My first day at school

Madaraka Estate Travel Blog

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Madaraka Primary School, Madaraka, Nairobi.
 Woke up at 6am to get washed and ready for my first day working at Madaraka Primary school. I had to be there for a 7am start.

I left the house and it was very cold. I had washed my hair and the cold wind and wet hair combination was icy. I walked around the corner to where the number 15 matatu departed from.

A matatu is basically a 16-seater Nissan mini-bus which takes passengers from place to place. It is usually covered in brightly coloured grafitti and stickers and flashing lights - and the music played inside is often so loud that you can barely hear yourself think!

I alighted from the matatu at Madaraka Estate having paid my 20Ksh. I walked the 5 minutes into the Estate and found the school I was to be working at.

The deputy headmaster, Peter Iraki, was waiting at the entrance, and I introduced myself.
My classroom, Madaraka Primary School, Madaraka, Nairobi, Kenya.
He took me to his office to find out if I had been briefed on what my role at the school was to be. I told him I had no idea but that I would like to work with children who needed extra help with their studies - special needs children.

He told me he would first introduce me to some of the children. He took me into the pre-school unit, which is the class for the really young children, and introduced me to around 30 five-year-olds. He left me begin some teaching.

I had not been told the standard that the children had reached, or what they had been learning, or even if they spoke any English (I didn't speak Kiswahili), so I stood in front of them and encouraged them to repeat the alphabet after me - which they did with relish. The next thing I tried was numbers - again the children were happy to show me what they knew.
Some of the children I was teaching, Madaraka Primary School, Madaraka, Nairobi.
Next I felt a little creativity coming on, so decided to draw pictures of animals and common household objects on the blackboard to see if they could name them in English. The children were fantastic. They could answer everything I threw at them!

Soon after this, the official teacher of the class arrived and I introduced myself to her. She shook hands with me (a common custom in Kenya) and let me continue getting to know the children.

Just then, the bell rang and it was time for parade (aka assembly). The deputy headmaster introduced me to the school that had gathered in the main square of the school and asked me to say a few words. I told the onlookers how excited I was to be there and that I looked forward to working with everyone. They all applauded - out of politeness more than my speech being a inspirational masterpiece! It was very nerve-racking.
The children of Madaraka Primary School, Nairobi.
There were around 800 children, teachers and staff members there.

After the parade, I spoke to one of the teachers who told me she would arrange to get a group of special needs children together for me to work with. I was taken to the classroom that would be assigned as mine for the next two months and I met one of my classes. The children were aged between 7 and 11 years old.

This was my first real experience teaching, and it was very hard work. The class seemed to be completely unresponsive. I tried asking them questions about what they had been learning about, what they wanted to learn about and what they enjoyed. Since I was getting little feedback from them, I decided to go through a number of topics to see what inspired them the most. For the next 10 minutes I went through Maths, Science, Geography and English before settling on a lesson about modern technology. (I cannot remember why!)

Soon it was break time. I went to the staff room where I was given delicious Kenyan chai and a bread roll from the teacher I had met earlier that morning. She was offering ground nuts to everyone too, and told me that I should also bring something in for all the teachers to share. This worried me. First of all, there were around 30 teachers and I didn't know what I should bring. I was also concerned about the cost and being able to buy enough for that many people - the nearest supermarket to me was a 5 minute drive - and since I didn't have a car, I was dependent on John to take me there. I put it to the back of my mind, but it did worry me. I thought perhaps I had misheard her.

When break ended, I went back to the class and continued going through the various topics. The children looked on in bemused anticipation and thier 'mzungu' (white) teacher carried on.

After this lesson, it was lunchtime and I decided to sit outside with the children to eat my sandwiches. They all crowded around me, stroking my arms and hair and giggling when I looked at them!

After lunch I was taken to teach my last group of children. They were very sweet and after a little while got into the idea of being taught.

The day ended at 4pm and I was able to go home. I was tired but felt that the day had gone okay. I walked to the matatu stop, which involved crossing a 6-lane traffic road at Kenyan rush hour. The matatu arrived moments later and I boarded. 20Ksh and 10 minutes later I had arrived back at the house.

No one was there apart from Maria, and as the water had been refilled I had a nice thorough wash and changed my clothes.

Later on, everyone returned with John, who was supposed to have returned my mobile phone to me. He took it on Saturday to have it unlocked so I could use a Kenyan Safaricom sim - making my calls much cheaper. However, he had forgotten to pick it up. I was disappointed because I had wanted to call home.

After dinner and some chatting we all went to bed.


tmugwe says:
Its refreshing to see and hear you tell stories about Madaraka Primary school which I attended between 1978-1985. I havent been back and your story brought back fond memories.
Posted on: Mar 23, 2015
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Some of the children I was teachi…
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Madaraka Estate
photo by: AlexandraQuinton