Items filtered by date: July 2016

NAIROBI, Kenya, July 28, 2016/ -- More than one million trips have been made using Uber (www.Uber.com) since our launch in Kenya’s capital in January 2015. Added together, that’s roughly eight million kilometers, or enough to go to the moon and back ten times. Those trips didn’t happen on a space rocket though - they happened right here in cars on the streets of Nairobi, with more than 1,000 local drivers earning money as a result.

The reason we offer such good value prices is because our advanced technology means there are fewer minutes wasted for drivers. With Uber, drivers don’t sit idle in a queue waiting for their next passenger. And they don’t travel as far, or as often, with an empty car.

Now we want to get even more business for our partners - by dropping prices by 35%. After years of experience, including in cities like Lagos in Nigeria, we have learnt that price cuts boost demand so more people request more rides with Uber, meaning drivers spend more time earning.

It’s a virtuous cycle. We can keep prices low for everyone, while maximising the amount of time drivers have a rider in the back seat.

Nate Anderson, Uber’s General Manager in Kenya, explains, “We are committed to making Uber the most affordable and safest option to move around Nairobi. Our experience shows us we can make that happen while making Uber the best way for drivers to earn. This also means riders can ditch their car keys and travel with Uber more often. For some it will make Uber cheaper than owning a car. This means fewer cars on the road, less traffic, and fewer issues trying to find parking.”

To help drivers using Uber, Uber has also partnered with Total to provide some great deals on fuel. This partnership allows Nairobi driver-partners to receive a great discount off every litre of fuel and as an added extra they can get a power wash for KES200.

“We believe these changes will help, but while the city adjusts to the new prices, we are putting in place minimum payment guarantees for drivers to ensure they don’t lose out. And if the amount they make on the road isn't what we expect, we’ll reassess this price change,” says Nate Anderson.

Uber is all about making sure people have a safe, reliable, affordable and convenient way to get from A to B. With these changes, Uber hopes even more people in Nairobi will let Uber help them get where they need to be.

Old fares vs New fares

  • Old uberX fares: KES 100 base, KES 60 per KM, KES 4 per minute, KES 300 minimum, KES 200 cancellation
  • New uberX fares after Price Cut: KES 100 base, KES 35 per KM, KES 3 per minute, KES 200 minimum, KES 200 cancellation

Press Release from Uber

The kitchen sink tap was wide open. Beneath it was a sufuria (cooking pan). A few seconds later, there was enough water in the sufuria for ugali that would satisfy the appetites of two hungry adults. My friend Mulhat wasn’t a big ugali fan so I knew that I would end up consuming most of it. But she was crazy about the sukuma wiki (kales) that I had just prepared so we both had an equal stake in the upcoming dinner. Besides, both of us absolutely adored the fried beef she had cooked earlier that day.

As I watched Mulhat pour maize flour into the boiling water, I started thinking about the millions of other homes in Nairobi that were at that moment preparing meals whose primary ingredient was water. This set me thinking – how much water does Nairobi, Kenya’s huge capital, consume in a day? Is this water being depleted or replenished wherever it comes from? Is my own water consumption sustainable or extravagant?

‘I hope you are thinking about me,’ Mulhat said as she served chunks of fried meat on two brand new white plates that I had bought the previous week thanks to her prodding. She felt that my plates belonged to the National Museum of Kenya and that it was time for a new generation of plates. And cups.

‘I am thinking about water,’ I answered as I reached for a glass of water.

Even as I drank the clean, potable water in the glass, my mind crawled back to a report that I had read earlier that morning entitled, ‘Securing Water, Sustainable Growth.’ Published by the University of Oxford in 2015 and written by an International Task Force, the report disclosed that the total cost of water insecurity to the global economy was US$500 billion annually. In light of this, the water that Mulhat had just used to cook ugali; the water that I had just drank from my ageing glass; the water that made food, farming and industry across Kenya and elsewhere in the world possible, was costing our world US$500 per year by its insufficiency. In other words, lack of water was severely denting the global economy.

