Skip to main content
22 April 2024

Grade 6 in a Clean Sweep of Passes

All seven grade 6 pupils who took the Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA) passed the exams at the end of 2023. They are now all at junior high school…
18 March 2023

Field Trip

The Crying Stone is a local beauty spot in the village of Ilesi, about 12 kilometres from Shalom Academy. The stone is about forty metres tall – a large boulder balanced…
5 March 2023

No Water, No Life

A few years ago we were thrilled when we fitted the water harvesting system to catch rainwater from the roofs and feed it to three water tanks around the school.…
27 February 2023

A New Uniform is all it Takes

It was New Uniform Day (NUD) once again in January – giving polo shirts to new pupils or replacing tattered ones for our old ones. The older children also got…
26 February 2023

Travel Without Moving Your Feet

They say books let you travel without moving your feet. If that's true, our pupils will be doing a lot more travelling in the upcoming term after we made substantial…
4 April 2022

Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings…

... so said William Wordsworth. For confirmation of Wordsworth's assertion, we need look no further than a poem OUR head girl, 10-year-old Deborah Buzanzi, wrote about her environment, a subject…
22 February 2022

One good teacher can change the world

They say one good teacher can change the world, but what about half a dozen! Here are some of our new and well-established teachers - left to right: Debra, Nobert,…
21 February 2022

Long time no see

After an enforced absence of 2 years, it was great to return to Irovo in January 2022 and catch up with all the teachers, pupils and parents at Shalom Academy.…
1 April 2021

Can’t Stop Progress

Thanks to support from Preston Guild Rotary Club during the Covid crisis, we have been able to pay the absent teachers a portion of their wages and re-start the building…
30 March 2021

Help where it’s needed

The lockdown restrictions due to the Covid 19 virus have hit Irovo hard. Not only are villagers losing their jobs but also most institutions have had to close, including Shalom…
14 March 2020


Shalom Academy is lucky to have two excellent pupils who act as our two prefects—effectively head girl and head boy. May I introduce Michelle Mutola and Alex Ingaya who have…
5 March 2020

Beans, beans, good for your heart…

New cook Gertrude seems to have got the measure of our kitchen and children, and the conundrum of cooking for an indeterminate number of pupils each day. But one thing…
3 March 2020

So Many Books, So Little Time

One of our aims this year was to add significantly to our library of text books that meet the requirements of the new Kenyan curriculum. We bought as many books…
2 March 2020

Meet the Parents

Our new year parents' meeting is always an engaging affair—mostly down to the terrific speakers: chairman of our Irovo board (beating the drum about paying fees), headteacher Mr Bondi (stressing…
24 February 2020


Victims of our own success, Shalom Academy soon found itself short of desks once the new cohort of pupils crammed into the classes (105 at last count). Vitalis got straight…
24 February 2020

A life without education is like a tree without fruit

Two years ago Vitalis planted some seemingly nondescript plants at the bottom of the playing field. We now have an orchard. Pineapples, paw paws, guavas, bananas, passionfruit and avocados are…
12 February 2020

St Gregory the Great

The pupils of St Gregory's Catholic Primary school in Deepdale, Preston are our good friends across the miles. They have supported Shalom Academy in a variety of ways over the…
11 February 2020

I Love my Teacher

Left to right, school director Vitalis, Lona, Margret, Anita, headteacher Mr Bondi and Gladys. Shalom Academy has welcomed two new teachers to our staff this year, both trained—Lona (fresh from…
10 February 2020

The Young Ones

Our two-year plan is to grow the school from six to eight grades, and from 84 children to 200. We have now reached 103 pupils in six grades. Most of…
9 February 2020

N.U.D. (New Uniform Day)

New Uniform Day is one of the annual events to which we look forward as much as the pupils at Shalom Academy. Such a simple thing as a badged blue…
24 September 2019

Security with a Smile

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…
newsPartner Schools
21 September 2019

Hey Mr Postman look and see…

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…
18 September 2019

Education Way

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.…
9 September 2019

All Things Bright & Beautiful

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…
9 September 2019

Uniforms For All

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…
Partner Schools
11 June 2019

