Tabaka Primary

December 04 2018 | by

IN TABAKA village, Kenya, a special school for mentally and physically challenged pupils was straining to provide additional classes, and asked St Anthony’s Charities for help to finance their construction project. “The overall goal was to provide two new classrooms at Tabaka Primary School to improve learning and academic performance and to assist the school to live up to its mission to provide excellent quality education to vulnerable children in Tabaka village and its environs,” says Sister Joyce Monyangi, SBV, the school’s headmistress. “The project involved construction of classrooms to enable us to provide education to class seven and eight pupils.”

Tabaka village is located in Kisii District 25km to the south of Kisii Town, the district capital. The village has a very high poverty index, which means that the vast majority of the population cannot afford basic needs and social services. The village does not have access to amenities such as clean water, electricity, hospitals and roads – indeed, it is accessed using what are little more than foot paths – and the local economy is based on subsistence farming. For health support, families have to travel to Kisii town to seek medical attention. Due to the lack of access to clean water the villagers experience high levels of water borne infections. “This has contributed to a high presence of polio and other infectious diseases among the local communities since there are no medical facilities around to provide urgent medical support,” says Sr. Joyce.


Quality education


Tabaka Primary School, established in 2012, is a special school which has as its core mission the provision of quality education to mentally and physically challenged children. It is a collaboration between the Sisters of Blessed Virgin Tabaka convent and the local communities, with support from the local education office. “The local community was fully involved in the identification of this project as key and a priority project for their development,” explains Sr. Joyce. Local and national government were also fully supportive, ensuring that all necessary legal documents were in place and permits granted to ensure the success of the project. “Central Government and all relevant Ministries, such as Education, were involved to ensure quality education to these vulnerable children continues at the school,” she says.

The establishment of a special school at Tabaka was necessary as a result of a high presence of mentally and physically challenged children due to polio infections which are prevalent in the village and surrounding area. “The school is so committed to its core mission of providing education to these children that it has engaged the efforts of local volunteers who scout the area and bring such children to the school,” adds Sr. Joyce. For some, coming from villages at a distance which would not allow them to travel each day, arrangements have been made so that they can stay with the Sisters at the convent, or with families living close to the school, as at the moment there are no boarding facilities.


€14,300 donation


Before the new construction the school had seven brick-built rooms with six used as classes and one as the administration office. A total of 237 children attended the school, 185 physically and 52 mentally challenged. Seven teachers trained in special education are employed there and they are able to handle the needs of the students sufficiently. Through the support of the local community, the school is also able to provide lunch. “A steady increase in the number of children meant that there was a great need to build rooms for classes seven and eight,” says Sr. Joyce, and so a project plan was put together and assistance sought from St. Anthony’s Charities. “The local community agreed to provide manual labour to the project and to transport locally available materials to the project site,” she continues. “And they were also involved in providing food to the project workers and providing site security.” A sum of €14,300 was requested and work began immediately on receipt of the first instalment on 5 March 2018.

“The project constructors had previously been identified,” says Sr. Joyce, “so the school management and development organised a meeting where the construction project was handed over to the implementer. Immediately after the handover, construction materials were delivered to the site, then classroom construction began in earnest: materials for wall construction were procured and the walling for the two classrooms was completed as far as the lintels.”


Obstacles & difficulties


The construction took place in the school compound on a site that had been put aside for this purpose. However, it was discovered that the site had deep and weak loamy soil, so it was necessary to dig deeper to find solid rock for the foundations. The country’s political events also had a detrimental effect on the project: “Kenya had just been recovering from a long election campaign period characterised by electoral and ethnic violence resulting in many deaths and disruption to normal business,” says Sr. Joyce. “This caused inflation due to low productivity and resulted in higher prices.” The poor road conditions also made it difficult for small pick-up vans to deliver materials to the project site.

In spite of these difficulties, the second phase of the project was ready to start on 24 April. The second tranche of funds was used to procure roofing materials, to construct the roof, to paint the classrooms, and to install fixtures and fittings. The poor roads continued to cause disruption, especially due to heavy rains and potholes which made it difficult to deliver the roofing timbers. Furthermore, a government ban on local timber logging during the roofing period exacerbated the situation: it was necessary to travel to other towns to procure timber which cost more than locally-sourced equivalents.


120 more pupils


In spite of the problems the project was completed in June 2018. The school will now be able to offer more school places to vulnerable children, and Sr. Joyce believes the new classroom space will see an improvement in academic performance. She says that there may also be a decrease in drug abuse and crime as there will be no children “idling in the village”. She continues, “In the wake of global warming the teachers at Tabaka Primary school are now collaborating with the local communities in the area of environmental conservation by training them on the best environmental conservation strategies. The pupils at the school are also involved in environmental cleaning services.”

“The realisation of the two classrooms at Tabaka Primary school through the generous support of St. Anthony’s Charities has not only transformed life at the school, but also at the communities living around the school,” concludes Sr. Joyce. “One hundred and twenty more pupils have been admitted, meaning more children who could have missed out on schooling due to a lack of classrooms now have the opportunity to learn. Academic performance is likely to improve and more children from the village will have access to secondary education and higher education than before. We send you greetings and warm wishes from Tabaka Primary School and the community in Tabaka village at this joyous time of year. Our thanks go to St. Anthony’s Charities and to the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony for your generous support.”

Updated on December 04 2018