The schools in the Nairobi slums are frequently no more than temporary shacks built with wood, nails, and tin sheets. They are small, dark, and poorly constructed. They are seldom maintained and definitely not built to last. They quickly become run down and dilapidated.
The schools have no running water and they seldom have electricity because of the cost of connection. They rarely have hygienic toilets if they have toilets at all. Those that have toilets generally have too few for the number of students using the WHO recommendation of 1 toilet for every 50 pupils. Drains, no more than open sewers, run close next to and at times through the schools.
Slum landlords are eager to collect the rent and seldom make allowances for the cash flow problems that the schools constantly experience. The landlords resist maintaining the properties and the schools rarely have money to spend on maintenance. The result is that maintenance seldom take place, let alone improvements.
The furniture in the cramped classrooms is usually limited and in poor condition. Children often have to sit doubled up at desks or on jerry cans. Desks are frequently repaired over and over with nails poking out dangerously. There are no health and safety requirements in force in the slums, and schools do not have the luxury of implementing strict requirements. Nails poking out is not unusual and usually do not attract comment or attention from the residents of the slums.
The aim of the Porridge and Rice Facilities and Furniture program is to create a school environment conducive to learning for the pupils of each partner school.
The very first task undertaken by Porridge and Rice to improve school facilities was to install electricity at Excel Emmanuel school.
Pupils start arriving at school from 6am and classes begin by 7am.
This early, the classrooms are dark as windows are small and buildings are close together. Children are thus forced to start lessons in very poor light, straining their eyes or working by candlelight.
Aside from the eye strain that results, it is both difficult to work in such poor light and demotivating for pupils wanting to succeed.
Excel Emmanuel school now has electricity in most of its classrooms and candles are a thing of the past.
The plan is to extend electricity to all three PaR schools in all their classrooms by the end of 2015, as long as the funding can be obtained.
There are two big problems with desks.
Firstly, the desks are in extremely poor condition, and have been repaired again and again. Some of the desks were beyond repair and have had to be scrapped.
Secondly, children squeeze together sitting 4 or 5 on a desk designed for 2. Aside from being uncomfortable, there is simply not enough space for pupils to work properly. Even if no desks had to be scrapped, children would still need to double up at the existing desks.
Since the beginning of 2015, Porridge and Rice has been working to provide new desks for all three schools buying 10 at a time when the funds are available.
So far PaR has provided 40 new desks to Excel Emmanuel, 20 new desks to Glad Kids, and also 20 new desks to Lizpal. Assuming the number of pupils in PaR schools do not grow, PaR schools need another 300 desks.
Water is bought in gerry cans delivered by bicycle making it very expensive, in fact, water is 2 to 4 times as much for people in the Nairobi slums compared to what it is in the nearby wealthy town of Karen.
Relatively speaking, water is very expensive for people who earn £1 or £2 a day. The cost of water means that people do not use water for what they consider to be non-essentials like washing their hands each time they go to the toilet or before they eat.
In addition, when people do buy water, it is difficult to determine the source of the water to ensure that it is clean, and the containers in which it is delivered are themselves seldom washed.
The lack of good hygiene habits like hand washing, means that common illnesses spread very quickly with very serious consequences. For example, diarhhoea kills 1 in 5 children before the age of 5 in the Nairobi slums according to the WHO, and regular hand-washing would limit the spread of the pathogens causing diarrhoea, literally saving lives.
The same is true with water from unsafe sources that is not chlorinated. This water spreads water borne pathogens widely and quickly increasing the incidence of illness, once again with serious consequences. Safe drinking water could saves lives just as hand washing can.
Each PaR school now has a 5000 litre water tank enabling them to purchase water in much larger quantities and thus obtain better prices. This will make regular hand washing affordable and enable PaR to promote good hygiene.
The tanks also mean that water can be purchased directly from sources that are known to test and chlorinate regularly. The schools will thus have a regular supply of clean and safe water.
Porridge and Rice also built a kitchen at Excel Emmanuel when they introduced their feeding programme. In addition, the school now has a full time cook which we fund. The kitchen and cook are part of a feeding programme for the 350 pupils of Excel Emmanuel.
New classrooms at Excel