Teaching in Kemgesi

Finger millet stores.
Finger millet stores.

On Thursday afternoon we left Mogabiri for the 3 hour drive to Kemgesi, passing through Tarime on our way for a quick lunch. We drove through some intermittent rain storms and arrived in Kemgesi in the midst of a constant rain drizzle at about 5:00 p.m.  David Maganya, Lynelle’s host father, met us at the road and directed us to the house in which we would be sleeping for the next two nights.  From out of nowhere hot spiced chai, mandazis (donut-like bread) and chapatis (flat-bread) welcomed us!

A few minutes later Lynelle Leinbach and Jenna Ramseyer greeted us at the door. They have both been given local Ngoreme names – Lynelle is Bhoke (honey) and Jenna is Mkame (one who milks cows). As we walk through town people shout out Bhoke and Mkame as everyone knows them in this small town of about 3000. (They are like milk and honey!).

We enjoyed dinner the first evening at Lynelle’s house and turned in for an early bedtime. The following morning we met Lynelle in town (at her host mother’s store) for a breakfast of chai, mandazis and chapatis before heading to Lynelle’s school where she is teaching English to Form I students (9th graders). Lynelle walks to school each morning and teaches for 1 1/2 hours.  Her afternoons include doing lesson plans and preparing for the next day. We met the headmaster of the school and some of Lynelle’s teaching colleagues. The students are so eager to learn and Lynelle is doing a great job.

After observing Lynelle, we drove across town to Jenna’s pre-primary school.  Jenna’s walk to school is about a 40 minute walk from her home, which she does 3 days a week. The school was built on the compound of someone’s home as a means to offer more educational opportunities for Kemgesi children. Jenna spends the morning there from about 8-11, then the students go home for lunch and return in the afternoon.  Her teaching colleague, John, teaches the students in the afternoon.  During our visit Jenna used songs, pictures (which she drew) and the chalkboard to help the children learn English. It was a vibrant, energetic lesson and it was obvious the children enjoy school!  They chased our landrover half way back to town as we left!

We visited Jenna’s host family for a scrumptious meal of goat stew, potatoes, rice, bananas and chai. Her family lives in town and her father enjoys farming in Kemgesi, having retired from work in the construction industry. It was a lively lunch with discussions about farming, cross-cultural interactions, and how we should keep eating more of the wonderful food (ongeza! – add more!). We enjoyed a quiet afternoon catching up with Lynelle and Jenna, which included a hike to the top of the ridge above town affording a great view of the sprawling grasslands below the village. Jenna and Lynelle showed us their sisal volleyball net they made in their free time – quite impressive!  Sisal is a local plant that is traditionally harvested to make very strong rope – they impressed us with their resolve – now they are starting the challenge of making a volleyball…

Lynelle’s father, David Maganya, hosted us for dinner again.  David is working to open a museum in Kemgesi that can assist in preserving and celebrating the Ngoreme traditions. He has also been instrumental in working to establish a community center in Kemgesi which would include a library and internet access to increase educational opportuinties for students in Kemgesi.

Jenna and Lynelle are happy and doing well – they inspired us with their initiative and with the relationships they are developing in Kemgesi!

-Ryan for the team