Born Free’s Co-Founder & Trustee, Virginia McKenna OBE, recently visited Kanjoo School, near Meru National Park in Kenya, to officially open two new classrooms – made possible through funding by long-term Born Free supporters Dr Helen Pepper and Suzanne Clough.
Kanjoo High School was established in 2015 and has 86 students. Before the school was established, children from the community and neighbouring areas had limited options for secondary education. To transit beyond primary school, parents had to have sufficient money to pay for transport to distant day schools or for boarding schools.
Before Dr Helen Pepper donated funds for two classrooms – and Suzanne Clough provided a much-needed storage cabinet for books - there wasn’t enough room for the pupils. Options were limited to ‘borrowing’ a classroom from the primary school, learning under a tree, having two classes run simultaneously in one room, or submitting to the national Education Department that there was insufficient infrastructure which would lead to shutting down the school.
Virginia, Helen and Suzanne received a very warm welcome at the official opening. “The students and teacher’s joy and gratitude was so immense that even though once in a while they reverted to their local language which we couldn’t understand, the emotive reception was there for all to see and feel,” says Born Free Kenya’s Education Officer Phoebe Odhiang.
“A visit planned for one hour turned to three and yet time seemed to fly. No one knows how to show gratitude like a child and the sincerity of it all left us feeling young again especially when Virginia and Helen gifted them with notebooks, pens, wrist bands and balls. They now even have a Sunderland Football Club flag,” Odhiang adds.
Born Free Kenya has provided Kanjoo High School with text books, a cabinet to store the books, assorted sports equipment and more, but they still need a science laboratory, another classroom for Form Four students, an office and staffroom.
Odhiang adds: “As we engage further with the children through conservation and environmental education, we hope to change their attitudes and behaviours towards wildlife and reduce the negative perceptions particularly on conflict while fostering co-existence. However, without the basic requirements to attain an education, we will have poured water down the drain because we have not facilitated them with options, and that only comes through education in totality.”