A second chance

Newsletter no 7, July 2023

Four years ago, Duncan had had to drop out of secondary school because his family lacked the money to pay the school fees. Now 22 years old, he was still determined to go back to school and get his degree. He worked as a handyman on construction sites and later as a night watchman. With these jobs, Duncan managed to save twelve thousand shillings (about 80 CHF), which he used to re-enter school.

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Some friends helped him to buy a school uniform and stationery. He was overjoyed to be able to go back to school, even though he was behind in his classes and the money he had saved was not enough to pay all the school fees for one year. Whenever he was sent home again because of this open fee balance, he spent his days studying at the Elimu Resource Centre. The day Duncan found out that he would receive a scholarship through Elimu's Stay in School project was one of his most memorable moments. "I shed tears of joy because I knew how much this scholarship would save me from the shame and ridicule of people who were convinced I was too poor to stay in school. I saw many young men end up in drug abuse and I lived every day in fear that the same would happen to me. This scholarship has given me a second chance in life".

Duncan's determination to excel in school was not limited to good grades. He became a dedicated student and a source of inspiration to others. Last year, he was elected president of the student council. Duncan says his father always encouraged him along the way, "When I told him I wanted to go back to school, he spoke to me to start my new journey boldly, saying that no journey begins that does not lead to an end point. Even though he was not sure how I would do in school because he had no money, he believed in me and hoped for my success.".At the moment, Duncon is doing a basic course in computer science at Elimu in preparation for his further education.

On the Kenyan coast, the rate of students transferring to secondary school (9th to 12th compulsory years) is only 45%, and the rate of students graduating is even lower. Since 2014, Elimu has supported 22 graduates who have completed secondary school and currently another 35 students are at various levels of their education..

Image 005Elimu also runs a learning centre where students can do their assignments and study for exams on Saturdays and during the holidays. Elimu provides all the latest textbooks, which many families cannot afford. A teacher is also present to help with any difficulties.

The teaching materials, along with many other books, are also available electronically, along with a series of Kindles and tablets. This enables the children to familiarise themselves with the digital world. And Elimu uses this infrastructure to organise reading circles in schools and in the juvenile detention centre. Recently, a series of computer science courses has been added, as well as career guidance for secondary school graduates.

And finally, there is the small tailor's workshop, where trained tailors can deepen their knowledge and expand it in the direction of fashion design.



Waste disposal

In Nyahururu, my place of work until autumn 2022, I burnt my household waste behind the house myself. There was a waste disposal service provided by the municipality, but the truck did not come to my house because I lived on a kind of private road. And the waste was only driven out of town, dumped on a landfill and partly burnt there under the open sky. So I tried to dispose of at least the compostable part properly and otherwise keep my plastic content low.

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At my new place of work in Malindi, there is a similar waste disposal service, which this time also comes to me. Only now I no longer live in a single house, but in a compaound wth several bungalow. The individual bungalows belong to different owners, some use the houses themselves for their holidays, others rent them out. There is a common reception, as well as housekeeping, gardening and security services.

After my first week, I took my rubbish bin, went to reception and asked Phelisa where I should put the rubbish. I got the answer that I should leave the bin with her and she would send someone to empty it.Thinking I can do this very well myself I insisted that she shows me the place.

So we went through a side gate into a backyard past garages to the staff entrance. Outside, next to the entrance, is a shed where the rubbish bins are kept. These are then emptied by the waste collector truck. For the next few weeks, I always carried my rubbish there - and every now and then I caused a little confusion with the security guard at the staff entrance. Apparently, it is not customary for the tenants to dispose of their waste themselves. Sometimes the bucket was almost snatched from me, emptied and washed out. Recently, a sign appeared at the gate with the words "For staff only" on the inside. Does this mean that I can no longer go through this gate to the bins? And what kind of image of Europeans did touriism form here?

