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SUPPORTING COMMUNITY SCHOOLS IN THE SLUMS OF NAIROBI

Kenyan Flag

Kenya

Hujambo! Karibu sana. Habari gani za mchana?

Hello! Welcome. How are you today?

Although Kenya has only two official languages, Kiswahili and English, there are over 40 languages including Kikuyu, Luo, Kamba, Somali, Masai, Turkana, Nandi, Galla, and Suk, spoken across the country, each from a different tribe with its own customs and traditions. The many languages of the country reflect the enormous cultural diversity of the African nation of the Republic of Kenya.

Kenyan Map

Kenya was named after Mount Kenya from the Kikuyu name Kere-Nyaga (“Mountain of Whiteness”). It is on the East coast of Africa with Tanzania to the South, Uganda to the West, and South Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia to the North. Kenya is on the equator with its coast on the Indian Ocean.

Kenya has a population of 45 million with a growth rate of 2.11%. Life expectancy is 63.52 years and over half the population is 15 years or under. The literacy rate is 87.4% (2010 estimate) and unemployment is 40% (2008 estimate).

The capital and business centre of the country is Nairobi, the largest city in the country. The next two largest cities in order are Mombasa and Kisimu. The country covers 582,646 km2 of which 25,334 km2 are set aside as National Parks.

The currency is the Kenyan Shilling although US Dollars are also widely used, in fact, most banks allow customers to hold money in either currency.

Masai Men

With people migrating to Nairobi from rural areas looking for work each and every day, the slums are expanding rapidly. In addition, because of the nature of the area, it is difficult to know how many people live in the slums with estimates ranging from 3 to 5 million people in over 200 settlements in and around the city.

Assuming there are around 3 million slum dwellers, this means that 80% of the Nairobi population live in the slums and occupy just 5% of the land of the city. The slums include areas like Dagoretti,

Langata, Embakassi, Makadara, and Starehe.

The average size of a shack in this area is 12ft x 12ft, built with corrugated tin. These shacks often house up to 8 or more, with many sleeping on the floor.

It is nigh on impossible to keep living spaces clean. Soap, cleaning products and water are too expensive. Insects, bugs, rats and mice are common. Contagious diseases spread easily.

Child disease and mortality rates in the Nairobi slums are nearly double that of children living in suburban areas in the rest of the city with children dying of dieases that are rare and minor in the West. For example, 1 in 5 children dies of diarrhoea in the slums before the age of 5 when ORS treatment costs no more than a few shillings.

Only about 20% of the slums have electricity as the cost of connection is too high. Water is very expensive and is frequently not even clean. Few people can afford to boil the water to make it safe, so instead, most people simply drink the water without boiling it and thus risk illness.

There are few toilets with one latrine (hole in the ground) shared by up to 50 shacks, and little or no water and soap for hand washing. Diseases such as malaria, cholera, and typhoid are relatively common, the direct result of the open, fetid sewers creating breeding grounds for bacteria and mosquitoes.

Not only are living conditions poor but the unemployment rate is at least 50% (probably quite a lot higher), locally brewed alcohol is very cheap around KES10 a glass, and many women turn to prostitution to support their families. Some of the poorest people in the world live in the slums under some of the worst conditions in our world.

Despite the poverty and deprivation of the slums, Kenya is a very beautiful country with a great deal to offer the visitor. Kenya’s largest source of income is tourism with most people coming from around the world to see the wildlife of parks like the Maasai Mara and Amboseli, and important natural sites like the Rift Valley.

Maasai Mara is a large game reserve in South-Western Kenya, contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The Mara-Serengeti ecosystem covers 25,000 km2 across Tanzania and Kenya.

The "Big Five" (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and black rhinoceros) can all be found in the Maasai Mara. Sadly, the population of black rhino is under serious threat with less than 40 animals surviving.

The population of lion, leopard and cheetah are exceptional. The wildebeest are the dominant inhabitants of the Maasai Mara, and their numbers are estimated in the millions. Around July of each year, they migrate North from the Serengeti plains in search of fresh pasture, and return to the South around October. The migration is an outstanding natural event.

Amboseli National Park is smaller than Masaai Mara. It is 392 km2 in size at the core of an 8,000 square kilometres ecosystem that spreads across the Kenya-Tanzania border.

The park is famous as being the best place in Africa to see large numbers of free-ranging elephants. In addition, it offers spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

Amboseli has an endless underground water supply filtered through thousands of feet of volcanic rock from Kilimanjaro’s ice cap, which funnel into two clear water springs in the heart of the park. The park protects two of the five main swamps that result, and includes a dried-up Pleistocene lake and semi-arid vegetation. Amboseli National Park is the second most popular national park in Kenya after Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Both Masaai Mara and Amboseli lie within the impressive Rift Valley where the ancestors of modern humans evolved. Finds near Kenya's Lake Turkana show that hominids such as Homo habilis, around 2.5 million years ago, and Homo erectus between 1.8 million and 350 000 years ago, lived in Kenya.

After tourism, agriculture is the major source of income and jobs for the country. It exports products like tea, coffee, and fresh flowers to Europe. Where water is available, Kenya’s climate is excellent for agriculture but the jobs it provides are hard work and pay is low.

Kenya's climate is tropical along the coast becoming milder further and further inland. The country is very sunny and hot by European standards. The hottest time of the year is February and March which herald the arrival of the long rains.

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