St Gregory’s in the Spotlight

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,…
10 January 2019

Latest pictures

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,…
5 January 2019

On course for topping out

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…
30 November 2018

Nobody said it was easy…

... 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…
28 November 2018

Termite, or it might not

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…
27 November 2018

Mary, Mary

Despite all the building work going on around her, Mary continued to cook school lunches for everyone. The new Jiko stove should reduce the amount of firewood necessary to cook…
31 October 2018

Up and Away

The masons and fundis are making great progress on both the 6th, 7th and 8th classrooms but also on the mud-brick staff room and kitchen, which has now reached shoulder…
27 October 2018

Open the door and let us in…

Not only are the bricks for the walls made by hand but also the doors and windows are manufactured by tradesmen on the side of the road. We are excited…
26 October 2018

The Wall

A few days into the build we could hardly keep pace with the thirst for materials. Some days we had 18 men working on the site, all demanding timber, bricks,…
25 October 2018

Rock On

...meanwhile the build continues. We have now decided to build the staff room and kitchen out of mud brick and the floor in concrete—a major step up the building food…
24 October 2018

Keep the Motor Running

Our investment last year in some two-wheeled transport for Shalom Academy has paid off handsomely. Vitalis not only has a handy means of getting educational supplies and equipment to the…
23 October 2018

He’s a Brick

Success on a project like building a school relies as much on who-you-know as what-you-know. Which certainly came in handy when we went looking for bricks in the middle of…
22 October 2018

Future Customers

All the building activity at the school has attracted plenty of curious looks from children in the village. This photograph was taken on a weekday, so none of these children…
22 October 2018

Breaking New Ground

As 2018 whizzes by, our thoughts turn to the start of the Kenyan school year in January 2019. Our goal is to raise the registration to 80 pupils at Shalom…
19 July 2018

Saintly intervention

St Gregory's Catholic Primary School in Preston invited Strive for Excellence to their Send a Friend to School fundraiser. (St Gregory is the patron saint of musicians, singers – and…
7 February 2018

Unfurl the Flag

The Kenyan flag is raised on Mondays and Friday mornings and lowered after school. It’s the one and only time there is silence at Shalom Academy. Once the flag is…
28 January 2018

Unsung Hero

May I introduce Mary, Shalom Academy’s cook for the last few years. Never complaining, always on time, in blistering heat and pouring rain, working in a smoky mud hut, every…
27 January 2018

Water Babies

One of our primary goals this year was to bring running water to Shalom Academy. We’ve done it. After the mains water pipe was damaged by road contractors and disconnected…
26 January 2018

Precious Cargo

It is surprising how far some children walk to Shalom Academy each morning (7.30am start) – and home each evening. So it’s a special joy when someone’s dad offers a…
25 January 2018

Sowing Seeds and Gathering in

With the new bike at our disposal, Vitalis and I were able to visit parents and children in what he calls ‘the interior’, a densely wooded area accessible down narrow…
24 January 2018

New Arrivals

Shalom Academy welcomed many new pupils this week (it’s the fourth week of term, but parents are slow to cotton on around here), bringing the total number to 41, including…
16 January 2018

Bricking it

Our collective feet hit the ground running when we arrived in Irovo last week. There is plenty of building work to complete, none more important than constructing some secure cupboards…
29 November 2017

Where the Axe Falls

Vitalis and friends have made some improvements to Shalom Academy during the last couple of months. Tree stumps that were interrupting play have been dug up, trees have been planted…
31 January 2017

The extra mile for the photo we’ve been waiting for

We left Vitalis and the fundis a mountain of work to complete as we headed for Nairobi, then home. He knew that the sooner he could get the basics completed, the…
19 January 2017

Good Effort

As we approach the end of the build, we are sad to leave Irovo and return to South Africa. Although there is still much to do — put the roof…
15 January 2017

