Getting ready to begin a new school year? Students in Kenya are returning for their third trimester. Kenyan students begin their school year in January and is broken up into three trimesters. Students are not required to attend school nor is education free as it is in the United States.
I taught math, English, and physics at Chamasiri Secondary School while I was a teacher in Kenya. This school had four classrooms – one for each grade, Form 1, Form 2, Form 3, and Form 4 (the equivalent to our 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grades). Teachers traveled from classroom to classroom instead of the students going from room to room. The Form 1 class had 60 students, Form 2 had 45, Form 3 had 30, and Form 4 about 12 students. The class sizes became smaller as the grades continued on simply because many families could not afford the school fees.
A typical Kenyan student’s school day would go something like this…
|7:00 – 7:30||Students arrive at the school and begin quietly studying.|
|7:30 – 8:00||Parade – announcements for the day. Similar to home
room or an assembly in the US.
|8:00 – 8:40||Period 1|
|8:40 – 9:20||Period 2|
|9:20 – 10:00||Period 3|
|10:00 – 10:40||Period 4|
|10:40 – 11:00||Break|
|11:00 – 11:40||Period 5|
|11:40 – 12:20||Period 6|
|12:20 – 1:00||Period 7|
|1:00 – 2:00||Lunch|
|2:00 – 2:40||Period 8|
|2:40 – 3:20||Period 9|
|3:20 – 4:00||Student Preps (Study Hall)|
|4:00 – 5:30||Games (sports – all students participated)|
Kenyan students study ten different subject areas. You can see they spend the bulk of their day at school. Some of the students have over an hour’s walk or run home where they do chores at home and hopefully manage to find some time to study before it gets dark. Most families do not have electricity and may not even have a lantern or candle for their children to study by.
Chamasiri Secondary School had some of its male students board at the school. They had dinner from 5:30 to 6:30 and then were to study in one of the classrooms from roughly 7 pm to 9 pm. The school supplied a lamp for the boys to use. They would hang it off one of the rafters of the ceiling. Sometimes, I would join them and do my preparations and correcting for the next day.
Most rural schools in Kenya do not have a lot of money. Consequently, there are very few textbooks for the students to use. I had seven math texts for my Form 2 class and 14 for the Form 1 class. To circulate the textbooks among the students I would give them to the students who had the best grades on the previous exams. This worked out very well and the books changed hands quite a bit. I don’t think the students with the books knew how to use them to their advantage and the students without the books would work hard to get the books for the next chapter. Anything the students needed to know was put up on the chalkboard and the students copied it down into their notebooks. The notebooks became the students’ textbooks.
Toward the end of each trimester the school would begin to run out of money for supplies. The paper, exercise books, and chalk would run out. When this happened, the trimester would end a little earlier than expected. I bought and kept my own chalk, marker, and paper supply at my house so I could keep teaching as long as I could. Unfortunately, things can tend to be corrupt and all I can say is that the headmaster had a pretty nice house.
Kenya has some very hard working students and teachers who do their best with the few resources they have. I enjoyed teaching in Kenya even if the rain came down so hard and loud on the corrugated tin roof that sometimes I had to stop teaching my class.