A living example of hope

Welcome back to school and to Term 2. I hope that you all enjoyed a relaxing holiday with family and friends, and were able to celebrate Easter with its timeless message of hope and new life. After two weeks of a holiday and conference in Kenya, Africa, I was glad to put my feet back on Australian soil, realising yet again what a lucky country it is we live in.

The main purpose of my trip was to attend an education conference for Principals of G20 Schools at the Brookhouse School in Nairobi, Kenya. The G20 Schools group comprises 20 leading schools from around the world. As a relatively small group that are not in direct competition with each other, we were able to share the joys and challenges of schoolleadership and share innovative practices.

During our time in Kenya, our hosts at the Brookhouse School arranged a visit to their adopted sister school, the Kibera School. The school is in the middle of the Kibera township, a collection of rusty and buckled corrugated iron, third-hand building rubble and shipping pallets crudely crafted together into primitive shelters. Just a few kilometres from the Nairobi CBD, Kibera is home to approximately two million people in an area of less than 10km2. This township is one of the more fortunate because it is connected to power, but it has no running water or sewage. Three or four people live crammed into a dwelling the size of a cubby house, or sometimes a dozen or more manage to exist in a ‘house’ comprising three tiny rooms.

Some of the adult population live with HIV, thus taking out a significant proportion of the available workforce, and increasing dependence on the extended family. Heating comes from an open street fire fed by salvaged bits of broken furniture, shipping pallets, or cardboard leftovers. In the colder months, the township lives under a pall of smoke, and the acrid smell of burning paint. Streets are lined with rubbish, well picked over for any remnant or morsel of food. Gutters, footpaths, grass or bitumen, as we know them, are non-existent. The compacted clay is hard and dusty in summer, a slushy mire in winter.

However, despite these apparently insurmountable problems, hope persists. Many families welcomed us into their homes. As we walked the paths we were greeted with smiles and good wishes. We were overwhelmed by the hospitality. The people in Kibera have almost no materialistic wealth that we in the Western world can take for granted, yet happiness abounds and the strong, caring and resilient community is obvious.

The Kibera School is a living example of hope. It receives little government funding, and some charity and support from the students at Brookhouse School. Despite these challenges, the Kibera School fosters high academic and social standards, actively promotes and teaches values, and allows every student to have a voice and be treated with respect. The students welcomed us with traditional singing and dancing. They are proud of their school and have dreams for Kenya and how they would fulfil their dreams as doctors, engineers, teachers, wives, husbands and parents.