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Issue Date:  April 4, 2008

Teacher arranges study in refugee camp

With the new academic year in Kenya underway, teacher Moses Simiyu Kalenda is once again instructing children -- just not in the place where he expected to be doing so.

Previously, he taught preschoolers at Kalaha Farm, about 250 miles west of the capital, Nairobi; now he works in a makeshift class in a displaced persons camp, both he and his pupils victims of the violence that erupted after the Dec. 27 presidential election. More than a thousand people were killed and up to 600,000 displaced.

With both his school and home razed, Kalenda sought refuge at a site in the western town of Kitale, along with many of those he had taught. (Some 1,350 teachers countrywide are believed to have been displaced.) Noting that education was not being provided for children at the start of the new term, he obtained help from the Kenya Red Cross to set up a classroom in the camp and get hold of teaching materials.

He started teaching Jan. 22. “I combine children ages 6 to 9 years; these children are at different levels, but we have to do with what we have. I keep them busy to ensure that when they go back to school they will easily catch up with their classmates,” Kalenda told IPS.

His 36 pupils attend classes from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. Sitting on the ground, books on their knees, they study a variety of subjects. Older children have joined schools in surrounding areas, while those who are younger are taken care of by two other teachers.

Kalenda says teaching has helped him cope with the trauma that ensued after the December ballot. “All of us here were busy with our lives. Then we found ourselves with nothing. ... You know, you can become suicidal -- or even mad.”

Other instructors feel mounting frustration: Earlier this month, teachers at the Eldoret camp went on strike to demand pay for having taught since January.

-- Kwamboka Oyaro,
InterPress Service

National Catholic Reporter, April 4, 2008

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