How We Started
Our founder, Brian McIver, had prepared as best he could for a three month volunteer stint in Bamburi, near Mombasa, Kenya, in 2008. Nothing though could prepare him for what confronted him at the school and orphanage he was sent to. Children sleeping five to a bed, a school with no trained teachers, no running water, no power and not even a toilet.
Children were routinely and savagely beaten, it was obvious that the local project leader was pocketing everything volunteers brought into the project and girls in the orphanage complained of being molested by the local in charge.
Trying to get authorities to act proved frustrating and at times led to threats and accusations of “western interference”. The organistation that sent us there, a volunteer tourism company, simply responded to reports of the abuse with “we don’t get involved”. Someone had to do something.
The full story of Brian’s experience in 2008 and what led him to start the school can be read in these notes, based on his diary and emails sent during that time.
After consulting the parents of the children and speaking to some of the more concerned local teachers, Brian went back to Australia, started the charity ACTION THIS DAY and began fundraising to return to Kenya in 2010 and establish the Kookaburra Community School.
On May 10, 2010 the Kookaburra Community School opened its doors to 144 students and our journey began.
A survey of our families revealed most lived on less than 25 cents per child per day. The level of education received by parents was minimal. Although the Kenyan curriculum is delivered in English, most families speak only Kiswahili at home. Many children came to school on an empty stomach. Our children were malnourished and absenteeism through disease and illness was common.
We started our feeding program in the first year and have noticed a remarkable change in the health of the students and their ability to concentrate during classes. For most it is still the most nutritious meal of their day.
By insisting staff and children speak only English at school, we have made great strides in dealing with the language problems faced by our learners. Most new starters in the kindergarten only take one term before being able to converse adequately with their peers.
Our discipline program rejects all forms of physical, mental and emotional abuse of the children, something that is sadly, all too common still, in the average Kenyan classroom.
Every year, almost 65 percent of Kenyan children fail their high school exam. This is a damning statistic and whilst the schools always lay the blame on the students, it is clear that the level of teacher training and motivation, plus the delivery of the material, are the main causes why the students who do make it to high school (some figures suggest only half of the eligible children do) struggle to make sense of the subject matter.
The current review of education in Kenya should address some of these concerns but at Kookaburra we are already trying to teach our students to think creatively, critically and logically, to take responsibility for their own destinies and to use their education to make their community a better place.