Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Kenyan Experience

My Kenyan Experience - Nate Kado


I am a student from the University of Minnesota and I spent eight months studying abroad in Kenya. For four of those months, I worked part-time with the Kibera Girls’ Soccer Academy (KGSA). I will admit that I was apprehensive when my university assigned me to work in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Sub-Saharan Africa. Friends in Kenya told me it could be a rough place. But they did say it was uniquely beautiful. I was intrigued. I decided to rest my anxieties and take my work assignment at KGSA.

My university supervisor led me to KGSA for my first day on a hot afternoon in the dry season. We walked down the newly tarmacked roads in Kibera’s Makina District and made our way past the tin roof shacks and fruit vendors. After bounding over a few exposed sewer ways, we rounded the corner and walked into KGSA’s compound. When we entered, I knew I was in the right place. I could feel the school’s warmth upon first step.

I heard a bell. It was lunch time. Students sprinted back and forth out of classrooms to grab their lunches. Following the students’ pace, we moved quickly across the grounds. We made our way into a room where my soon-to-be KGSA supervisor sat. The three of us, my university supervisor, KGSA supervisor, and I engaged in small talk. After some discussion, it was agreed that I would start teaching that day. My university supervisor left and my KGSA supervisor brought me to the form 3 classroom (11th grade). He told me to teach for the hour. I taught the class and fielded questions for an hour about America, my experience in Kenya, and the state of Kibera. The students asked a variety of questions. My favorite question was, “What do Americans think of Kenyans?”

The day sped by and soon it was time for after school clubs. I decided to shadow the debate club. Students brought out chairs from the classrooms and placed them on the open grounds beneath the basketball hoop. The chairs were placed in two groups, facing each other, about 20 seats on each side for a total of 40. One group represented the affirmative and the other the negative. Madame Shaquila, a KGSA instructor, facilitated the debate as the students discussed whether or not Africa should have a joint, continent-wide military. The students debated passionately and both sides made fair points. I was split on deciding the winner.


Besides shadowing debates, during the course of my four months, I also helped manage the school’s cyber cafe. Kibera residents visited the cafe to browse the internet, scan documents, and make small talk. I thought establishing the cafe was a smart move by KGSA. It helped the organization tap into other revenue streams to fund the school - and business was good. Additionally, it provided employment and professional development opportunities for students and graduates. This was particularly important considering the high level of joblessness in Kibera.

Midway through my time with KGSA, the students wanted a chance to learn a romance language, so I stepped in and taught rudimentary Spanish to forms 2-4 (10th-12th grade students). While teaching form 3, one of my students surprised me. She was already teaching herself Spanish, for fun. (She was not half bad). Her intellectual curiosity and resourcefulness were admirable. As a whole, my students were quick reads. I was impressed and they really made my job easy.  


After working with KGSA for four months, it was time for me to leave and fly back to the US for graduation. It was bittersweet. My students were inspiring and KGSA as a whole was inspiring. It empowered students and gave them an opportunity to further their education and, though it sounds cliché, pursue their dreams. I was thankful to be a part of KGSA and left Kibera with a feeling of accomplishment, and the thought that I possibly made a difference.

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