight of these children when, on a safari in 2001, one of our guides’ daughters was killed on her way home from school. A snake, trying to escape the talons of an eagle, slithered past the girl and bit her on the ankle. Although her classmates ran for help, she died before she reached hospital.
Ntalabany (pronounced Dalaban), part of the Ngare Sirgoi community, is a very remote village at the northern end of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (www.lewa.org), itself one of the oldest conservation areas in Africa. Young children from the village had to walk many kilometres to school each day, as the village had only a rudimentary classroom for a few of the older children. Many children never actually went to school (their families living the life of only semi-settled pastoralists) and those that did were exposed to all that the African bush has to throw at them. Something needed to be done.
On our next trip to Lewa, we met the chief administrator of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and made formal plans to donate funds to build a new feeder school at Ntalabany and sponsor teachers from the local area to staff it. At a meeting with the elders a financing and building plan was established. In early 2003 we were treated to the official opening of the new school. The whole village welcomed us and celebrated the occasion with traditional dances, slaughtering a goat, tribal prayers and speeches.
Since then Ntlabany has grown to a fully fledged primary school with over 300 pupils and 10 teachers. But the enthusiasm for learning has outgrown our ability to support it. The school is in need of more classrooms, teacher accommodation, a kitchen extension, desks and learning materials. We would greatly appreciate your help in providing better learning conditions to for girls and boys of Ntalabany. Any small amount will help.
Many thanks for your time and interest. We will keep you updated about the developments of Ntalabany on our upcoming website.