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Alan Whelan

Security with a Smile

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Gerald is the newest addition to the Irovo family. Vitalis calls him ‘security’ but he is so much more than that. I like to think of him as the welcoming face of Shalom Academy (although he does look a little forbidding in the pic above).

He is the first person at school each morning—opening up the school gate and staff room, preparing the kitchen for the arrival of the cook, chopping firewood for the stove, reminding the children to wash their hands after… everything.

He has grandchildren at the school so knows absolutely everyone and commands the respect of all: children, teachers, parents, neighbours, and the occasional visitors from Lancashire.

Hey Mr Postman look and see…

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The children at Shalom Academy received their first pen letters from the pupils of St Francis school, Goosnargh. They created quite a stir in Irovo because the children heard firsthand how their contemporaries lived in Britain.

The letters were followed by a terrific scrapbook from the pupils of St Gregory’s, Preston, (pictured above) which featured self-portraits from every pupil and class photographs. It is now kept pride of place in our new resource room.

Led by headteacher Mr Bondi, the children reciprocated by writing their own pen letters, which we distributed to Lancashire schools on our return.

It promises to be the start of some beautiful friendships.

Education Way

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With no street signage in the region, it is always a challenge to find exact addresses. It requires lots of stop-and-ask — no problem, but it does slow you down.

We have had a similar problem whenever we try to describe the location of the school to visitors. So we took the issue into our own hands and gave the little dirt track that leads to Shalom Academy a name: Education Way.

That’s two more English words the children have learned!

All Things Bright & Beautiful

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Just in case anyone needs a reminder of how to write the alphabet…

The signwriter spent a couple of days painting everything in sight—including the walls of the school, the school signs, the goalposts, the inner walls of the staff room.

It certainly brightens up the place and announces to the village ‘We’re open for education!’

Uniforms For All

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It has been apparent lately that the children at Shalom Academy in Irovo were noticeably scruffier than their counterparts in other schools in the area.

But we’ve put that right by bringing a new look to the sky blue uniform—polo shirts for all, emblazoned with the new school badge in the colours of the Kenya flag. They each got two shirts—one on and one in the wash—so there is no excuse for not showing up in blue. We’re just looking forward to hearing the excuses!

They looked great for a short time before they were covered in a thin layer of dust and grime from the school playground.

But for those 7 minutes, heck, they looked sharp!

St Gregory’s in the Spotlight

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We appreciate all the help and encouragement we get from Lancashire schools for Shalom Academy.

We recently put the spotlight on raising money for lunches and breakfast at the school, so we were delighted when the pupils of St Gregory’s primary in Deepdale, Preston organised a sponsored walk to show support for their counterparts in Irovo, Kakamega in Kenya.

£673.30 will go a loooong way to feeding some hungry children throughout the whole of 2019. Thank you!

Latest pictures

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We couldn’t quite complete the school build during my 17-day visit, but Vitalis and the masons continued the brickwork, plastering and hanging doors, etc.

The floors in the staff room, library(!) and kitchen are concrete, so no more kicking up the dirt. The new staff room table/desk looks great and will be a huge help in lesson planning and marking.

Everything we buy has to be made by locals—there are specialist metalworkers, carpenters, bench joiners, masons and plumbers—so you could say the school is totally bespoke. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

On course for topping out

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As the build nears its completion, we have reduced the number of hands on site to those who can complete the roof on the staff room and make the doors and windows for the new classrooms.

Bonface, Benedict and the team have worked like Trojans to finish the job before I leave for the UK. Unfortunately, though it was a sterling effort over 17 days, many of the finishing touches will have to be completed after I leave: interior and exterior plastering, painting, building the verandah, and ‘topping out’ the roof.

In January 2019, we are looking forward to seeing the new classrooms full of children laughing and learning, the staff room used by teachers for marking and lesson planning, the resource room organised and welcoming, and the kitchen wafting beautiful smells over the playground.

Nobody said it was easy…

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… as Coldplay sang once.

The build of the extra classrooms, staff room and kitchen was not planned with the weather in mind. It’s raining. But really there should another word for the stuff that falls out of the sky at a ferocious clip. Everything stops when the heavens open—except our team of builders who seem to be impervious to the blistering sun and thrashing rain. If the job isn’t finished on time it won’t be for want of trying, and that includes the children in between classes.

Meanwhile School Lane (as it will soon be Christened) is a quagmire. Even trucks delivering materials get stuck in the mud and have to be pushed the last few hundred metres to the school. When they leave the drivers all utter the same refrain: ‘I’m not coming here again!’

Termite, or it might not

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One morning I noticed Vitalis preparing a stripped blue gum tree in the spot assembly is usually held.

‘What’s doing?’

‘I am making a new flagpole.’

‘What happened to the last one?’

‘The termites ate it.’