Sports Day

After the children made a mad dash for the Blackpool-donated jerseys and shorts, Sports Day on the new land turned into a combined football/tennis/badminton match. I’m not sure who won,…
14 January 2017

All Shook Up

While the new, somewhat shaky school building took shape a kilometre away, teacher Bridgit welcomed the pupils to the new term at the old school – the termite infested one.…
13 January 2017

Some light yet spiritual relief

Weekly choir practice in front of Vitalis’s house.
9 January 2017

Fundis dig Foundations

The build proper couldn’t begin until we found a man with a chainsaw who cut up the trees we bought a couple of days ago. Once they were cut into…
9 January 2017

The Build Continues

And so the build continued. We employed some local women to bring water from the river for the concrete mix and the fundis began erecting the support posts. It seemed…
8 January 2017

A Stake in the Future

Once the decision was made to build a temporary building to house the Shalom Academy, Vitalis clicked into gear. The building will be timber framed and clad with what’s called…
5 January 2017

Temporary Beauty

A recurring difficulty for school director Vitalis is finding the rent every month. A few months ago the children once again arrived at school (the blue painted one seen in…
3 January 2017

Measure for Measure

First things first. We bought a tape measure, twine, a hammer and made some stakes to mark out the footprint of the proposed school designed by David Cox on the odd-shaped piece…
2 January 2017

Charity begins with a new home

Best news of the year so far… Strive for Excellence (Irovo) is now recognised as a charity in the UK (charity number 1170935). Crucially, this gives our wonderful donors – and…
24 September 2016

Fence Me In

The new fence has been erected around the acre of land on which we plan to build the new Shalom Academy. Vitalis was keen to demonstrate that progress was being…
26 August 2016

St Augustine’s links to Shalom Academy

The children of Irovo are fascinated by the lives of children in other places — throughout Kenya, Europe, the world! Which is why it is wonderful that the children of St…
22 August 2016

Land Ahoy!

The most exciting news yet for Strive for Excellence… We have just completed the purchase of an acre of land in Irovo, destined to be the site of the new…
2 August 2016

Charity Status

Part of our plan to grow the charity, we have applied to register with the Charity Commission, which means getting a registration number and hopefully qualifying for Gift Aid benefits.…
27 March 2016

The Bitterest Pill

It is time I brought Irovo-watchers up to speed on the latest news from The negotiations with Philip, the village elder, were progressing nicely until his extended family heard…
3 March 2016

Interview with Vitalis

20 February 2016

Another Brick in the Wall

While we wait for the lawyer to do her lawyering and the surveyor to do his surveyering, our thoughts turn to how we are going to build the new school.…
16 February 2016

One Big Step

Main Photo: The Gang of Four: Alan W, Vitalis, village elder Philip Malimu Tosi, headmaster Mr Bondi. Vitalis suggested a meeting (a ‘conflab’) with the village elder, Philip Malimu Tosi,…
15 February 2016

The Art of the Deal

Olive with headmaster John Bundi on Philip Malimu Tosi’s land. Our main goal when we set out for Irovo — apart from acting as willing mules for all the fantastic…
11 February 2016

The Long Goodbye

We had a great last day at Irovo. The children were all in terrific form (which might have had something to do with the whistling lolipops), after an impromptu screening…
9 February 2016

What a Dish!

I promised the video of the first time the new bowls and spoons were used. Small progress, but the impact was huge. (In the background are some of the new…
6 February 2016

Food for Thought

There were two urgent needs at the school when we arrived a couple of weeks ago: desks and a kitchen. The children were all bunched up on benches in the…
4 February 2016

School was never so exciting

The children at Irovo wanted to show everyone back in England that all the school supplies arrived safely, so they each grabbed something and held it up. But when the…
23 January 2016

A Day of Celebration

Some of my favourite photos from the second day at Irovo. Vitalis called it a day of celebration. Finally, I got a good pic of the ever-shy Vitalis (seated with…
21 January 2016

Annoying the headteacher is another key to life

Like good visiting mzungus we brought some lollipops to the school. Unknown to us, the sticks acted as whistles once the lollipop was eaten. It drove the headteacher to distraction,…
20 January 2016

