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A school in the wild where learners sit on stones and learn under trees

By Standard Team | January 18th 2016

Baringo, Kenya: There are no classrooms. There are no desks. But there are many children at Nachurur Primary School in Tiaty, Baringo County, dying to get an education — the only thing that can help them wriggle out of the grinding poverty they were born into.

It is a few minutes past noon and the last lesson just before the lunch break is in progress at a little-known school in Tiaty Constituency. While other Class One pupils may be wondering when the government will bring the free laptops promised, pupils in this school have more grave worries. They have no classes, desks, black boards, chairs, and their biggest headache is the snakes.

Welcome to Nachururu Primary School in Baringo County. The deputy head teacher, Nelson Mmutkel, says the school has only two teachers employed by the Teachers Service Commission, two by the county government and three are paid by parents.

On the day The Standard on Sunday team visits the sun is blazing hot; the pupils are uneasy and impatient, they cant wait for the lesson to end. Kiporit Kukat, in the makeshift nursery, desperately struggles to shield his head from the scorching sun using an exercise book.

His tiny cracked feet, like the rest of his classmates’, are covered in thick red volcanic soil giving evidence to the long distance they have to walk daily.

The ‘desks’ which are basically huge stones, are neatly arranged and each pupil knows his or her spot. Shockingly, this school, which present its first class of KCPE candidates this year, has been around for eight years. “Class concentrate. We are almost done,” teacher Domoki Shedrack tries to calm the uneasy and impatient 20 nursery children as she scribes on a makeshift blackboard.

And as if that is not enough trouble for the poor pupils, their lessons are also disrupted several times by a herd of cattle grazing at a nearby bush. At one point two bulls were fighting and the eager minors could not help but enjoy the ensuing fight.

“Look, look,” the pupils whisper to each other in local dialect.

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Interestingly, the school, situated more than 150KM from Kabarnet town at the boundary of Turkana, Baringo and Samburu counties, is the only school with children up to Class Eight in the area. The next school is Amayan Primary school, more than 15kms away, which goes up to Class Three.

“You see these empty stones, they are empty chairs. The class used to be full but some pupils have since dropped out due to their nomadic lifestyle and others gave up after the school feeding programme stopped,” says Shedrack, who has been a teacher at the school, since it was established in 2008 through the help of PAG Church.

Being the founding teacher, he has seen it all. The trees that have dried, the pupils that have left you name it. About 200 metres from the nursery, Class Two pupils are winding up their Kiswahili lesson. They are also under a tree surrounded by green bushes.

Lemerokel Katupel, a pupil, tells us about their number one headache. “Before we begin our lessons every day, we check under our ‘desks’ to ensure there are no deadly snakes hiding. This term alone we have killed three snakes,” says the pupil innocently. “When you go back to Nairobi tell the government  to come help us kill these snakes,” he says.

Nearby, Class Three and Four have a rough time concentrating as the two teachers appear to be competing who’s the loudest.

So how does one differentiate the classes?  The direction they face. Class four faces West while class three face the opposite direction-east. “This is a unique learning environment, one classroom and two blackboards. Each pupil knows the arrangement. If you are in Class Four, your board is located to the West while the other class is the opposite,” said Clarrison Loshatolei, a volunteer teacher says.

With that arrangement, it is a comedy of sorts as pupils are expected to concentrate in their class despite the obvious distractions.

Loshatolei who was teaching Class Three at some point cracked a joke during his lesson and it was so funny, all the nearby classes burst into laughter.

“We are used to this but what do we do? We have to continue teaching these young ones,” the teacher says.

Last year, Action Aid, an international NGO constructed another permanent classroom bringing the number to three. Standard eight, Seven, Six and five are under a single roof and enter through the same door. Despite the many hurdles they face, it is amazing how the children travel as far as 16KM daily and back and going daily without meals, as they strive to pursue education.

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