The new school building in the village of Gazi was officially opened in August 2009. One of the scientists on the Earthwatch project Tidal Forests of Kenya, Dr James Kairo, moved to Gazi in 1991 when it was a small village with a population of around 800 people. At that time the children of Gazi village were using an old ruin which had formerly been used as a slave trade centre, but in 1994 a wild fire gutted the building, leaving the children with nothing at all.
The school was restored but still had only four classrooms, and not the nine required for a complete primary school. Dr Kairo was asked to build four extra classrooms, and with support from a rotary club in the UK, the school was relocated from the old ruin. The new classrooms were opened in 1999, but the school still lacked an administration block; teachers had nothing but a classroom in which to meet to conduct the business of running the school.
At this point the school turned to the Earthwatch scientists on the Tidal Forests of Kenya project for help with building an administration block.
Dr Kairo explains: "Our social component of the project has achieved installing piped water into Gazi village, and now the new school. The fund for these activities comes from donations from the volunteers who visit the project every year. The community has been very responsive to the new project. The building contains the head teacher's office, staff room, and an office for the deputy head teacher and school secretary. It looks very beautiful and the school and parents are very happy with it."
Lead scientist Dr Mark Huxham adds: "We are very proud to be able to contribute to the education of Gazi's children in this way, and look forward to many more years of happy collaboration with our friends and colleagues there. We know the new building is already making an important contribution to the school children. The next step is to help it become a resource for the community as a whole through providing electricity to the school."
The Tidal Forests of Kenya project is providing applied data on the potential of mangrove forests to act as ‘carbon sinks', soaking up C02 from the atmosphere, while contributing to global efforts to restore dwindling mangrove forests.
As well as this important research, the project is benefiting young people from the local community who are employed to help with monitoring activities. It is also helping to boost the incomes of local women through ecotourism activities associated with the mangroves. Staff and volunteers on the project have sponsored 13 local children through school, and the project has helped to train ten Kenyan graduates, including one to doctorate level.
Almost a year after it was officially opened, 400 children, aged eight to 14, are benefiting from a new school which Earthwatch scientists helped to build on the south Kenyan coast.