Further compounding water scarcity is the fact that for millions of people, even the available water is unfit for their consumption. The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation revealed in a report that ‘at least 1.8 billion people world-wide are estimated to drink water that is faecally contaminated.’ For these millions of fellow human beings, water is not life because the water they consume can and does lead to death.

Even as millions of people continue to be weighed down by the burden of water scarcity or contaminated water, millions others consume it in unsustainable and extravagant fashion.

As I enjoyed every bite of my dinner, I found myself wondering if I was in this category of people whose water footprints are all over the place.

‘You are an absolute master in cooking sukuma wiki,’ Mulhat told me as she re-filled her white plate with Kenya’s favourite vegetable.

Apart from feeding forty million Kenyans, sukuma wiki and agriculture as a whole plays a fundamental role in Africa’s economy by providing six out of every ten jobs on the continent. Because it is heavily dependent on water, Agriculture gulps down 70 percent of all water consumption in the world every year. That’s huge. Without that water being available, Mulhat wouldn’t be able to enjoy my world-famous sukuma wiki.

The beef chunks on my white plate also had their own water footprint. The half a kilo that Mulhat had so deliciously fried in black pepper and garlic had taken 6,800 litres of water to reach my white plate. This number may seem exaggerated but it takes into account the water needed to grow the grass and food that nurture the cow in its short life before it ends up in a slaughterhouse, a butcher, a newspaper wrapping and eventually my white plate.

Since she doesn’t appreciate the ageless splendour of ugali, Mulhat arose from the sofa and sashayed to the kitchen to fetch a few slices of bread. She made a beef sandwich and insisted that I take a bite. The loaf of bread from which she had fished a few slices had required about 908 litres of water to produce.

The astounding water footprints don’t end there. That small bag of French fries that does a lot to satisfy your hunger needs 45 litres of water before you can hold it in grateful hands. The soda that you will most likely drink alongside the chips needs 6,800 litres of water before it can end up in your warm hands.

Water is indeed life. We mostly seem to notice this when it quenches our thirst from a glass. But for every bite of food that we take there are litres of water that were used for that food to reach our hands. Given the fact that most of the food consumed in the United States is processed, the average American family consumes about 2,100 litres of water per day. This is more than one hundred times the 19 litres that an average African family uses per day!

One of the unfortunate reasons why water consumption in Africa is considerably low is that about three quarters of households in sub-Saharan Africa fetch water from a source away from their home. Every effort must be taken to take the water to these households. In the same vein, Americans should drastically reduce their water wastage especially in their diets. It is not enough for them to conserve the water coming from their taps. They need to eat food that doesn't deplete water due to the sheer volume of water needed to produce and process it.

My white plate was finally empty. My stomach was full. I reached for the glass of water beside the plate but it was empty.

Water is a finite resource.

I was at it again with Mumo of course. This time round in Baringo, on a mission to mentor high school students on a vast number of issues. In order to aid their transition from high school to tertiary level of education accompanied with resilience in tackling societal difficulties such a sex in relationships at their age and career choice and development.

I was sitting next to the plumb, dark, pot bellied man who wore a grin to let me know he was the driver and my companion in the matatu till we reached our destination. I experienced a quality inherent in all drivers; the travelling made them so talkative and so knowledgeable. History and other vital information was brought to my attention about sites such as Lake Naivasha being a fresh water lake and that people mistook it for Lake Elmentaita because they were both rift valley lakes and they were not very far from each other. The shimmering blueness of the waters at a distance accompanied with the vegetative fence was proof enough that water held life in high regard and in return offered a delight to the sight of many.

