News and Reviews

PROGRESS REPORT - Woodard Langalanga Secondary School - February 2013

First, the not-so-good news!

As I write this brief report in early February there is a great deal of good news and some not-so-good news to tell readers.  Starting with the latter first; politics in Kenya is now the main topic of conversation for many.  A national strike lasted about four weeks in September 2012 which affected government teaching and medical staff throughout the Republic and slowed down the education of our young students.  The effects of this were minimised as far as possible at our school but we are now faced with the forthcoming General Elections due on 4 March.  Most government schools will be temporarily closed, as they are required as polling stations.

Two of the most popular candidates for President are required by the International Criminal Court in the Hague to answer questions regarding their alleged actions that could be construed as Crimes Against Humanity following the 2007 elections.  1,133 Kenyans lost their lives and over 600,000 were displaced who lost almost all that they owned, except their lives.  All this is causing uncertainty as I type.

Now the good news!

Yes, there is much good news to relate.  120 desperately keen young Kenyans have now moved from Form 1 to Form 2 and are being taught by a number of qualified teachers. 

The attractive school uniforms are displayed outside the TTS classroom

Thanks to a large and most timely donation from TTS Group (a major supplier of teaching resources) we were able to purchase all required text books for Form 2 at the very start of term.  All government schools in a similar situation are still waiting for their government subsidies some 5 weeks after the start of term!  This is a terrible waste of children’s time and is just one factor that guarantees lower academic attainment in government schools.

Today (6 Feb 13) the new Principal of our school, Mr Paul Mbugua, is in Nairobi buying much laboratory equipment, musical instruments and sports kit thanks to that magnificent donation from TTS Group mentioned above.  I believe there is little point in providing only beautiful buildings if teaching resources are inadequate.

And there’s more!

I learned today that already over 100 young hopefuls have applied to join Form 1 next  week.  The maximum annual intake is restricted to 120 children to join the three streams of 40 per class.  Many (most?) government secondary schools have 55-60 per class.   The popularity of our school is clear for all to see.

The necessary classrooms and furniture to receive this year’s Form 1 are all in place.  Morale amongst the staff is good although, as yet, money to pay them has still not arrived from the Government!  We still need many more government-paid teachers to relieve the intense pressure on the many near-destitute parents.  Any reader who is tempted to help our parents with children’s school fees will be hugely and sincerely thanked.  ‘Giving’ details are shown elsewhere.

The forthcoming general elections have caused our project manager, Mr Mathenge, to be tempted to stand as MP of the area.  He has won the TNA party’s nomination by a landslide majority and is the front runner to take the seat on 4 March.  We wish him well, of course, but it has had important implications for the Woodard School.  Yet more ‘Forces for Good’ have been working for us and we have, today, a new project manager to carry on the work.  He is Mr Jeremiah Mbaya who will work closely with our old personal friend, Mr Nigel Trent, to complete the building of our school.  Mr Mathenge is being totally co-operative and stands ready to assist if called upon.

Remaining Elements of Work

It has been agreed that work will proceed as follows:

A: Mathenge will complete the water tower, install the submersible pump and make ready for the arrival of the electricity supply.

The tower sits on a deep rainwater 148,000l tank.  A 10,000l tank (still to be positioned) will feed water under gravity throughout the school.  The room below will be used to house garden maintenance equipment and the submersible pump.

B:Mathenge will complete the chemistry laboratory using good quality basins and taps.

The laboratory floor will be of terrazzo that is hard-wearing and easy to clean.

C: Mathenge will complete the boys’ toilet block

D: Mathenge will be responsible for the laying and grinding of the new terrazzo floors in the lab and boys’ toilets.

(All these tasks are fully funded thanks to the generosity of Woodard schools in the UK)

Under the new management of Mr Nigel Trent and Mr Mbaya the following work remains to be done:

A: Construction of the last 4 classrooms by January 2014

B: Construction of a 14 door girls’ toilet and shower cubicles by January 2014

C: When electricity has been installed, the IT laboratory will be completed and computers obtained.  The plan is to encourage e-learning and offer computer studies as an optional KCSE subject.

D: Construction of a multi-purpose hall for dining, theatre, sports (table tennis/badminton/volley ball/basketball) and chapel.  The drawings have been prepared by an architect and have been agreed.  A Bill of Quantities is being prepared and active fundraising efforts are in hand.

E: Numerous smaller tasks are planned such as honours boards, bicycle shed, computers for key staff like the Principal, Deputy, Bursar and school Secretary, additional notice boards etc

(Most of these tasks are, as yet, unfunded)

The Dream Continues!

Dreams are free, as I always tell anyone who will listen.  Why not enter the President’s Award Scheme?  (This is the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme by another name). Plans are in hand for our Woodard children to do just that.  Why not invite my hero Gareth Malone to come to our school in 2015 to teach us how to sing in a world-beating choir?  Why not aim for the stars?  The moon is too near! Why not become the best day school in Kenya for extra-curricular activities?  Why not introduce adult education at night when we have electricity?  The opportunities are endless for changing the lives and thoughts of countless people in our small area of Kenya.

Support of the Woodard Corporation and its 50 schools remains essential if we are to give Kenyan children the chance in life that they deserve…  Having been deeply involved in Kenyan education for 20 years I am convinced that innocent youngsters deserve more than their so-called ‘elders and betters’ have provided in the past.  Most teenagers are eager to learn, given the chance.  The hidden talents I see wasted on a daily basis make me weep with shame and anger.  Kenyan children are as bright as any in the world and are prepared to work, work and work to fight their way out of poverty.

Colonel Harry Vialou Clark MBE 6 February 2013

The Bursar and the school’s Secretary show me the bulk buying of food which is the

‘Produce of Vietnam’!

Words! Words! Words!  The challenge remains to make it happen.