A long way from home

Amadeus Smith

Kenyan teachers discuss their country’s hardships

Editor’s note: The following stories appear as part of the Stater’s coverage of International Education Week. See the calendar below for more events that will occur this week.

John Mshiri and Marcelina Mwanjala sit in a room at the back of the main office at Overdale Primary School in Tallmadge. To most, the tiled floors, projectors and tables with smooth tan tops would seem normal.

But the two educators from Kasigau, Kenya, normally have to wet their dirt floors so dust won’t fly into the air, clouding vision.

“The dust from the earth floor can cause everyone to cough,” said Mshiri, 40.

The six schools in the Nyangala cluster, where the pair teaches, stand far from any town. In the Kenyan school system, a cluster is the smallest grouping of schools, right under zones and divisions.

The Nyangala cluster is in the Kasigau zone which contains 15 schools. Mwanjala, 39, explained that the distance from the town leaves the school without important facilities.

“It’s very remote,” Mwanjala said. “We have no electricity or ways of communication.”

What’s more, the student-to-teacher ratio can reach about 40-to-one and the teachers can’t give each student individual attention.

The schools sit between two sections of Tsavo-Kasigau Wildlife Corridor, Tsavo East and Tsavo West. Park workers often herd elephants from one reserve to the other, cutting through the villages. Although they move mainly at night, the elephants can disrupt students during the day. The elephants not only distract people but they also destroy crops and shambas (gardens). On occasion, they have trampled people in the community.

The school system has seen some positive changes though.

Most classrooms have had the floors cemented and have window shutters now.

Also, corporal punishment ended in 2004. It has actually caused some problems though. Students don’t have as much discipline now that they have stopped “caning” or hitting children with a cane.

“They use to fear the cane so they would do what the teachers wanted them to do,” Mshiri said.

The biggest change came in 2003 with a new government rule.

Children who attend grades one though eight (standard school) go for free. This is the first time money from the government is allocated for specific needs.

Mshiri said that it is hard to determine a standard amount because each school has two accounts and one of them is based on the school’s population.

“The more children the school has, the more money it gets,” he said.

The school instructional material bank account holds the funds that depend on student population. The funds go to things like textbooks, pens and pencils. There’s also a general purpose account, which holds a fixed amount of funds that go toward repair and transportation.

Mshiri studied for two years at Highridge Teachers Training College in Nairobi, Kenya. He received his P1 certificate, the standard teaching certificate in Kenya. He now teaches at the primary school in the Kiteghe village.

Mwanjala worked as an untrained teacher for two years. She attended Shanzu Teachers Training College in Mombasa, Kenya, and also earned the P1. She now teaches at Bungele Primary School.

John Mshiri and Marcelina Mwanjala will be speaking at “Village Voices,” a lecture in The Gerald H. Read Distinguished Lecture Series. It will take place at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Kiva.

Contact School of Exercise Leisure and Sport reporter Amadeus Smith at [email protected].



• “Darfur: The Worst Humanitarian Crisis”

Kenyan graduate journalism student, Don Teng’o from will speak 11 a.m. to noon in Room 315 Student Center.

• “Working with International Organizations and Projects: Insights and Opportunities for Students”

Anil Bhargava will speak from 2 to 3 p.m. in Room 304 Student Center.

• “Views of America from Abroad”

International student panel. Study abroad information will be available between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Kent State Stark campus Main Classroom Building.


• Internships Abroad

Discuss summer internships in London and other destinations. All majors are welcome from 1 to 2 p.m. in Room 309 Student Center.

• Geneva Semester information session

Learn about opportunities to study international relations and business within walking distance of the United Nations. The session will be from 2 to 3 p.m. in Room 309 Student Center.

• “Village Voices”

Kent State partner teachers Marcelina Mwanjala and John Mshiri from the Kasigau region of Kenya will speak from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Kiva. A reception will follow.


• Phi Beta Delta

Gathering will take place at 5:30 p.m. in the Office of International Affairs Cafe, Van Campen Hall.

• Cross-Cultural Orientation for Study Abroad

Learn about study abroad from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in Room 106 Van Campen.


• Geography Awareness Day

“Cartographic Propaganda: Mapping to Convince, Connive, and Contest” presented by Mark Monmonier from 10 to 11 a.m. in Room 302 McGilvrey Hall.

• Cross-Cultural Orientation for Study Abroad

Learn about study abroad from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in Room 106 Van Campen.