Topics were switched without my knowledge and at some point I found myself comfortably agreeing that clandestine relationships led to wastage of wealth. “Too many consumers, lead to the hurried depletion of money, a resource which is very hard to get a hold of” he explained confidently with a scorn to emphasize the point. This he did as he offered me roasted maize, water and many edibles he bought by the road side with me in mind

Throughout the journey I wished I were a robber, because by the time we were getting to Nakuru, which is where we would board the next Matatu to Baringo, I knew how much wealth my driver had, and where it was stored.

We assembled in Nakuru in order to wait for every other Peace Ambassador coming from the East, the West, South and Northern Parts of Kenya to ensure Ngubereti Secondary learned lessons with everlasting value.

Peace Ambassadors Kenya, a youth led organisation which was established in the year 2012, to ensure peaceful coexistence among communities was the host organisation. This organisation adopted various strategies in implementing its vision; one of them being the mentorship of the remotely placed high schools. The programme which pairs a high school and a university student or a professional with similar interest, works to ensure students who are exposed to a myriad of challenges feel like they are part of a bigger Kenyan picture. The programme is currently in three schools, one in West Pokot, Lamu and Baringo.

For the two full days of mentorship and the three arguably greatest nights in the history of Peace Ambassadors Kenya, I managed to mentally record stories to make this blog post interesting and informative enough. First it was our arrival which had the word adventure written all over it. It was raining heavily, which we came to find out would happen throughout our night stays. During the daytime, the sun would suck dry all the water making an attempt to reach the roots of the scarcely populated vegetation. The hot sun gave everyone a permanent tan that is usually difficult to spot on a melanin engulfed skin, but this was not the case, dark became darker.

The newbie’s came packing, reminding everyone of a form one student and a freshman reporting to school or university respectively for the first time. This was a ploy by the veterans to make fun of them since they had no idea of what transpires during our visits to the schools for mentorship. Three to four t-shirts with one bottom is enough

Just like the case of Mau, mattresses were laid on the ground but there would be no exploring on this rainy night rather, the participants made use of this time to catch up, play board games and to make unnecessary noise just to annoy introverts. A hot meal of sukuma wiki, ugali and meat was served officially allowing every individual to decide how their night would end.

Baringo is a lovely county, with very hospitable and very loud people who straight away notice that you are new in the area but become very helpful. The number of acacia trees and shrubs that cover the bare rocky land gave clues of the climatic condition of this region. Sisal does very well here. The presence of the equator monument near Ngubereti Primary school added to the number of clues about the weather of this region.  

The first official day of connecting with students came, received with a compulsory shower to the few who thought the morning dew and chill could not penetrate the traces of blubber underneath their skins. The morning circle which is a well preserved tradition of Peace Ambassadors Kenya, allows individuals to make known their expectations, disappointments and their inspirations in joining the mentorship programme. It is at this point that individuals introduce themselves by mentioning, where they are from, their full name, and the professional course undertaken in the institutions of higher education.

We all got a chance to meet our mentees. My mentee is called Judy Korir, a gracefully tall and slender form four girl with a beautiful face and aura about her. I met Judy last year and she made clear her passion for travelling, which was sparked by the only trip she has ever been on; National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi. Ever since then she has been dreaming of visiting Eldoret for reasons she is not aware of, “Probably it is because I will be meeting my destiny of bathing in luxuries over there” said Judy amid laughter that had an indication that she was not serious nor obsessed about luxuries and the thought of it was enough for her.

She also wanted to become a doctor but was afraid the lack of access to information would deter her dreams. This was a school that did not have a television to show what was happening outside their school. The school did not have the capacity to purchase newspapers neither did it have even the smallest collection of literature to fill the eager minds with knowledge. I asked Judy whether she knew any female leaders; the response I received was disheartening as she gave me a straight “no”.

We got to have interesting times with our mentees, it started with photos which were shared on social media immediately and after the visit. We enjoyed sessions of team building exercises and challenges with the most innovative and creative team emerging as the winner. These sessions allowed our minds to be refreshed for yet another session of intimate discussions for the different sexes. Sexual and reproductive health and rights are was the topic of discussion allowing the girl and boy students separately to speak openly about the challenges they face on a daily basis both in school and at home.

