March 10, 2012

In Good Hands

In January I had posted about taking three of our football club girls to Jera Secondary school. Since joining school, we haven't heard much from them. I have been communicating a lot with their coach and teacher who has been keeping me updated, but only talked to one of the girls one time. It is kind of unusual because when Leah was in primary school on Mfangano Island she would call me at least once a week (sometimes two or three times in a week) to let me know what was going on with her and how she was doing. Alicent had spent the last two years of primary school at a local private school and staying with one of our club officials so we saw her all the time and talked with her often. Usually when students (especially girls) go off to boarding secondary schools they get homesick and are borrowing the teachers phones to call home often, especially in the first year. I told others that either they are being held hostage and are never allowed to call home, or they are so busy, happy and content that they don't need to call home.

After two months, we decided we had to go and visit them, see their faces, check on how they are doing and spend a little time with them. On Wednesday we journeyed out to Siaya again with Elizabeth who is one of our players that has finished secondary school and Emily, the sister of Raisha. When they spotted us coming through the gate, they ran out to greet us with big smiles and even bigger hugs. They were happy to receive some gifts we brought them from visitors who had been with our primary girls the previous weekend and other basic necessities (toothbrushes, paste, shoe polish, tissue, pens and pencils, etc. We were able to watch their football practice and then spend some time with them.

The teachers spoke very highly about them in the classroom (their participation and work ethic) and on the field (their performance). Leah was even selected as their class leader. The girls were very happy. They are kept extremely busy and don't have much time to miss home. They wake up at 5:00 am for studying, then do some personal chores at 6:30, breakfast at 7:00 and then classes begin immediately after that. By 4:00 pm they finish their lessons and practice for two hours. After practice they bathe, eat dinner and head back to the classroom for personal studies for 2 1/2 hours before retiring to bed.

Their team has been successful, winning every match in their divisional qualifiers by big margins. They have their eyes set on a top three finish in the country this year and to represent Kenya in the East African Games in Burundi. I really respect the way the teachers at their school work together in the classroom and in games also. The teammates get along well and are like sister to each other (just like in our Suba Lakers Club). There were small complaints about food, but that is normal for secondary students. All in all, they are very happy and are doing well academically and athletically. I can't think of a better place for them to be.

Their training sessions consist of:
Mondays- physical workouts with emphais on endurance and strength (with all of the boys and girls sports teams combined)
Tuesdays- physical workouts for lower body with a lot of speedwork and plyometrics (all of the boys and girls sports teams together)
Wednesdays- ball-work with small-sided games and training in departments
Thursdays and Fridays- ball-work with more game like situations

Their coach is one of the few in the country that I have seen that has a good understanding of how to train and prepare a team for competition. Most schools, teams and clubs just roll a ball out and play 11 v. 11 for training, but Jera really teaches the intricacies of the game, how to pass and move and play good football.

Academically, the school is also performing. It is a mixed school (boys and girls) and it is both day and boarding. Most people in my area believe that to succeed in secondary school you must go to a boarding school and it most be purely boys or purely girls. But there are many like Jera and Kobala that do well. On the 2011 KCSE they had 4 A-, 5 B+, 9 B, 8 B- and 19 C+. That is 45 that qualified for University. And in 2010, the girls in the school outperformed the boys which is very rare in this culture and this country.

We left a little late, but very satisfied that our daughters were in good hands!

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