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Coping with lockdown: life at the Rudolf Steiner School Mbagathi under coronavirus

Wed, 17 Jun 2020 | By NNA staff

Like other schools worldwide, the Rudolf Steiner School Mbagathi has been affected by the decision in Kenya to close schools because of coronavirus. School leader Judith Brown describes how the school is coping.


The school gates had to close

but work on the farm continues.

Phase 1 of the new solar panel project has been completed.
Photos: Judith Brown

Schools all around the world have been forced to close as part of the measures to contain the coronavirus. One of them is the Rudolf Steiner School Mbagathi in Kenya. As some countries take the decision gradually to reopen schools, school leader, Judith Brown, describes how her school has been affected by the closure.

NAIROBI (NNA) – It all started on 12 March 2020 when the Kenyan government confirmed their first coronavirus case. It was off a small road on Masai Lodge Road which is approximately two kilometres from the school – some of our children came from this very block.

We started to think if we should close the school, but we needed to follow government directives. On Saturday 14 March I attended a meeting of the residents of Masai Lodge Road to gather further information on the situation. Then, on Sunday 15 March, the government announced that all schools were to close from the next day, Monday 16 March.

After the Sunday evening meal on 15 March, all the boarding children were gathered into the mini-hall to be informed of the closure. The children were told they would be going home; there was a bit of excitement in the air. They were told about the virus and key preventative measures such as washing hands. Then the children asked many questions – how is it passed on, is it in Kenya, when are we leaving and many more; the children were eager to know. Parents were contacted and by the end of Tuesday all children were collected and the compound was quiet. Day children never returned for a formal farewell.

Essential staff only

Anyone coming to the school first meets Francis Mugambi our watchman, he welcomes you as you are required to wash and sanitise your hands. All those working on the compound are expected to keep social distancing and be updated with all government guidelines such as on how to keep safe, symptoms of the virus, protecting oneself and others. These guidelines are on display in the dining area.

Only the essential staff are now in school, teachers are at home, office staff are working from home, the minimum staff are here. Neema and Jane from the finance department are preparing salaries to be sent to the banks. There is work going on behind the scenes in the finance department, preparing for the audit of the 2019 accounts.

Work on the farm is important to continue, cows need to be fed and milked, hay is being collected from the field, greens are being collected for lunch and new plants are being transplanted from the nursery. A leak in the drip system is being mended by a plumber. In another corner of the compound a parent who is a carpenter is mending the backs to our chairs which are then being varnished.

Security is an issue. Our watchmen Mohammed, Tipetet and George are very important for us at this time. All property must be secure overnight. Isabella the cleaner and Kibet the Cook are also at work. Phase 1 of the work on our solar project has been completed with the installation of the solar panels. Now the hot water solar heaters are being installed so that when the children return they will get hot water showers from solar heated water.

Challenging time

Work continues as much as possible in regards to finding more sponsors and fund raising. The sponsorship group has to continue to be active as we strive to create financial security for the school.

We need to maintain the school throughout this time of closure and to be ready for the return of the children. When this will be we do not know. The government has asked people to stay at home and this has a big impact on the social and economic lives of many people.

The school’s compound lacks the life of the children though the birds are singing much louder than usual. We are concerned about our children, some of whom live under very severe home situations where eating one meal a day is a challenge. Due to the recommended social distancing, parents and guardians do not go to look for work and even those who go, do not find casual work.

Our older children, who are sitting their primary exam at the end of the year, are studying from home with texts books as best they can. Children came into school to collect the necessary books. Parents and students alike miss the school environment due to its nurturing nature. The teachers are considering ways how best to offer guidance to the children at home, how to keep in contact with families – though this is a big challenge.

Great concern

There is a lot of concern for the future, parts of the population are going about their business, and others are locked away. The roads are fairly empty. Presently (17 June) there are 4044 corona virus cases officially reported in Kenya with 107 deaths and 1353 recovered.

Many people were upset when a deputy governor and a pastor who returned abroad in March did not self-quarantine on their return. They turned out to be corona positive yet held meetings and gatherings in different parts of the country therefore spreading the virus. They were forced into quarantine. Since 27 March there has been a curfew from 7pm to 5am.

There has been work preparing our food programme for desperate families from the school living in Rongai or near the school. Clara has prepared an emergency appeal for families. The teachers, Mercy and Zilda have compiled a comprehensive list of needy families.  Neema and Mehta have been preparing the purchase of food.  We will also buy food two months in advance in the anticipation of increased prices.

The teachers

The teachers are now in good contact.  We have a meeting on WhatsApp three times a week.  Everyone signs in and an update is given on the school and work being done.  Teachers update on the progress of their work with their children/parents.  They are active in this sense. I informed the teachers that they are welcome to come to school if they wished, and they come in occasionally.  A motivational message is sent out weekly to the staff at the beginning of the week. Clara Ussing started it, followed by Wairimu Ndirangu and James Olang.

There is a hippo in the pool, the lions are roaring regularly, two Egyptian Geese also visit and there is a Hadeda Ibis nesting high in an acacia tree. We had a long period with no rain, but it came at last.

 We appreciate all our support from funders, friends, sponsors, co-workers; we are grateful that salaries are now being sent out and that we are able to do this for our staff. Our children remain in our hearts and minds as we move forward. Keep safe and our thoughts are also with you.

END/nna/cva

The Rudolf Steiner School Mbagathi can be supported with donations directly here.

The international Waldorf organisation Friends of Waldorf Education has launched a funding appeal to support Waldorf/Steiner schools affected by lockdown as well as for its emergency education programme. You can donate here.

Item: 200617-03EN Date: 17 June 2020 

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