I am a woman so I only know of what girls were taught. Various mentors spoke of the dos and don’ts when it comes to handling the down-town madam who is also known as the vajayjay. We used all sorts of names on the vagina to make it fun and in order to reduce the awkwardness that comes with this topic; it also becomes our free pass to getting access on the issues that bother them. We equipped them with information they would need in case, God forbid, they were raped.

We hypocritically discouraged sex and recommended it for marriage, yet at the back of our minds we are aware that engaging in sex should be a personal choice. The remoteness of the school; makes it easy to impart such knowledge on delicate subjects such as premarital sex or sexual orientation. We mainly capitalize on what they know and reduce the amount of new information coming to them. This is usually a risk we are willing to take, however, we remain reachable on phone when a tough one comes knocking.

The evenings were made official by the heavy nimbus clouds, announcing what would befall the land for the better part of the night. New games were invented for each night we spent in Ngubereti Secondary School however poker prevailed and on the last night an improvised dance ceremony.

With that said and done. We left the place feeling like we deserved a second life for giving a feel of importance to persons who felt undeserving of such a visit. We will not be allowed in the school next term, no one will, orders from the government, leaving us with the option of visiting in 2017.

Green Note

While in Baringo, I saw the Prosopis Juliflora shrubs that didn’t stand out in any way until I learnt that the  Cummins cogeneration Company is seeking to generate 11.5 MW worth of biofuel from them. If this works out well, then Baringo will be one of the few places in Africa where energy is literally grown!

Wasini Island, Kenya’s South Coast – He looked at his empty hands, as if they were responsible for the lack of fish that afternoon. He was waist deep in the warm, salty waters of the Indian Ocean. His wet hands had just finished running through a large ten-metre net that four fellow fishermen, together with him, had left in the ocean to trap fish.

Lililoandikwa halifutiki,’ he muttered under his dry breath as his calloused left palm wiped sweat from his wide brow. Literally translated, these words mean that ‘what God has written cannot be erased.’ In other words, if God had pre-determined that they would not get fish on that particular day, not even the best nets in the words could deliver fish to them.

Later that night after the Isha’a prayers, Mzee Hemed (Mzee is Swahili for old man) was expressionless as he sipped kahawa tungu (Swahili espresso). It was his favourite beverage and ordinarily, its very intake would have put him into a cheery mood. But tonight, just like the previous night and the night before that, fish was on his mind. Or rather, lack of fish.

‘I have been fishing for more than thirty years now,’ Mzee Hemed tells me in a voice so low that I find myself leaning forward on the small wooden table in order to catch his words better.

Musa the restaurant’s owner and waiter shouts from the counter a few metres away if we need refills of kahawa tungu.

I shake my head, eager to listen to the ageing fisherman.

He started fishing in the early eighties when I was less than ten years old. He is still fishing. But the similarities end there since back then, the Indian Ocean was bustling with fish.

‘I always used to find fish in the net.’ He has a faraway look in his glazed eyes, ‘always.’

‘But these days, it is as if the fish are playing hide and seek with us.’

Mzee Hemed is saying in simple words what science is now concluding through hard facts unearthed from years of research. Last year, scientists from the US, France and France wrote research paper that shed further light to the hide and seek game that Mzee Hemed is referring to.

The Paper was titled, ‘A reduction in marine primary productivity driven by rapid warming over the tropical Indian Ocean.’ The paper’s abstract noted that, ‘future climate projections suggest that the Indian Ocean will continue to warm driving this productive region into an ecological desert.’

To be continued…

Last month in June, DHL, (www.dpDHL.com), the world’s leading international express delivery provider, completed another landmark transportation project with the delivery of a black rhino from its birthplace in the Czech Republic to its natural homeland in Tanzania. Three-year-old female Eliska was moved to a natural park in Tanzania as part of an ongoing conservation project run by the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust, aimed at helping endangered animal populations to grow and prosper in their natural habitat.

