Two weeks ago I spent a night at Precious Blood to experience what boarding was like at a government secondary school in Kenya. The idea came from wanting to document 24 hours of library use, to see how the girls spent their time in there during off hours, when visits are not normally scheduled.
Before evening prayer, we had dinner in the dining hall at 7pm. That night’s meal was beans, potatoes and corn cooked together. In the dining hall each girl is assigned a small locker where she keeps her plate, cup, knife and fork. After every meal she brings these to the outdoor sinks to clean and dry them before placing them back in her locker.
The girls are allowed to also keep basic condiments such as hot sauce or ketchup in their locker, and some will buy vegetables and fruit on Saturday market days which they add to their meals – I saw a lot of avocados, bananas, and mangoes.
After dinner and prayer is prep time until bed at 9pm. During prep, the students are studying wherever they choose. Some go to the library for quiet reading and work, others do group discussions in classrooms, others find small corners for privacy.
Shadowing the girls definitely reaffirmed one of our focuses for the library, which is to provide a space for comfortable reading and study in addition to tables and chairs. From what we have seen, when you put sofas and comfy chairs in a library, they will always get used.
At 9pm we all headed to the dorms. I stayed in Meru (all of the dorms are named after African Mountains) in a room with 12 beds. The communal showers have no hot water, but that doesn’t stop the girls singing – beautiful to hear down the hallway. We all brushed our teeth, washed our faces, and went to respective dorm rooms. Before getting into bed, the tidied up, folded their uniforms and shined their shoes for the next day. We chatted about school, university, life, boys. At 9:30pm, the lights are turned off, and everyone fell asleep very quickly. 5am wake ups will do that!