Driving down the dirt road to Thome Boys’ Secondary School, I felt excitement and a slight nervousness at the unexpected. This year the school where I teach, Girard Academic Music Program, in Philadelphia became sister schools with Thome Boys’ Secondary School in Nanyuki.
What makes Thome Boys’ School special is that the school is specifically for the brightest and most needy boys in the surrounding areas of Kenya. Imagine a school in North America where we took the brightest and poorest students, put them together in a school, and called it a center for excellence to help and push them to excel. The school is only four years old, and in such a short time it already seems to be pushing less fortunate students toward excellence.
The first thing I saw when I arrived was the construction of new dormitories and science laboratories.
I later came to find out that students previously have been living in bunk beds in the back of their classroom, and that the first year students were still doing so.
We shook hands and met with the principal, Samuel Wahome, who began to tour us around the school. There were only four classrooms, one for each grade with very few resources at the students’ disposal, but even still there seemed to be intense learning taking place.
Going into each of the classrooms, I found polite students doing their work, but you could also see they were typical teenage boys. It was wonderful to see my sister school in person, get to meet the students being affected by our fundraising efforts, and learn about each of them as they wrote letters to my students for me to take with me back to Philadelphia.
I was lucky enough to then meet and talk to each of the four PA-MOJA Bursary students. I had read their bios online and seen their photos, so it was quite exciting to get to see Kelvin, Patrick, Christopher, and Joseph face-to-face.
Kelvin Kariuki is in Form 4 (grade 12). He likes being at Thome boys because he says it’s the best place for him to pursue his dreams. He is interested in being an engineer, and said he is happy to be in a sister school with Girard Academic Music Program.
Patrick Kiiru is 16 years old and in Form 3 (grade 11). He said he likes Thome boys because he is surrounded by polite students from humble backgrounds. Patrick wants to thank PA-MOJA for helping. He hopes we continue to help because he said the Thome students are working hard and wants the Girard Academic Music Program students have hope in them. Patrick would love to see Thome grow and attract more students like him.
Bursary student, Christopher Mwangi (grade 10) likes that there are students from many different areas and that they can share ideas about culture at Thome. Christopher said, “If you think education is expensive, try foolishness, you will feel how expensive it is.” Explaining that without education one leads a hard life of casual labor at best.
Joseph Kiragu is 17 years old and in Form 2 (grade 10). He likes Thome because there’s academic cooperation among the students. He said they all struggle to be the best, but that they also help each other. For example, he’s good at math and if someone is weak at math he shares his learning strategies with him. They also use peer tutoring at Thome, which was introduced to them in Form 1 (grade 9,) but have continued it in Form 2 because they thought it was important. Joseph’s advice is that he would like to encourage the GAMP students to work hard because life requires the best.
At the end of our visit, the Thome students performed for us. Seven boys sang a Christian song to us in English and then a group of boys performed a traditional Maasai dance for us with wooden spears.
photos and story by Amanda Bankert