“The delivery of Eliska to Tanzania continues a proud tradition at DHL Express of supporting international animal conservation efforts,” said Ken Allen, CEO, DHL Express. “We were very excited to have the opportunity to transport this beautiful animal home to Africa and to play our part in these critical efforts to help revive endangered Eastern black rhino populations. Complex projects like this, where failure is simply not an option, also allow us to showcase the power of the DHL global network and the expertise of our certified international specialists.”

Eliska’s move was overseen by an international DHL team, comprising around 40 specialists inareas ranging from ground transportation and aviation tocustoms clearance and certification across more than five countries. The 900 kilogram female was transferred from ZOO Dvur Kralove in the Czech Republic, where she was born in 2012, tothe main DHL European Hub in Leipzig, Germany. She was then loaded on to a dedicated 28-ton Boeing 757-200 freighter, specially modified for animal transport, and flown more than 6,500 kilometers directly to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania, from where she was transferred by truck to her new home. Along the way, she was accompanied and monitored by a team of support staff, including Dr. Pete Morkel, one of the world’s leading black rhino veterinarians. Five containers of food and water supplies were also loaded for the journey.

“We were delighted that DHL was able to support us with this project, as we were only prepared to entrust Eliska to partners who could absolutely guarantee a safe and seamless move,” said Tony Fitzjohn OBE, Field Director, The George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust. “Having the support of anexperienced team of international transport specialists allowed us to focus without any distraction on the comfort and well-being of Eliska and to ensure that she had the best possible introduction to her new life in Africa.”

Eastern black rhinos are one of the most endangered mammal groups, with large-scale poaching in the late 20th century leading to a significant decline in black rhino populations in Africa. There are estimated to be about 800 in the world today. ZOO Dvur Kralove, where Eliska was born, has a strong record of breeding Eastern black rhinos, with 43 calves of the species born to date.

“Eliska’s departure is a bitter-sweet moment for ZOO Dvur Kralove. We are sorry to say goodbye to one of our much-loved animals, but at the same time, we are extremely gratified to have played a part in this important conservation project and excited to see how she adapts to her natural habitat,” said Přemysl Rabas, Statutory Director of ZOO Dvur Kralove. “The build-up to her move to Tanzania has involved years of careful preparation, and we are sure that – with DHL – sheis in the right hands for the journey.”

DHL has supported a number of major conservation projects in recent years, including the delivery of three black rhinos from the U.K. to Tanzania in 2012 and the delivery of two rare Sumatran tigers from Australia and the U.S. to London Zoo in the same year as part of a breeding program. A 2013 project to transfer two giant pandas from China to a Belgian sanctuary resulted in the ‘perfect delivery’ in June 2016, when the female gave birth to a panda cub.

Hennie Heymans, CEO, DHL Express Sub Saharan Africa adds, “As facilitators of global trade, it’s fantastic that we can use our logistics expertise for such an important conservation project, and we trust that Eliska will flourish in her new home in Africa.”

This was a press release from DHL

NAIROBI, Kenya -- The healthymagination Mother and Child Programme — launched in March 2016 by GE (www.GE.com)  and Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship (www.SCU.edu/MillerCenter)  to address maternal and child mortality by supporting African social entrepreneurs operating in the health sector — has taken the first big step toward achieving its objective: selecting the first group of social enterprises that will receive training and mentoring.

After a rigorous evaluation process, 17 social entrepreneurs from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia were selected to be in the programme’s first cohort and are currently attending a three-day, in-person workshop in Nairobi, Kenya. This kick-off event packs core business lessons into a powerful three-day event facilitated by senior-level Miller Center mentors and GE business leaders. It is designed to help the social entrepreneurs acquire business fundamentals, improve their strategic thought processes, and articulate a business plan that demonstrates impact, growth and long-term financial sustainability.