Education is the Key to Life

18 January 2016

Arrival Day

So much happened on the day of our arrival at Irovo that we thought we’d post a few more pictures to depict a fuller flavour of the day.
12 January 2016


Well, we made it. We’d travelled the length of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania, and on to Western Kenya: more than six thousand kilometres. The final day, arriving in Kakamega,…
11 January 2016

Rare find on the Dodoma Road

This is the first sighting of the ultra rare chair tree of southern Tanzania. Known to flower only once every millennium, we were privileged to witness this astounding event that…
10 January 2016


One thing unites the countries on our travels over the last three weeks or so: drought. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania are clearly suffering a huge water crisis that…
9 January 2016

Life is an express road and overtaking is allowed

Driving the roads of southern and eastern Africa brings many amusements, or distractions if you prefer. One of which is the unique livery of the taxis. There are no two…
8 January 2016

Royal Treatment

Following two nights at Kapishya Hot Springs, we made a dash for the Zambia–Tanzania border. Two hours of formalities, and we were in. The differences over the border were striking.…
7 January 2016

It even rains in the Garden of Eden

OK. No wine in this post… I promised a picture of the water babe, Ms Carroll. This is the best shot I could get before the lens steamed up! The…
5 January 2016

Be the change you want to see in the world

The changes over the border in Zimbabwe are striking. After South Africa — despite the fact that the northern Limpopo region is one of the poorest in SA — Zim…
31 December 2015

Bottle of Red

Wine is getting harder to come by — the horror; the horror — and when it does arrive, it is served at, shall we say, ambient temperature. Currently, that means…
29 December 2015

Sights of SA – Zim border

It’s been a curious few days on our journey up to Irovo. We passed through Polokwane, Limpopo, which certainly has a different feel about it to Joburg. It’s a small…
28 December 2015

Zim – the trip heats up

As we approach Zimbabwe — and pass the 2,000 kilometre mark — the temperature heats up significantly while driving past huge baobab trees and vehicles piled high with, well, who…
27 December 2015

Size Matters

Sometimes it’s good to get things in perspective. Africa is big. Really big.
25 December 2015

Santa Claus is coming to town

Most countries get a visit from Father Christmas on a sleigh pulled by Donner & Blitzen, who dishes out gifts to all the children who’ve been good this year. South…
24 December 2015

Brewing up a Storm in the Karoo

From Beaufort West — the birthplace of heart transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard and very little else — we continued east-northeast towards Bloemfontein. The long drive through the Karoo — a…
23 December 2015

We’re off!

A tank of diesel, a car full of school supplies, a long journey ahead, a dodgy navigator. All the ingredients needed for a successful trip to Irovo, Kenya. The official…
9 December 2015

Quart into a Pint Pot

Two weeks to go before we leave for Kenya, we spent a sweaty afternoon squeezing as much stuff as possible into the 4×4 — a trial pack. It was close,…
28 November 2015

Carnet de Passage

When travelling through most of Africa it is advisable to have a carnet de passage, a sort of passport for the car. It proves that your stay in the foreign country…
22 November 2015

The Sting

It must be getting warmer in Cape Town. We’ve had a visit to our garage from the first scorpion of the season. Better check the bed each night before getting…
15 November 2015

Moment of Celebration

One question everyone has been asking is: ‘How are you going to get all those school supplies from Cape Town up to Irovo school in Kenya?’ Well, here’s the answer.…
14 November 2015

Safe & Sound

We arrived in Cape Town in early October, and it wasn’t long before I received a call from the shipping company at the docks saying that they had a shipment…
16 October 2015

Jumpers for goalposts

We got a great surprise when we got a call from Albert and Mary Cooper of St Annes, whose daughter Donna had heard about the project at LCC social services.…
30 September 2015

Shipping to Irovo

The boxes mounted as we received more supplies from lovely people, who either raided their office stationery cupboards or bought new school supplies. 34 boxes were picked up and shipped…