When the rains came to the village of Sessia in the Lodungokwe location of Samburu district, Kenya, classes were always cancelled.
Previously, the nomadic school 'classroom' was virtually non-existent; just a small patch fenced round by thorns in the shade of an Acacia tree. Not only did classes have to be cancelled during the rainy season, but passers-by could enter the 'classroom' and destroy teaching aids such as the blackboard. Sometimes the blackboard would simply rot away in the rain.
Children sat on wooden benches perched on stones, and with no writing materials to hand, they relied on seeds from shrubs to form words or numbers in the earth, or wrote on the ground. Other than a blackboard and plant seeds, their teacher had little in the way of teaching aids.
All that changed in June, however, when a new classroom was built thanks to a £1,200 donation from Earthwatch and a further $1,500 from individual donors.
Earthwatch's Samburu, Wildlife and Communities Director, Nick Oguge from Kenya, said: "The new classroom will be used by children living in the surroundings and currently has approximately 40 pupils aged between three and 10 years. Since the facility has improved, the community is encouraged to send their children to the school.
"We commenced construction of the new classroom on 20th June and completed on 27th June. We built a concrete floor and used corrugated iron sheets for walling. We ensured good air circulation by making large windows secured by wire grills. The classroom is thus comfortable to use both during wet and dry seasons. It also has a door that ensures security of teaching materials. We made benches for pupils to improve comfort during classes."
The school building can also be used by the local community as a meeting or conferencing hall, and by the local government for community meetings.
"The community is very grateful," added Nick.
- The £1,200 was raised at an Earthwatch 'Evoke the Spirit of Nature' event held at the Society of Wildlife Artists' annual exhibition in London last year. The event, an art auction during which some of the society's artists donated paintings, was sponsored by Threadneedle Investments.
All photos © Mercy Mbui