After settling in at the High Altitude Training Camp where we are staying for the next 6 days, the Esther and the girls (left to right: Stephanie, Sheilla, Judy, and Aziza), and I did the 20 minute walk to St. Patricks so the girls and boys could meet, and so the girls could brace themselves for the work to come.

It was immediately apparent that bringing Kenyan students and Kenyan teacher to help at another Kenyan school was one of our brainier ideas. We had thought about flying in a ‘library expert’ from overseas, but five minutes into the introductions of the students I realized that would never have worked. The St. Patricks boys were only going to open up to, laugh with, and respond to other students. Similarly, the librarian at St. Patricks needed someone whom she could relate to, and who could relate to her. I saw them open up more in the first 10 ten minutes with the Precious Blood girls and teacher than they ever have with me.

The boys showed the girls their library, how it is organized (hah), and the procedures they have in place. After that we said our goodbyes, knowing that tomorrow we will be rolling up our sleeves for the serious work.

When we got back to the camp, I saw with the girls and Esther, and they had very interesting feedback:

  • The boys (or at least some of them), said they don’t understand why we are giving novels when studying is the most important thing they should be doing. They said for them to read a novel would be wasting time as it would detract from their studying. The girls’ response to this was interesting. They believed this was a reflection of the value the boys and the school places on reading, as opposed to the pressures placed on them by the curriculum. The girls countered that they both read and study, as do most of the other top preforming girls at their school.
  • The girls did firmly believe however, that these values can be taught. They also believed that the boys would be eager recipients as they seemed motivated and determined to improve the library.
  • There was a general consensus amongst Esther and the girls that the lack of value placed on literature and novels is quite likely a result of the shoddy condition of their library – it does not invite or encourage browsing or leisure reading.
  • Overall, they said the state of the library was much worse than they expected.
  • However, they said it was not a lost cause, and could be greatly improved.
  • They found the library was cold, uninviting, and not student friendly. It was dirty, dusty, and there was an obvious lack of care for the books. It also needs a serious paint job.
  • They liked the study room adjoining the library (even wishing they had one like it).

Overall, they believed that if the library was cleaned up, it would inspire ownership and pride in the students, who would then use and value it more. There is that chicken and egg question though: is the library in awful condition because they don’t value libraries and books? Or, do they not value libraries and books because their library is in awful condition? This is ultimately what the purpose of our trip should answer.

Tomorrow, the cleaning begins.