Kenyans Show Appreciation for Expansion of Primary School

TANA RIVER DISTRICT, Kenya - Lee Brudvig, U.S. Embassy to Kenya deputy chief of mission, speaks to Kenyan residents and guests in the courtyard of the Gadeni Elementary School during a dedication ceremony July 12. Brudvig compared Kenya to a "keystone state" because it is pivotal that the country is stable for the hope of peace in East Africa. He explained that the U.S. is helping Kenya in three areas to help achieve stability, including increased security, health and education.(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer First Class Larry Foos) CJTF-HOA Photo TANA RIVER DISTRICT, Kenya - Lee Brudvig, U.S. Embassy to Kenya deputy chief of mission, speaks to Kenyan residents and guests in the courtyard of the Gadeni Elementary School during a dedication ceremony July 12. Brudvig compared Kenya to a "keystone state" because it is pivotal that the country is stable for the hope of peace in East Africa. He explained that the U.S. is helping Kenya in three areas to help achieve stability, including increased security, health and education.(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer First Class Larry Foos)
TANA RIVER DISTRICT, Kenya - Tana Delta School District Education Officer Abdallah Ahmed (right) and Lee Brudvig, U.S. Embassy to Kenya deputy chief of mission, unveil the U.S. - Kenya wall plaque during the Gadeni Elementary School Dedication ceremony July 12, 2010. The school's Headmaster Titus Malao holds the microphone as master of ceremonies, speaking in both Swahili and English. The ceremony commemorated the joint-country partnership to complete reconstruction of classrooms and the addition of a kitchen and bathrooms. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer First Class Larry Foos) CJTF-HOA Photo TANA RIVER DISTRICT, Kenya - Tana Delta School District Education Officer Abdallah Ahmed (right) and Lee Brudvig, U.S. Embassy to Kenya deputy chief of mission, unveil the U.S. - Kenya wall plaque during the Gadeni Elementary School Dedication ceremony July 12, 2010. The school's Headmaster Titus Malao holds the microphone as master of ceremonies, speaking in both Swahili and English. The ceremony commemorated the joint-country partnership to complete reconstruction of classrooms and the addition of a kitchen and bathrooms. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer First Class Larry Foos)
TANA RIVER DISTRICT, Kenya - Lee Brudvig, U.S. Embassy to Kenya deputy chief of mission, cuts a ribbon to kick off the Gadeni Elementary School Dedication, commemorating the renovation of the school July 12, 2010. Standing next to Brudvig is the school's District Education Officer Abdallah Ahmed (left side) and other school officials and distinguished guests. Brudvig was a keynote speaker for the dedication, joining hundreds of Kenyan children, parents and invited guests to celebrate the reconstruction of classrooms and the addition of a kitchen and bathrooms. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer First Class Larry Foos) CJTF-HOA Photo TANA RIVER DISTRICT, Kenya - Lee Brudvig, U.S. Embassy to Kenya deputy chief of mission, cuts a ribbon to kick off the Gadeni Elementary School Dedication, commemorating the renovation of the school July 12, 2010. Standing next to Brudvig is the school's District Education Officer Abdallah Ahmed (left side) and other school officials and distinguished guests. Brudvig was a keynote speaker for the dedication, joining hundreds of Kenyan children, parents and invited guests to celebrate the reconstruction of classrooms and the addition of a kitchen and bathrooms. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer First Class Larry Foos)

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.

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