Out of Africa Part Six: Schooled

Welcome Aboard!


I sat on the cool concrete of the porch and watched the sun begin to rise through the misty tree line; it was still too early for company, so I savored my cup of FabBab’s patented full-throttle sludge coffee alone in the (rare) quiet. I thought about all of the indescribable beauty we had been a witness to since arriving in Kenya, and my heart once again, began to swell with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

I was grateful to the kind people who had been so friendly and hospitable,, thankful for the villagers who welcomed us into their homes and greeted us as friends. My small-minded view bred from ignorance and fear of the unknown, had been obliterated and widened into a full-on love affair with an entire country. Feeling a dizzying rush of excitement (and caffeine), I popped up and went to get ready for the day.

Today was going to be a big one. It was the first day of our 2 day Vacation Bible School that we would be putting on for the 300 children at the village school. Our group had been split into stations and various rotations: crafts, music, 2 different games, snacks, and Bible Stories. The grand finale of day two was going to be NEW school uniform distribution. Not only had FabBab and Maestro’s charity, ThePlansHeHasForYou, raised enough money for all of the children to receive BRAND NEW UNIFORMS, they had plenty left over to ALSO buy backpacks and school supplies, each child was to be presented with their very own bundleat the end of day 2.

Lover Fo’ Life and I were heading up the Bible Stories room. Now, before you jackals get to guffawing at the thought of yours truly sharing words from any deity, I’ll calmly remind you that I am married to an Eagle Scout. See, L4L is as good as I am terrible; he’s kind, generous, and endlessly patient. His goodness and knowledge, paired with my entertaining lecture style, complement each other nicely.

Our merry group organized all the VBS supplies and began hauling everything up the hill to the Primary School, a quarter-mile away from Haven’s walls, it was 8:30am.

Nduchi Primary School has students from 4 -14 years old. Class starts at 8am, but many of the children arrive at 6:30am. Before school starts, little ones are fed porridge to insure they get at least one solid meal that day, while the teens play futbol or visit with friends. The school has very little power, no clean running water, plumbing, or any other standard comforts of public schools here in the states. Yet, the children in this remote part of the Kenyan mountains cherish their time at this primitive campus so much; they willingly get there 90 minutes early EVERY morning, just to prepare for the day and play. TEENAGERS VOLUNTARILY GIVE UP 7.5 HOURS OF SLEEP A WEEK, JUST TO HANG OUT AT SCHOOL!

With a giddiness I hadn’t felt since I was a girl, we passed through the gates and were greeted with a crush of curious smiles and high-fives. I looked at L4L and he gave me a wink. Sure, we were there to teach, but we would be the ones learning.

Popular demand.

As the children gathered for the VBS Introduction Assembly, I surveyed the crowd. Remarkably, each child was attentive and perfectly still. I’m used to wrangling throngs of wildlings at my home church’s VBS; the perfectly behaved angels before me were a bit startling. For example, take a look at the photo below. Notice how the huge group of students is able to be photographed with little to no blurs? Yeah, it’s because the school children in Kenya are incredible and refuse to waste a moment of instruction.


After a brief introduction and welcome from Ms. Janice, the children were broken up into small groups and each assigned a color and coordinating bracelet. While the group leaders from our Mission Team corralled their small groups for the first time, L4L and I went to our classroom for the next two days.

I wish I could tell you that I was delighted by the time warp 1890 school room, complete with hand-hewn benches and desks made from logs, but it was incredibly humbling. There was very little in this room, one wall was a slate chalkboard, and the others were sparsely decorated with old instructional posters and handmade maps. on the back wall were flour-sack backpacks threadbare from multiple years of use.

Assignments were completed and written on scraps of paper, whatever they had, they made do with. Impressed by their ingenuity and resourcefulness, I felt the energy of the past and present students, the room while sparse, was steeped in a love of learning.

“Hello my friends, HAHAHAHAHAHA!”

The ebullient boom of Beatrice’s laugh filled the room. Our translator had arrived and hugged me immediately.

“I will interpret as you go, please try to go slowly. Also, if there’s not a Swahili word for what you’re saying, I will explain the meaning and teach as I interpret. I’m so excited to work with you Lauren and Mace!”

There were to be 6 rotations with 30 minutes for each, taking out the children’s travel time between rotations, we had 20 minutes of quality instructional time for the kids. Kenya is a 70% Christian country, most of the kids knew the stories and scriptures included in our lectures, this meant more time could be devoted to real-life application and having fun.  Beatrice, Mace and I would have to find a smooth groove in our presentation speed,  I was nervous Nelly with legs of jelly.

An actual bell rang and a steady stream of children quietly poured into the classroom. Every desk was filled to capacity, brimming with curious kids. As many as 6 students contorted themselves to fit on a single bench.

Full house.

No wasted spaces (or anything else for that matter!)

The “tiny schoolroom” became a small auditorium; we introduced ourselves and got on with the business of class participation and inspiration. I walked around the room with a giant bag of foam heart stickers, any child who answered a question, regardless of answer got a sticker. It took about 10 seconds for the children to catch on, and soon every question was met with an overzealous hand up pleading “Teacher! Miss! Teacher! Teacher! Miss!”

Beatrice, the REAL star of the show, interpreted for little ones who were too young to understand English. She also knew most of the 300 students, and commanded respect, “Everyone quiet down and behave! You don’t even know what a sticker is,” she laughed. Beatrice then launched into a Swahili lesson in how to use a sticker. She peeled the back off of a large glittery heart and stuck it to her shirt; the kids were enchanted, even the teachers wanted in on the sticky wonder. Unless you’re a fellow enthusiast, stickers are a minor annoyance to furniture and notebooks, rarely are they given the treasured status they deserve.

“Everyone will get a sticker, there’s enough for everybody.”

It’s the simple pleasures.

Because life in the rural village is busy and depends on farming to eat, there’s little left for frivolities and trinkets such as toys and stickers.

Not an exaggeration: the stick and hoop from the olden days are still a big thing here, they make their own toys. All week, I watched a no less than a dozen kids racing through Haven’s playground with the rolling masterpiece pictured below. 

Best kids ever.

Engaged and enthusiastic, the next 3 hours flew, and thanks to Beatrice, so did the conversation!  Relieved and overjoyed our lesson went so well, I relaxed in the calm of an empty room and made a final sweep to make sure no supplies were left behind.  I made my way back to the front of the classroom, when I saw the back row desk was crammed with all the “textbooks,” the children shared. The care they had to use while reading the precious information on these disintegrated “books” moved me.

I can’t even.

These kids have so very little, and yet, they respect what they do have enough to make sure everyone has a chance to share. Treasured and tattered, these books made me cry.

With a knot in my throat, I thanked God for the opportunity to work with such fantastic students, and more importantly, I dedicated my heart to helping them in any way that I could.

Genuine happiness.


See y’all soon, I promise!

Meryl Cribsy


That’s what you always say.