Hope through Education

"I want this community to be self-reliant. I do not
want them to be beggars" Father Joe – 2010, (Founder of St Peter's primary school).

Father Joe's vision

During his pastoral rounds of his parish Fr Joe came across Steven, a young lad who had been badly burned on the arms, stomach and chest in a domestic accident. Steven's burns had healed so badly that the taut skin prevented him putting his hand to his mouth to feed himself. Fr Joe took him to hospital and paid, from his own resources, for surgery to correct his condition. From this experience Fr Joe vowed to help the poor, the disadvantaged and the orphans of the parish by feeding and educating them. Steven is now a happy, mobile boarder at the school.

Father Joe's tragic death in 2011

2011 was an extremely difficult year for the school community and full community of Kajuki. The drought made daily life very difficult with escalating food prices, and much reduced water. The feeding programme was an essential part of ensuring that the children have enough food to eat. In August 2011, Fr Joe was tragically killed in a road traffic accident. The school and community lost their much loved leader, visionary and 'father' to many of the children. Fr Joe was so well known and and pioneer for childrens rights that the Prime Minister of Kenya attended his funeral. On seeing the level of poverty in Kajuki, the Prime Minister declared that it would receive food aid.

The school reached a very low point shortly after Fr Joe's death, they had lost their leader and the schools bank accounts had been frozen (a legality following a death). The food stocks had run out and there were no funds to buy more food. In response to this St Peter's Life-Line were able to send out immediate emergency funding so that the community would not go hungry.

The Bishop of Meru appointed Fr Frankline (who had been Fr Joe's Assistant Priest for 18 months) as the new Priest in Charge. Fr Frankline shares Fr Joe's vision and is a man with a huge heart. He works non-stop to bring transformation to people's lives.  In 2013 the community has come along way over the past two years and is working towards its goal of becoming self sustainabale.

St Peter's Primary School

Fr Joe started St Peter's Primary School in 2006 with 60 pupils. Working closely with the Kenyan Board of Education, it has recently been registered as a 'mission' school and a 'not-for-profit school', meaning that it has no formal Government or Church support – it has to find its own means. The aim is to bring in children from all around the parish, from whatever faith or none, whose parents cannot even afford the meagre costs (books, uniform, food) of sending them to local government primary schools.

The school's classes are a kindergarten, pre-primary, and classes 1 – 7, advancing each year as the school reaches completion at class 8.

Some income is provided by a proportion of parents who can afford to pay the full fees of 7,000 KSh (about £60) per term. The school is about 344 strong at present, with 150 or so pupils who live at the school, of whom some 66 are orphans – mainly through HIV/AIDS deaths of their parents. In 2012, it was rated by the Government assessment figures as 8th out of 140 schools.  This is due to the dedicated teachers, the feeding programme and the desire of the children to learn, as well of course many other factors.

There are a total of twenty staff and teachers. The teachers earn an average of 9,000 KSh (about £43) per month. The terms are 3 months long with a one month holiday in between – the academic year running from Jan to Dec. The school does not have the funding to pay the teachers a full salary during holiday time – and this they willingly accept. They work long hours, to a high standard, with scanty resources, some undertaking extra duties – such as acting as house-parents to the boarders overnight – with no extra remuneration.

The full community at St Peter's

Although the vision is centred on St Peter's Primary School, other initiatives have developed and grown at both ends of his community! A Vocational Skills School has been established as part of the community. The students first job was to build, a workshop, dormitory for the girls, and two small offices. The youngsters who attend are again taken from poor families and who have no prospect of going to secondary school.

Here they are taught dress making and tailoring skills for the girls and carpentry and construction for the boys – all working to national syllabus and qualifications over a two year period. Again, there is no formal funding from the Church or State – it all falls to St Peter's to support and fund.

Some kilometres away from Kajuki, Fr Joe has founded two nursery schools in desperately poor areas, the Sacred Heart, based in a former presbytery with 28 pupils and Our Lady at Kathwana which has now become a primary school, growing a class size each year with 118 pupils. One of the main aims of the nursery is the feeding programme where the children receive one hot meal.