Briton's 'chalk and dust' love takes him to Londiani school

Roger Hollingworth in class at United Soy Secondary School in Kipkelion East constituency. [Nikko Tanui, Standard]

Between January and June every year, 80-year-old Roger Hollingworth travels from Doncaster in the United Kingdom (UK) to volunteer as a Physics and Computer teacher at United Soy Secondary, a day school located in Londiani ward in Kipkelion East constituency.

The former UK Ministry of Defense official said he first fell in love with teaching at the age of 51.

He started his teaching career by teaching Physics to cadet forces and students at Royal Grammar High school, a public school based in Wycombe.

“After retiring from the ministry of Defense, where I had worked for 26 years (1966-1993) I thought it would be fun to try teaching. I was inspired by my father, who was also a teacher,” said Hollingworth, a former principal scientific officer at the UK Ministry of Defence.

After teaching British high school students for 10 years, Hollingworth, decided in 2002, at the age of 60, to explore the world by travelling to Kenya.

The widower’s move followed his childhood expeditions to different parts of the world, where he travelled to Venezuela, the Indian Himalayas, Kazakhstan, and Tanzania.

In January 2003, Hollingworth travelled to Kenya as a volunteer teacher at Marinyin High school located at Finlay’s tea estate.

“My travel followed a chance meeting with the then Marinyin High School Principal, John Maritim, whom I had met in the UK in 2001, following an invite by British Council to encourage links between Kenyan and UK teachers,” he said.

What originally was to be Hollingworth’s two-year stay in Kenya, turned into four years.

During the period, the Briton decided in 2006 to acquire property in Londiani, which borders tiny United Soy Secondary. Here, he constructed two classrooms.

“In 2008, the school management told me that they had a shortage of teachers. I agreed to volunteer and taught three subjects; mathematics, physics, and English. That is how it got me going here,” said Hollingworth.

Hollingworth said he finds Kenyan students interesting, keen, attentive, and enthusiastic.

“The Kenyan students are more disciplined than their UK counterparts. It makes teaching more pleasant. I have been lucky to have a chance to teach Kenyan students,” he said.

The volunteer teacher said there isn’t much difference between the physics taught in the UK and Kenyan schools.

“The Kenyan physics syllabus is the same as what I learned when I was a high school student a long time ago. It’s quite interesting that there is no major difference,” said Hollingworth.

He nonetheless pointed out that, unlike Kenya, UK teachers have moved from PowerPoint to more advanced teaching technologies.

“I enjoy thumbing textbooks and using markers and board to teach my students. I find it easier. Getting students to write down what is on the board is also a learning experience because they think about what they are writing,” said Hollingworth

Hollingworth, who holds a visitor Visa, disclosed that he has hired a teacher who takes over his subjects for the six months he is usually in the UK.

“I bear the cost of paying the teacher, who also doubles up as a computer studies teacher because I want my students to receive valuable secondary education, which will be beneficial to them,” he said.

Hollingworth revealed that he plans to teach until he is old. 

“I had planned to stop teaching when I turned 75 years, but the need for my services has persisted every year,” he said.

Hollingsworth also said besides volunteering at the school, he is also involved in the infrastructural development of the school.

He noted that he receives financial support from his friends and members of his local St Mark’s in Grenoside, in Sheffield

“I contribute Sh200,000 annually to the school. I have done this for the last 10 years. It is a fulfilling thing,” he said.

Further, he spends close to Sh2 million to sponsor nine students who are pursuing certificates, diplomas, and degree courses in various institutions in the country.

Hollingworth said though he is in love with Kenya, he still loves the UK.

“I applied for Kenyan permanent residency status four years ago, but I have never been called for the final interview. I have given up,” he said.

Philemon Ole Paro, the United Soy Secondary School principal said he is glad since Hollingworth has been of great value to them, noting that they have a shortage of teachers.  “Though he is a volunteer teacher, he goes out of his way to teach the students. His dedication to teaching is unmatched,” he said.

Ole Paro thanked Hollingsworth for purchasing 30 computers and laptops, which has seen the school the only school in the area offering computer studies. 

The Schools Parents Association chairman, Ben Siele, said parents and teachers were indebted to Hollingworth for his support.