As for my students, a disappointment.
Though prearranged, neither of my students let me know of their final exam results. These are important, marking the end of four years of secondary school. Everyone looks forward to hearing and there was excitement around Harambee House as students began calling in their successes. Students had done well. Everyone was proud. I eventually found out both my girls received B-, great, but shy of a government grant for further education. When corresponding with these two girls over their school careers, as their sponsor, I stressed that what counted for me was their effort.
Anne has not returned my calls, nor those of Joel who knows her family and spoke to Anne’s mother in Kiswahili. I had arranged to meet her once the marks were announced and after I had finished my work interviewing the new Form 1 students. I thought she could show me her view of Kakamega; we could chat, get somewhat more relaxed than we weren’t on our first meeting, have lunch and explore her future.
Ann came by two days ago. I have already posted her final, obligatory letter to me written in December, her last month in high school. She knows I am a farmer because of our correspondence over the last four years and she enthused then about her passion for agriculture. Two months later she wants to train as a laboratory technician. I can understand this vacillation all too easily. But there was no preamble, no interest in my life, no talk of her’s, just papers placed on the table with expectation that I might pay. I told her this was my sister’s profession. Blank. Not a single question. I tried again: ‘Cheryl was one too, she worked in a hospital and also taught laboratory technology.’ Blank. Try again: ‘Ann, do you know anything about this job, what it means to work as a lab technician? How ‘bout going next door and talking with Cheryl? Find out what is involved in actually being a lab technician.’ She would not. Apart from my letters, Anne doesn’t know me so I can understand a certain reticence but she has been helped by Cheryl and Rebecca, the Harambee manager, over her school career. For us to get to know each other I suggested we meet at 9 am the following day (she chose the day but at 8 am) and as she said she lived far away, 20 minutes by bus, I understood her concern and said I would cover her transport both going and coming and for the day’s outing. I pointed out that she did not live nearly as far from Kakamega as I did and that likely I’d not be back. I left on my own for town the next day about 10:30 am. Joel tells me Ann came by at 11 am.
I leave wondering about her side of this account. Perhaps life for most in Tanzania and Kenya is such a struggle that there is little room for the luxury of interest in much beyond the immediate; I keep bumping into this. But then Joel, who opened the gate for Ann, tells me he noticed she had approached the Harambee Centre from the opposite direction from her home and with a young man in tow; she also left heading away from home. Ann is twenty years old and is now two months free of the responsibilities and restrictions of a Girl’s Boarding School. * Joel saw the math, one plus one.
This week the father of a new From 1 girl came to the office to return his daughter’s scholarship. All girls have medicals before enrolling in Form 1 (Grade 9) in their new schools and his daughter is ‘heavy’, is pregnant. He had leased out his land in order to get the money for her personals and school supplies. The only solace Rebecca could offer this tearful man was to purchase these supplies from him for a replacement student.