We have all seen pictures from remote African villages of teachers standing in the shade of a tree with kids sitting around him or her in the dust, and if they are lucky there’s even a blackboard. And we like what we see, because we see hope.
And that’s what I saw when I visited Great Dreams Academy. Don’t let the impressive name fool you, because we are only one step up from the teacher under the tree. Great Dreams Academy is actually a church in Kawangware, a neighborhood in Nairobi. It doesn’t look like much, walls and roof made of steel plates. The inside isn’t that impressive either, one room divided by rugs hanging from the roof in order to have four “classrooms”. There are a few desks, books are nowhere to be seen, because they don’t have any (or very few). What is impressive though are the students and the teacher, Edna Nyangazi. I’ve been to quite a few schools in my part of the world (Denmark), but I’ve never witnessed this kind of discipline. They were quiet when told to be, they even sang for me and the other two accompanying me, Bayollah Malesi from MYC4’s Nairobi office and Hellen Awino from SISDO, Smallholder Irrigation Scheme Development Organization, which provides financial services such as microloans. We went there to see what a little money can do.
Because money is needed, Edna doesn’t really get paid. It all depends on how much the parents can afford, some of them pay 150-200 Kenyan Shillings (app. two dollars) a months. Did I say parents? Now that’s another story, because many of the children are orphans and live with relatives. And only a few of them pay for schooling, which means that Great Drams Academy and Edna depend on charity, volunteer work and loans.
Edna teaches math, English, Kiswahili, science, creative arts and environmental awareness.
– I couldn’t make it without a loan from SISDO, Edna says, who started the school which has four classes and a fifth to come, hopefully, if a new loan is granted and a new building can be added.
Great Dreams Academy is a day school. Education begins at 7.30 in the morning, and ends at 4 PM. There’s no lunch at school, so unless the parents or relatives have made a packed lunch it’s a full day at school without food.
The biggest challenge for Edna is paying the rent. She pays 4000 Kenyan Shillings a month (app. 45 dollars). And many of the children have no textbooks.Her dream is to get a place of her own and not having to pay rent.
-I love children. My family asks me why I do it without getting paid, but the children are the first thing on my mind, when I wake up in the morning, she says.
It is encouraging to visit Great Dreams Academy, even if the school uniforms are torn and have seen better days, and the school is made of steel plates. I’m afraid that without a devoted teacher like Edna it wouldn’t even exist. So maybe it’s worth investing in. We saw that a little money can do a lot. They deserve a little more, so that their great dreams will not always be just that, dreams.