So Much for Hakuna Matata

LangaLanga Primary School is not the type of place that can easily be described by words. At 8 o'clock on a sunny Monday morning, I arrived covered head to toe in sun cream and armed with a bottle of water and a strawberry jam sandwich. The wrought iron gates opened up to reveal a sea of sand with several buildings dotted across it. I knew that teaching lessons to groups of up to fifty Kenyan students would not be easy, but then again, I hadn't travelled all this way for 'easy' so I took a deep breath, smiled and walked in.

The first thing I noticed was the age of some of the students; in England, primary school children are up to 11 years old but here at LangaLanga I was being introduced to young adults whom I would be teaching. Being only seventeen years old and still a child myself at the time, I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little intimidated!

I made my way through the morning relatively smoothly with children asking endless questions about my lifestyle in the UK; What was my family like? How many bathrooms were in my house? Etc. The only hiccup being when one young boy asked if I “regretted colonising Kenya”, as though I had been the one to make the decision and not just a powerless descendent! The situation could have escalated but my response of “well aren't you brilliant at English” and the roar of laughter that ensued seemed to ease the tension.

I had trudged to the 'staff room' at lunch time, already exhausted after four hours of constant speaking. The morning had made me realise that as tiring as teaching the children was, I felt fulfilled from the moment I stepped into the classroom. I sat down with a smile around the teachers' desk amidst a sea of unintelligible conversation and was presented with a plate of what could only be described as 'mush'. My jam sandwich seemed to seductively whisper to me from my rucksack, but it knew as well as I did that I had no choice but to eat what had been kindly given to me. I scooped up a forkful and eyed it cautiously before closing my eyes and throwing it into my mouth; I was greeted by an explosion of unswallowable flavourlessness. I opened my eyes again when I felt the burning glare of the teachers upon me, forcing a smile and nodding in approval.

Half an hour and a pile of what I had discovered to be rice and beans later, I ventured outside before my return to class, desperately thinking of an excuse to get out of lunch tomorrow. I looked around the yard and saw the children sharing food, paying 30p per day for the rice and beans if they could afford it and I was left with an even worse taste in my mouth. For the rest of my time at LangaLanga, I brought in some money to give to the staff to buy lunches for those who couldn't afford it. And for my lunch... well, I happily answered the prayers of my jam sandwich.

N McDonnell

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