Monday, August 16, 2010

Il Polei Primary School


(Il Polei Primary School’s main building)

The next day a group of us hailed a sand truck to take us up the dirt road to visit Alfred at Il Polei primary school.  It is about an hour drive, and drives through animal conservancies on the way.  Seeing gazelles and giraffes is automatic, but sometimes you can see elephants, buffalo,  hyenas and Rhinos.  Lions and leopards exist there but stay well hidden and away from the roads for the most part so I have yet to see them on the way.


(Giraffe, on the way to Il Polei)

These sand trucks are a cheap, adventurous way of traveling but sometimes the speed at which they travel over the terrible dirt roads makes me question the safety factor.  Sometimes they lurch one way or the other so far that I can feel the truck tipping over and start preparing to fall out of it/die.

Il Polei is almost completely made up of Massai and once we arrive there the little Swahili that we have picked up is even more useless than it was before (and it was pretty useless before).

The sand truck let us off in the middle of town. The walk to Il Polei primary is about ten minutes from the center of town and after getting past the concrete and stone buildings that make up the town you pass a few authentic massai shambas (a family group of huts usually surrounded by acacia thorns to keep domesticated animals in, and predatory animals out) and an intense sandy ravine that I have only seen dry. 

Il Polei is a little bit off the beaten path and foreigners are relatively uncommon.  This makes a group of wazungu travelling through quite a spectacle.   All eyes were on us.  One group of ten kids was entranced by us and wouldn’t let us pass until I had touched all of their hands.  Another child was so scared of me that whenever I looked his way he screamed and ducked for cover behind his dad.

The school itself is rather magical.  I don’t know if its just magical to me because it was a place that came out of nowhere and offered salvation for this boy, or if other people have the same feeling about it.  It is on the tall side of a hill which overlooks a beautiful valley and becomes an uninhabitable mountain just beyond the school.

As we walked up the crest of the hill some students spotted us, some of them ran away to tell their friends, and others shouted greetings to us.   We continued towards the main building and bounding towards us in full uniform with a gigantic smile was Alfred!  After seeing that smile, all of my worries went away. 


(Alfred’s best friend in Il Polei is the brother of a Daraja student!)

Alfred had been there for only two weeks so I was just hoping that he was getting along with people, getting adjusted and so forth.  I was not at all prepared for the next thing that was coming.  “I am first in my class,” he said.  It really didn't register, or I didn’t believe it.  His only complaint about the school was the food.  “We just eat Maize plain,” he said.   PLAIN?  Poor kid.

Soon he came back from school for vacation and there in his hand were his test results:  NUMBER ONE IN HIS CLASS.  1/52 STUDENTS.  This was beyond my wildest dreams.  I knew he was a smart kid but this was incredible!  Just a little bit of work turned a street boy with no prospects into the number one student in his class, out of 52!  This had a profound effect on me, and while I do not expect the same result from other kids, I cannot stand by and do nothing while they sit in the streets. 


Alfred has completed his second term at school and is STILL RANKED #1.  I am told that if he continues to perform at this level until he graduates he may be able to get a full scholarship to a good private high school!