Experiences in the field

Recently I was able to go on a field trip with Caritas Malindi, the second organisation I am working for. In the Catholic diocese, the health programme has received a new project manager and the young doctor wanted to get a picture of the two dozen health centres the diocese runs. This is very directly related to my job here, which is to help with data management. So on the way there, we already discussed what data he would need in order to get information and, above all, to be able to properly fulfil his coordination role, for example a central purchase of medicines or the pooling of certain laboratory examinations.

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After an hour we leave the tarmac road, in the following 45 minutes we only pass one or two small villages and instead we meet more and more shepherd boys moving through the savannah with their herds of goats or cows.

Finally we arrive at the health station and are warmly welcomed by the nuns. They show us around, point out their most pressing needs in terms of equipment and infrastructure and discuss the centre's short- and long-term strategy with the project manager. We agree on some points that can be implemented immediately and say goodbye.

Afterwards, we walk under mango trees and past a bougainvillea hedge over to the parish, where we inform the priest about our findings. He listens attentively, thanks us very much for the visit and for the fact that there is now a perspective for the development of the centre. Then he concludes with. "That is all well and good and very welcome, but let me inform you of the context in which all this is taking place."

He tells us that the region is deeply divided. There are two tribes facing each other, one is cattle breeding and semi-nomadic, the other is farming and sedentary. From time to time, there are disputes over grazing and water rights, which often end in violence and death, especially during the prolonged drought of recent years. As a result, only one tribe ever uses the health centre. When the other tribe finds out, their members stop coming for a few weeks.

Then there is an emergency, they come to the centre after all, and the whole thing reverses. Now the first tribe doesn't come for a few weeks. The priest has been trying for months to mobilise representatives from both sides to sit on the board of the centre and thereby hopefully break this behaviour.

On top of that, the parish and health centre have been without electricity for a month because the local transformer broke down and the electricity company is not organising a replacement. There was a recent scandal where cheap transformers were purchased that did not meet the required power profile. Someone pocketed the difference to the more expensive ones, and the ordinary people are now in the dark. And the batteries for the solar system the parish set up are still stuck somewhere in the supply chain crisis.

Against this backdrop, my data management slips pretty far down the priority list. On the way out, the priest shows me the bullet hole on the doorpost from the last big clash ten years ago, when the army had to intervene.


Chai is the national drink of Kenya. To make it, fill a saucepan halfway with water and halfway with milk, add loose black tea as desired and bring the whole thing to a boil. That's it. The drink is poured into large cups and 2-4 teaspoons of sugar are added to taste. If you deny the sugar, this often causes astonishment.A variation of this is Chai Masala. Here, in addition to the tea, a spice mixture is added that reflects the Arab-Indian influence in Kenya. After a bit of trial and error, I came up with my own blend.

 Chai Masala

40g cardamom
40g cloves
20 g black pepper
20 g cinnamon
30g ginger
5g nutmeg
For 2 cups of chai masala, I use 1/2 teaspoon of spice mix and 1-1.5 teaspoons of brown sugar. That's right, for chai masala the sugar is part of the basic recipe, it makes a noticeable contribution to the flavour, not just the sweetness.

The masala mixture can also be used elsewhere. As a flavouring for omelettes (pancakes). Or as an additive for Sablé biscuits, as hazelnuts are hardly available in Kenya. Even a cold-shaken cocoa gains in a new flayour note with a pinch of masala. Or as a spaghetti sauce:

Masala Pasta Sauce
60 g butter (or 100ml cream)
½-1 teaspoon masala spice mix
5-6 baked or roasted cashew nuts
a little pasta water.
Melt butter in a saucepan (or heat cream), add masala and stir in. Dilute with a few tablespoons of pasta water until you have a creamy sauce and season with salt.
Spread the sauce over the pasta. Chop the cashew nuts into medium-fine pieces and sprinkle over the pasta. As icing on the cake, add one or two chopped cashew nuts that have been fried in honey.

En Guete!