“Social innovations and entrepreneurs in the health sector have in recent years yielded sustainable solutions to some of the world’s biggest health challenges,” said Jay Ireland, GE Africa president and CEO. “It is for this reason that the healthymagination Mother and Child programme is focusing on training and mentoring social entrepreneurs working on increasing the quality, access and affordability of maternal and child health in sub-Saharan Africa, thereby enabling more women and children to experience better health.”

Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., executive director, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship said, “Despite major gains made globally in maternal and child mortality, the levels in sub-Saharan Africa remain unacceptably high. This GE and Miller Center collaboration takes an innovative and highly practical approach to  combatting this challenge, by providing African social entrepreneurs with the skills and resources they need to expand the positive impact of their interventions.”

“We are excited to work with our first cohort of social entrepreneurs to improve mother and child care in Sub-Saharan Africa.  This program builds on GE’s strong track record in bringing innovation to emerging markets while increasing positive health outcomes,” said Robert Wells, executive director of strategy for GE’s healthymagination commitment.

The initial workshop will be followed by a six-month, online accelerator programme, where mentorship will be provided by high-profile Silicon Valley-based executives who have themselves undergone mentorship training by Miller Center. This accelerator and mentorship programme will culminate in a “Premier Pitch” event in Africa where the 17 participants will present their respective enterprises to an audience of potential investors.  

This training and mentoring that blends Silicon Valley entrepreneurial principles with venture impact investing utilizes Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) methodology, which has been proven and refined through 12 years of working with more than 570 social enterprises worldwide. Participants will also be introduced to GE’s portfolio of products; hence they will gain specialized support and training on technologies and resources for the maternal and child health sector.

In alphabetical order, here are the social enterprises selected for the healthymagination Mother & Child programme—along with the countries in which they operate and the social entrepreneurs leading them: Access Afya (Kenya; Dr. Daphne Ngunjiri); ayzh, (Kenya; Habib Anwar and Zubaida Bai); Health-E-Net (Kenya; Pratap Kumar); Hewa Tele (Kenya; Steve Alred Adudans); LifeNet International (Uganda, Burundi and DRC; Stefanie Weiland); Live Well Social Enterprise Business (Zambia; Charles Kalonga); Lwala Community Alliance (Kenya; Julius Mbeya and Ash Lauren Rogers); Nurture Africa (Uganda; Brian Iredale); Outreach Medical Services (Nigeria; Dr. Segun Ebitanmi); Peach Health (Ghana; Cobby Amoah); PurpleSource Healthcare (Nigeria; Olufemi Sunmonu); SaferMom (Nigeria; Adeloye Olanrewaju); Telemed Medical Services (Ethiopia; Yohans Emiru); The Shanti Uganda Society (Uganda; Natalie Angell-Besseling); Tulivu Imaging (Kenya; Matthew Rehrig); and Village Hopecore International (Kenya; Anne Gildea). 

Press Release from GE

When Britons delivered a verdict that their country should stomp out of the European Union, the UK’s market sneezed and the world caught a cold. Sort of. Although this cold hasn’t quite reached African countries, analysts say that this may happen. If it does, then Africa’s fight against climate change may be one of the casualties.

Jean Devlin, the Director of Africa Analysis, at Control Risks explains, “Ultimately, the impact of Brexit for the continent will be defined by the global agenda in the coming months. As political risk has increased in the traditionally safe havens of Europe and with the election in the US later this year, there is less scope for international cooperation to address issues of particular relevance to African countries such as peace and security issues, development, impacts of climate change.”

Britain may indeed be too busy worrying about its new identity to focus much attention on Africa’s climate change adaptation struggles.

In the middle of the disorder of an informal settlement, accompanied by musty scents from the never ending sewer in the labyrinth of the drainage trenches and hips of solid waste that occasionally harbour human waste in the name of flying toilets, lies a troubling environment. This honourable oasis had renewed the hope of the inhabitants of Mukuru Kayaba, sending most minds and bodies reeling at its sight. It had this effect on the most of them who were comfortable in iron makeshifts and could only see stone buildings in DJ Afro movies.

