Back to School

Senior editor Norie Quintos has been blogging about her recent trip to Kenya with her teen sons. Click here to see her previous posting.

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Back in my college days, when I was young and idealistic, I spent two months with an NGO helping to build a school in Kilifi, on the Kenyan coast. We mixed cement by hand, laid bricks, and lived alongside Kenyan students. Twenty-some years later, I came back, this time with my children.

Surprisingly, the structure I helped build still exists, as does my youthful scrawl in the cement on the side of the building. Unfortunately, the students still lack books and furniture and access to educational tools such as computers. I made a monetary donation and left, wishing I could do more. Back in the van, the kids and I talked about the disparities of education and opportunity.

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On our first day in Nairobi, we visited the community center and school supported by our tour operator, Micato Safaris. The fancy Range Rover pitched and rolled over rutted dirt lanes lined with a random assortment of gummed-together wood, thatch, corrugated metal and cement dwellings that make up Mukuru, an unregulated district of 600,000 squatters about six miles outside the city. (For a bigger discussion on slum tours, check out a piece we ran on the subject.) My sons’ eyes grew wide in the face of real poverty, so different was it from the kind they consider themselves victims of whenever I deny them a new pair of Nikes. On the other side of the car window, children’s smiles–incomprehensively bright–greeted us. There was no denying the discomfort my sons and I felt. But perhaps comfort wasn’t the point. The point was to feel, to question, to think, and then perhaps to act. At the Harambee House, visitors saw what previous safari clients have been moved to accomplish.

Here, slum dwellers’ children were offered food and education and training, young adults taught skills–a way out and up.

Parents think they should have the answer to everything, but I disagree. Sometimes it’s enough to ask the questions.

What are your thoughts?

Photos by Norie Quintos

Norie is updating the magazine’s safari planner. Tell us your experiences, strategies, and tips. Up next, London with teens.

Comments

  1. David
    April 21, 2010, 7:33 pm

    This picture clearly depicts the poverty level of African countries.Noida OnlineHowever in India also many people lie below poverty line but the development is definitely higher than African countries

  2. Leslie G.
    November 23, 2009, 10:21 am

    We hear about the poverty in African countries every day – from the news, from celebrities who go there and then try to raise awareness. But unless you see it with your own eyes, you will just live your whole life convinced that “things there are bad, but not that bad”. Things there are horrible, inhuman conditions for kids to live in.

  3. Travel Match
    October 26, 2009, 7:56 am

    Hi
    Well, all work is fine and should be used for travel information.

  4. Shane
    September 9, 2009, 9:31 pm

    I agree education is very important to everyone. Its good to know that there are people who spend time to engaged in volunteer work to help people who cant afford to study.

  5. A Dawn
    September 1, 2009, 6:34 am

    We really must be grateful for everything that we have.

  6. mama and papa
    September 1, 2009, 12:34 am

    Education is way weapon to fight poverty, we really need to value the education in our life. I am glad that it’s back to school time.