Kenyans Show Appreciation for Expansion of Primary School
About 300 children from 10 surrounding villages took part in a celebration at the Gadeni Primary School July 12, 2010. The Gadeni School Choir, Baptist Choir and other groups from every village were in the celebrating mood, dancing, playing their customary instruments and singing in English with a Swahili accent, saying, "You're so lovely," "May God bless you," and many other harmonies to U.S. and Kenyan guests in attendance.
The Kenyans were celebrating the renovation and expansion of the Gadeni Primary School, a joint project between the East African country and the United States, that improved classrooms and a kitchen and bathrooms. Funded by U.S. Africa Command, the work was contracted to a Kenyan company and was completed in May, 2010 -- 56 days early. The project expands the school's capacity, which currently accommodates 296 children between the ages of 6-12.
In a region that receives marginal government support, the Gadeni residents appreciate having this school in their own neighborhood. "There are 3,400 people that live in the surrounding villages, and some walk as far as 10 kilometers to come here," said Gadeni School Headmaster Titus Malao, who acted as master of ceremonies for the dedication. "Parents would not be able to pay the fees to send children on buses to other schools," he said.
The school dedication included a ribbon cutting ceremony of one of the renovated classrooms. Tana River District Education Officer Abdallah Ahmed invited Lee Brudvig, U.S. Embassy to Kenya deputy chief of mission, to do the honors of cutting the ribbon. Brudvig was the dedication's keynote speaker and spoke on the importance of the celebration.
"The ceremony is symbolic because it goes from a project that you have supported to a project that you own. It's a project that provides for the community, for the people and for you," Brudvig said.
U.S. Navy Captain Scott Vasina, who spoke in behalf of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, also expressed the significance of the efforts in Gadeni. "Today we celebrate the partnership between the United States, the commonwealth of the district and the people of Gadeni … we share an appreciation for what education can accomplish and how it can advance the lives of the young people," he said.
The school provides stability in an area where it is most critical. Located in East Kenya near the Somalia border, inhabitants in the region often become nomadic and have little means to support themselves. "They have to move due to droughts or (severe) rainy days," explained Malao.
Understanding where they come from, the school dedication is a cause for celebration. "We show appreciation by dancing," Malao said. "We love Americans, we love the British--we speak the same language. We take them as our brothers," he said.