Tyler: Kibera, KiberaFebruary 16, 2009
Today, 8 of us made our way to Nazarene Primary School, located in Kibera. I cannot say for sure whether I was more excited or dreading my first trip to Kibera. With the stigma of being “Africa’s largest slum area,” it can be quite intimidating. On the other hand, I came here to really get my hands dirty and stick myself into precarious situations in hope of gaining both insight and personal strength.
Feelings in check, we hopped on a matatu by Prestige (mall area), paid our 10 shillings and stepped into a far cry from poor. The first thing I noticed was the stench. It was like wet, rotting garbage. The next thing that hit your senses was the sight, which was wet, rotting garbage. The entire ground seemed to be made out of a packed mixture of muck, plastic bags, old shoes and your standard, run-of-the-mill garbage. Sanitation is not in Kibera’s dictionary. Within this foul mixture of soil are drainage troughs that carry the disease-laden water down the slopes of Kibera. This water was brownish-grey and carried stray garbage with it on its melancholic journey downward. In addition to the soil troughs funneling this effluent down hill, people were digging in it with their bare hands and kids were playing in it with sticks. They had no restraint when it came to coming in contact with with the grungiest water I have ever seen. However, this did not concern the children of Nazarene Primary School, an affiliate of Nazarene University.
When we stooped through the tiny door and made our way into the ramshackle schoolyard, kids’ faces ignited with smiles. They ran up to us, took our hands, asked not for money, but, “How are you, sir?” It did not matter if you were talking to them; they would clench your hand so tightly and became your shadow until you had to leave their presence. When you did engage a child and say the magic word (“hi”), they would look around at their peers and smile with a smugness that said, “He said hi to ME!” If talking with them was such a joy ride, imagine taking their pictures. When I whipped out my outdated camera, they would all say, “Piga Picha,” and I would oblige. When I showed them the “picha” I took of them, it was like Christmas came early. It was so amusing to watch them gaze at their own image. I’d have to admit that I was just as amused.
The whole reason we went down there was to organize times that we, MSID volunteers, are able to make our way there and assist the teachers with the over-packed classrooms that are giving them the skills that might get them out of the slums one day. At this school, Christian Religion Education (CRE), math, science, social studies, English, and Kiswahili are taught. I will be teaching CRE 7 (7th grade level) and math 7. They are simplifying algebraic expressions, so I think I will be able to handle the material. I may like it enough to do it for 4 days a week, but I had better not over-commit myself if time becomes a hot commodity here in the upcoming weeks. I don’t know though…I mean, every class that I went into today, I was met with applause and shouts of joy. One class asked if they could sing me a song! I could not even begin to tell you why they were so happy. My only guess was that they were honored that I, a mzungu (white person), would be coming to Kibera to teach them. Not trying to sound ethnocentric, but that’s what it seems like. It would be sad if that were true, because those kids should be proud to have the teachers that they already have there. Those teachers are volunteers, which makes it so endearing to see them, addressed mister and madam by the students, come in daily and not think twice about it. Doesn’t make us look as great as we were made out to be today. I mean, we are only going to be there for three more weeks, then off to our internships. I can only hope that help finds these kids. They possess the courage, strength and attitude that should amount to something great. And yet, Kibera…