Mukuru Kayaba is one of Kenya’s well known informal settlements found in Nairobi. It is said informal settlements mushroom out of the ground to offer cheap labour to industries and nearby middle class settlements. This was the case with Mukuru Kayaba, it is located in the heart of the industrial area of Nairobi, and is home to thousands of people that provide cheap labour to dozens of nearby factories.

In the middle of this slum lies Mukuru Primary School. Since 1985, this school was the only source of formal education for both adults and children from Mukuru slums.

Mornings in Mukuru are characterized by hasty movement of workers making their way to industries on foot in order to save their meagre wages. As their parents eke out a living through any means necessary, children are often left to their own devices. Many end up in idle existence at best and violent crime at worst. It is against this backdrop that Mukuru Primary School strives to offer invaluable education.

Over the years, the school has managed to nurture great talent that includes Vincent Ateya of Royal Media, Eunice Mwende a nurse at a prominent hospital, Jeff Muli a sports journalist, and Catherine Wanjiru a leading advocate and renowned feminist.

The year 2007 was the year that saw the flimsy structure that had for a long time supported what was called a school for the longest time get dismantled by hammers and indignant glances from users who were fed up. Students used to enjoy the rainy seasons the most, the iron sheet roof would put an unexpected end to long boring classes, giving them time to share stories from home about a battered wife, about the marriage of a drop out, about a foetus found lying in the clogged drainages. The iron-walled structures also made it easy to avoid punishments as they could easily spy on teacher through gaping holes in the walls.  

By the time the school was receiving a face-lift, it had been providing both education and food to thousands of children. The school had become an asylum where children from tough homes had their anger mollified through child play and the tales of Aladdin and the gini. The school had also become a safe haven from social evils such as drug abuse, sexual abuse, early child marriages, and robbery.

The face-lift gave the school a new face - storey buildings neatly arranged to allow for the brief playing ground that could only be utilized for catching the 10 am sunshine. Hoarding untold stories from both students who represented their parents’ view of the whole matter and the teachers who did not have the slightest idea of how it got there.

During my last visit to the school I met John who stood in a corner outside his classroom as the other pupils played happily. John was a class eight pupil and at his age he ought to have been engaging in the same manner of play. The thought of a bright future crossed his mind, evidenced by a microscopic smile that would be dismissed the moment it tried to mess with his intelligence. His hand slipped to a plastic Rosary given to him by his mum. The only parent he and his siblings had ever known.

When I asked John why he chose to isolate himself, his answer was soft and hesitant, “a lot is at stake for me to pretend I needed to play for the mere reason of being a child.”

His mind was focused on securing one of the highly competitive scholarship slots. Eighty students had to compete for the only two scholarships that were available. These scholarships were offered by local corporates like banks plus both local and international donors..

Despite the efforts of these children to perform, very few transitioned to the next level of education. The stone building had turned well wishers against them. To an outsider, the school was now a state of the art and therefore its students had changed with the changing times as well. The truth of the matter was that these pupils still had to put up with the darkness that came with poverty.

The reduced number of scholarships was one of the benefits trampled underfoot. In addition, the health of the students was threatened by diarrhoea and other water borne diseases from the poorly managed drainage that often resulted in sewage mixing with drinking water. The emotional well being of these students who are forced to adapt to situations that extend into their adult life is wanting as well. All these alarming conditions have made the stone building in the middle of Mukuru Kayaba a mockery or is it the copper snake that people look at and assume wellness.

This building has left residents wondering whether the success of education is evaluated by improving structures or by improved overall quality of education.

This is the plight of John the class 8 student. If he doesn’t get one of the two scholarships, he will move from life beyond the glittering school structures will be mired in the slum’s squalor.