Activity walls, visual art, and academic excellence in Nariokotome

Activity walls, visual art, and academic excellence in Nariokotome

Reading the mid-year report from St Joseph’s Primary School in Nariokotome, I was struck by the vibrant colours on the walls and in the artwork. I assumed that this resulted from artistic talent among the staff but Denis Odongo, who runs the school, assured me that it was the children who had the talent. Input from Denis and the rest of the staff is in making sure the pupils are encouraged and supported in any talents they might have, not least art. In addition, the staff wanted to have “talking walls” so the pupils are constantly learning as they go through their daily activities. External support was brought in to realise this vision and the results are lively, colourful, and full of activity.

Academically, the school began the year on a high note. Children sat national exams for the first time and the results were outstanding, leading to a trophy from the diocese, a stream of eager parents and an avalanche of new pupils who wished to be enrolled in the school. The school is now operating at full capacity – 289 pupils, with girls outnumbering boys 154 to 135 (including the nursery). Several
pupils were admitted at top national schools in the country, and they continue to perform well in their respective secondary schools.

Behind these figures, the results, the success is a very human story of children who blossom as they eat better, have their medical needs met, are better clothed, learn and grow. I can sense the energy from Denis, even over Zoom, as he describes the effect on him, as giving him life.

He told me about the garden – worked in by many but run by a member of staff – which contributes so much to health and well-being. The school works at broadening the diet of the pupils by adding vegetables, fruits and eggs from the school garden to the basic diet of maize, beans, rice and porridge. Produce from the garden in the period includes over 500 melons, several kilos of local vegetables and 4,320 eggs. The younger children benefit from eggs twice a week.

Here is a school where the teachers, staff, parents, and management are doing their very best to make the children not only excel academically but also to develop and grow as people with good values who can contribute to the growth and development of the society.

So what are the challenges? First, as an oversubscribed school, children have to be turned away and referred to some of the national schools in the area. Second, changes in the education system in Kenya mean that the school is currently only primary, with a lower age cut off than in the past. It would be a positive to add a junior secondary section but that would require a library, a lab, more classrooms,
more funding. And the third challenge is just that. Funding. A battle every year to find the funds to keep going, funders to find, proposals to be written, uncertainty to be overcome. In all this, the support provided through New Ways is valuable, and much appreciated – but, as with so many valuable enterprises, the more consistent and long term the support can be, the better.

Daily life can be seen at St Joseph’s in this short video

St Joseph Primary School, Nariokotome – 2023 – YouTube

As with all projects we need your help to keep them going and you can support the school
through this link:
GoodHub | Support Educating a child at Primary School in Turkana, Northern Kenya

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