Mbale Friends Secondary School: The Waking Giants

We had expected to spend Tuesday preparing our work at John’s office and in fact got some time. However, John told us that we would travel with him to Mbale where he had been asked to speak to the boys there in regards to their performance on the national exams. We traveled north out of Kisumu, on the same road that we had traveled in August, to get to the Western Province. The road was very rough, it seemed much worse than I remembered. There were many very large pot holes. John shared with me that in his view the government body charged with road maintenance had adequate funds to keep the roads maintained. It it his view that the corruption that is prevalent in his country manifested itself in many ways, including district engineers who accepted funds for road work and then pocketed the money. One pothole in particular caught my attention, as we slowly drove around it. It was at least three feet across and was probably about that deep as well. Someone had placed a substantially-sized large rock in the center of the pothole, and its crest stood out above the horizon of the surrounding pavement. Picture going over this place at forty mph in your vehicle.

We made it to Mbale and met with the principal, the chaplain and several others in the principal’s office. All of the talk centered on the school’s performance in the national exams. Mbale high school was noted by the press as a sleeping giant; a formerly high performing school that had now fallen off in quality. There are about 900 boys enrolled here, with almost 200 of the form four boys having taken the exams at the end of last calendar year.

Shortly, we moved to a courtyard, where all the boys were assembled in the sun. We were escorted to the platform. When it became John’s turn to speak, he called Eloise and me up to say a few remarks to the crowd. John spoke of sleeping giants and challenged the boys. He was quite inspired and really has the gift of speaking with force and enthusiasm. At the conclusion of his talk, John made a promise to the students. He told them that if they would produce at least two As and two A- on the national exams in the upcoming testing season in November of 2010, he would bring a bull to share with the school in order to have a feast. He then asked the boys what name they should give themselves, and one boy in front called out, “The waking giants”, and so that is how we will remember that school, as the waking giants.

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