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Ganze school where pupils sit on the floor, cook their own meals

By Nehemiah Okwembah | September 27th 2021

Pupils pull resources together and buy maize flour to cook in the school during lunch hours. [Nehemiah Okwembah, Standard]

Ranch Primary School in Kilifi County is a rare one. Here, pupils learn on the floor in makeshift classrooms and cook lunch in the bush.

The school in Milore, Ganze Sub-county, is located about 160km from the county headquarters, and has a population of 238 pupils and six teachers, but lacks basic necessities of a normal school.

Pupils wake up early and walk long distances to the school on footpaths.

Pupils have to endure harsh weather, currently exacerbated by severe drought, to attend classes. They often have to dodge wild animals on their way to and from school.

Samuel Mweri, a Standard Seven pupil from Madamani, arrives at school at 6:45am. He says he and other pupils walk in groups as a form of security due to the many wild animals roaming the area.

They also have to be careful, as snakes are common. The pupils are more prone to snake bites since they walk on foot through thickets. 

“Sometimes we have no food at home and hence I go back to school on an empty stomach,” he says.

He is now calling on the government to help the school get modern classrooms, desks, food, and water.

His sentiments are not different from Kitsao Fungiza from Kitswatsa Nyahi village, who says determination to acquire formal education is the engine behind his resolve to attend school despite the myriad of challenges.

Since they do not have desks, they sit on reed mats spread on the floor. “When I arrive in school I prepare my mat on the floor to check whether there is a snake or insects hiding within. There was a time I lifted the makuti to spread it, only to find a snake coiled down there,” he says.

To address the food problem, the pupils pull resources together and buy maize flour to cook in the school during lunch hours. The move has enabled the pupils to stay in school and avoid going back home for lunch.

In groups of between five and 10, each learner contributes portions of maize flour, cooking oil, and vegetables. The pupils then light fires at various spots in the thickets and cook lunch.

Ndurya Menza, a Class Seven pupil from Tinyanguo village, says ever since they started the initiative, the number of learners in school has slightly increased, and very few pupils miss classes.

“We used to go home for lunch, but many of us failed to return for afternoon classes because of the distance. We carry maize flour, cooking oil, and meat that we prepare for ourselves during lunchtime,” he says.

“We share the little we have with those who don’t have because when we also lack they help us,” he says while preparing ugali at a thicket near the school.

“On our way to school we also set traps to catch small animals like squirrels and hares that become part of our meals during lunch hour,” he adds.

Anderson Kahindi, a Standard Six, adds that one of their other biggest challenges is dealing with wind storms, especially during lessons.

“Sometimes during exams, the wind blows away the examination papers. We need proper classrooms,” he says.

John Jefwa, the school's headteacher, admits that the 238 learners are in dire need of assistance. The school has five government teachers and one from the county government.

The school was ranked number six in Ganze zone and number 10 in Ganze Constituency in the last Kenya Certificate of Primary Education.

“The pupils were missing classes due to the drought situation, but they are now feeding themselves from their small contributions,” he says.

“Initially, half of my pupils could not return to class for afternoon lessons,” he says.

Purity Furaha and Sidi Wanje, whose children go to the school, say their children do not deserve to go through what they face daily in their quest to acquire knowledge. 

Sidi says her children walk one and a half hours to the school and yet the number of teachers is also not proportionate to the number of pupils.

Ganze MP Teddy Mwambire, while inspecting the construction of three classrooms at the school, challenged Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha to tour the region to assess the situation. 

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