A safe return to school includes more than avoiding elephants this year in Ndunyuruma Village.
The community is located between the lush green slopes of Mount Kenya Forest and the wildlife flats of northern Kenya. At the village center is Ndunyuruma Primary, a small block of classrooms where 53 students between the ages of 7 and 15 years are now very happy to be back in class.
Behind the small school is a dusty field defined by a goal post at each end. Next to the school sits a single-roomed wooden building with an iron sheet for a roof, which serves as a staff room.
Back in Class
It’s a typical sunny day, as strong winds carry the thick dust across the field and into the windowless classrooms, leaving a fine, red film on each desk, book, and student. An enthusiastic teacher reads text as students follow, turning the pages of their textbooks in unison.
Kennedy, a 13-year-old in class 6, is one of those students who is enjoying a safe return to school.
For Kennedy, school is not just about learning and education. It is what he looks forward to each day, and his primary source of excitement and recreation.
Hazards Loom Large
Kennedy leaves home shortly after sunrise each weekday, ready for the 30-minute trek to school that will take him across homesteads, down narrow animal tracks, and past dusty seasonal river bed. While he tries not to arrive at school too dusty, his main concern is something much bigger: Elephants.
Because Ndunyuruma School sits in the middle of an open wildlife migratory corridor, encountering elephants on his walk to school is something Kennedy has learned to expect.
“When I come across an elephant on my way to school, I simply hide in a nearby homestead until they wander a safe distance away. Then I continue my walk – but it becomes important to move faster so that I will not be late for my classes,” Kennedy explains.
Leaving Calling Cards
The power of elephants is evident at his school. Tanks that provide safe water – installed in 2018 by Food for the Hungry (FH) Kenya – are marred with deep cuts and dents created by the elephants’ tusks. That’s because the massive mammals have visited the school in search of water.
Kennedy has adapted to sharing his space and, at times, his morning walk with elephants. So have his parents, teachers, and fellow students. But a challenge even bigger than elephants has changed their lives recently.
That difficulty came in the form of long-term school closures, made necessary by the threat of COVID-19 infection.
An Unwanted School Break
When schools closed in March 2020, some of his classmates celebrated the prospect of a long school holiday. Not Kennedy. He recognized that the early break would mean separation from friends, learning, and the activities he enjoys.
It was a sad walk home for Kennedy that afternoon when the government ordered all schools to close. He didn’t like the uncertainty of not knowing when he would be able to return.
Although schools offered online classes, that wasn’t an option for Kennedy. His parents are day laborers, which meant that the smartphone he needed in order to continue with his learning was financially out of reach.
Sponsorship Provides Safe Return
But Kennedy is a Food for the Hungry sponsored child, and that made help possible. In addition to receiving hygiene supplies to keep him and his family safe, Kennedy was connected with a student who was a grade ahead of him.
They came up with an offline idea. The friend agreed to help share what he was learning with Kennedy, so he could keep up with his studies.
Child sponsorship has helped provide the materials Kennedy and other students need to continue their schooling, whether at home or in classes. Having the tools needed to succeed is part of what makes going to school such a pleasant experience for Kennedy and others in his community. It’s why they say they wouldn’t dream of not finishing their education.
Happy to Be Back in Class
Schools have now finally reopened, and Kennedy says he is thankful to be back to his familiar daily, elephant-dodging walk to and from his classroom. FH provided hygiene materials including masks and other supplies to help keep him, other students in the community, and teachers safe for the return to classes.
Kennedy says he is overjoyed to be in the fun learning environment that he missed for many months. He says he is so excited that he is even looking forward to his end-of-term examinations.
A Way To Help
Please pray for Kennedy and other sponsored children now returning to school. Ask God to keep them, their teachers, and their families safe and make it possible for them to continue their education to help them escape poverty.
For more ways to pray for sponsored children: