Friday, December 10, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Student Spotlight : George Katana

George is 14 years old and one of the best performing students in Class 4. George started his education at the public schools in Takaungu. When transfering to the Vutakaka Junior School, he had to return to KG3 because of the poor education he had been receiving at public school. Despite being older than other students in his class, George worked tirelessly and was almost always the number one student in his grade.

Three years after attending Vutakaka Junior School, George performed so well, he skipped Class 3 and moved directly into Class 4. Despite being a year behind, he has worked hard and is now performing at the top of his new class! A star student, George is also part of the Stay Alive HIV/AIDS education group, and the school bell-ringer.

George is the son of our ground's keep and his mother attends graduated from our adult education course where she learned to read and write. The EAC is brought to offer comprehensive services that, in many cases, benefit numerous members of families in a variety of ways!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

From 6th graders Muttaquina Salim

My School

Our school is called Vutakaka Junior School. It is located in a village known as Takaungu. Our school has a spic and span environment. Pupils are always smartly and colorfully dressed. The routes which pupils pass through have beautiful flowers planted and these make the school look smart. The teachers are always kind and fair. The head teacher, Madam Catherine, is a very hardworking teacher. She always talks to us during assemblies and encourages us to work hard and be famous people like our president.

We always go to school earlier than usual. We get in classes and read before the teacher arrives. When the teacher comes, he sees the class arranged and pupils reading seriously. We then go out for collection. We collect all the garbage until the land is left bare with not even a paper of a sweet left.

After collection, we usually go to class and the teacher calls the register. We learn a lot and share ideas. We learn about the world and our country Kenya. English is the subject which the majority of the pupils like. They speak well, like Queen Elizabeth. Our teachers tell us to study hard and use the old adage “look before you leap.”

The memory of our class teacher will linger longest in my mind. She has a steadfast love for us all in school. She is for sure a great teacher. She always tells us the reality that the only parameter of success is hard work and dedication. When she hears that we are the best in the zone she erupts into joy and jubilation like hot magma. She breaks into songs and dance and she gives us a golden trophy.

When she enters our class, she always says “Disciplined pupils should not surrender to despair. The undisciplined pupils are passing clouds that will fade from the sky. Each pupil should not allow them to break their hearts. They can kill the disciplined pupils physically, but you should remain strong in soul, mind, and character and serve your fellow pupils faithfully.”

Early in the morning she usually speaks to us seriously. She teachers us two subjects: English and Social Studies. We always pass the two subjects and find we are the best in the zone. We always smile appreciatively exposing a set of pearl white teeth, thinking “for sure I have never before learned in such a blooming, great school.”

After the end of year exams we always have a trip to enjoy. We go for pleasure and for further exploring Our school is visited by foreigners often. We have many other clubs like games, quiz, debate, and agriculture. I really like my school like the way I like my parents.

- Muttaquina Salim

Monday, August 2, 2010

From 6th grader Ibrahim Ramadan

"My school is called Vutakaka Junior School. It got it’s name from the names of the villages around it. The villages are Vuma, Takaungu, Kanyumbuni, and Kayanda. The name came from the first two letters of each name. Vu came from Vuma, Ta came from Takaungu, Ka came from Kanyumbuni, and Ka from Kayanda.

Vutakaka School is located at Coast Province in Kenya. Now, it has six classes and one is uncomplete. There are around two hundred pupils and seven teachers. Pupils sit at wooden desks and the classes are made of bricks and iron sheets. It also has a kitchen which is made of mud and two cooks work th

Each class has several subjects. Classes one to three have similar subjects and four, five, and six have their own. The lower classes, that is one to three, have Maths, English, Science, Social Studies, and Religious Education. Class four to six have Math, English, Science, Social Studies, Religious Education, and Computer class, that is XO.
Teachers, pupils, cooks, and other workers have a good time at Vutakaka. We pupils ourselves are very happy with what the teachers are doing. They are very hardworking as we are. All of them work hand in hand among themselves and to the pupils. Our teachers and pupils are kind, polite, and loving to one another.

The school routine is well observed. Pupils relax after every two lessons. The school has a playground for soccer, a pitch for basketball and volleyball. There are good players at the school and I am one of them. The groundskeepers have done a lot. They have planted all kinds of flowers around the school, big trees which give shade, and some vegetables. We pupils always enjoy excitedly as we eat the honey sweet watermelons.

There are three terms in one year. The pupils usually do some test at the middle of every term and at the end of the term. The whole zone is doing the same exams as each to her. After finishing, the teachers combine their marks and give them to the head teacher. The head teacher takes the marks to the zone office. The results are packed together and the winners are announced. My school is always being announced as a winner. The best pupils also come from our school.

Usually, after normal classes, we have some activities to do. On Monday we go for games, Tuesday we have the XO club, Wednesday we have clubs, Thursday we have quiz, and Friday we have debate. These activities help us to improve in class and in our normal speaking. The debate is my best activity together with games. We sometimes have a debate, quiz, or soccer competition. We mostly win.

After the end of the year, we always have a trip to any part of the country. That is when the Vutakaka School is excited. Buses come to collect us to the place we have planned to visit. The educational trips help us a lot especially in Social Studies. We are able to see historical sites live and the beautiful features. We really enjoy those trips. I love my school because it is helping the Vutakaka community at large."

-Ibrahim Ramadan

Vutakaka Students get Soccer Uniforms!

Vutakaka Junior School (VJS) students are enjoying their first sets of soccer uniforms! US board member, Libby Gluck, worked to get the uniforms donated by the American Youth Soceer Organization (AYSO) in Foster City, California. From the students at San Mateo High School who collected the uniforms to the Foster City Rotary club that supported them and to all those who helped in shipping and carrying the uniforms from one coast to the other and then from the US to Kenya (including Kathy Spergl who is currently interning in Kenya and Carrie Petler who will be there next month), many were involved in providing VSJ students with uniforms to play their daily soccer matches in.

Studies show that children's participation in extracurriculars has a positive impact on their education, confidence and social life. Sports and skills building clubs build "values of teamwork, individual and group responsibility, physical strength and endurance, competition, diversity, and a sense of culture and community". Again, this is the first time VJS students have had a change of clothes to play in and we are sure this will only strengthen the positive role sports will play in their lives!

Thank you to all those involved in making this impact!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Grant for Water Well Awarded

Earlier this month, the American International Women's Club of Genoa (AIWC) raised $1,200 to fund the building of a water well.

As part of a larger project to create a sustainable farm that will provide food for the school's lunch program, the well addresses one of the most important parts of this preparation. That is, assuring a constant supply of water.

The school has tap water for day to day use, but using tap water for farming would raise monthly water costs to extremely high rates, especially during the dry season. This well which will be built on the school's property means that the school is assured a constant, free supply of water for the farm.

We are currently approaching the AIWC, and other funders, to complete this project as part of our mission to build long-term, sustainable programs with projects that can be managed by the community and continue without a large amount of outside funding.

If you are interested in contributing to this project, please contact Jen Hill ( or 347.330.2670)

Thank you to Margaret Canepa and the AIWC of Genoa!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stay Alive Competition

The 2nd Annual Stay Alive Day was held Friday March 19th at Vutakaka Clinic and Nursery School site. Students from Takaungu Primary, Vuma Primary, Mkwajuni Primary, Vutakaka Junior School and Kazinuni Primary came to compete for the Stay Alive trophy.

Starting in 2008, the EAC’s health education program began to focus heavily on HIV/AIDS awareness and education. We use the PEPFAR “Stay Alive” curriculum, an abstinence program for children aged 9-14 years. We are now running this program in 5 different local schools, holding one session at each school each week. There are currently more than 500 local students attending the program.

At the EAC, we recognize how important it is to organize and host events such as these. Not only do they provide an opportunity for students from several local schools to come together, have fun, and share what they have learned, but we are also strengthening our connections and support of the public school system.

Last year, students from Takaungu Primary School took home the top prize, and held the trophy for the year. This year we were joined by Kazinuni Primary school, where the EAC health education cirriculum was introduced in January by Mary Canada, a Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Kazinuni.

The day began with music provided by Big Bounce Sound as all the children and their teachers began arriving. The students had been told to prepare one poem, skit, and drama each. Because they had only started health education in January, Kazinuni only had time to prepare a skit, and would not be in the running for the top prize. The judge for the day was Vutakaka Junior School teacher Omar Kazungu. He promised to be fair and unbiased.

The first performances were the poems. Vutakaka Junior School and Mkwajuni Primary gave fantasic performances, followed by solo poems from Vuma and Takaungu students. Next came the songs. These ranged from a rap song performed by Vutakaka Junior School to traditional dancing by Mkwajuni and Vuma.

The last segement was the skits. Vutakaka started with a hilarious skit the students had previously performed for a big crowd at World AIDS Day in Chonyi. Kazinuni was second, and performed a very informative skit, with wonderful performances by the younger actors. Mohamed Said, the EAC health education instructor, was very impressed with the amount of information Kazinuni students had learned in such a short time. The skits from Takaungu, Vuma, and Mkwajuni were equally well prepared.

After more music from the DJ, Omar was ready to announce the results. Best poem went to Mkwajuni school, best song and skit went to Vutakaka Junior School, and best overall performer went to Phillip from Kazinuni which resulted in huge cheers for the newcomers.

The winning school for the day was Vutakaka Junior School - the Vutakaka students and their health education teacher, Saade Abdallah were pleased when they heard the announcement! The students all began the trips home to their respective schools.

We at the East African Center are proud of the students' accomplishment and look forward to hosted next year's competition!

-Kate Crowley
Kenya Program Director

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Takaungu community raises $3,000 for classroom at village Harambe*!

*HARAMBE: Swahili term that means "working together in unity" or "let's pull together". The harambe concept is used throughout Africa to initiate projects that require people to work together and pool their resources. The event is also a party, uniting the community in working toward the chosen cause.

Harambe 2
Takaungu, Kenya - February 19, 2010- The Takaungu community held its largest Harambe ever for Vutakaka community center. The Harambe was thrown by the school parents' committee to raise funds for a new classroom.

Each year a new classroom is needed to accommodate our growing student body. In the past, classrooms have been built with funds from the West Seattle Rotary, the Pangea Foundation and individual donors. This year, the parents and teachers wanted to contribute to demonstrate the community's appreciation of the efforts made by groups and individuals just like you!

Invitations were sent to community and local government officials, including the village's Chief and Sub-Chief as well as current and former Ministers of Parliament (MPs). In true Kenyan fashion, live music and dancing students welcomed the Harambe's guests, including several local politicians and celebrities Geoffrey Murhambi, Fahim Twaha, and Joseph Khamis.

Harambe 3Students performed for the group while Master of Ceremonies, George Samuel, introduced each of the speakers. William Charo, head of the parent's committee spoke about the needs of Vutakaka School. Kate Crowley, EAC Kenya Program Director, addressed the work being done in the United States to support the community. Community leader, Fahim Twaha, spoke about the ways in which community members could support the work of Vutakaka despite limited financial means.

A basket was passed and the support was overwhelming. Following the general collection there was a live auction where people bid on ducks, pieces of thatched roofing and items made by the sewing cooperative. Parents then took turns taking the stage and expressing their appreciation and dedication to the work being done at Vutakaka School and Community Center.

The day ended with dancing and celebration over the announcement that over 220,000 Kenyan shillings had been raised (the equivalent of nearly 3,000 US dollars!) Kate said of the evening, "As people slowly made their way home, the feeling in the air was magical. Everyone was smiling, dancing, and chatting about the new classroom that will be going up in the near future."Enrollment Day KG1

To say that $3,000 is a large sum of money to this community is an understatement. Where most people survive on less than $1 per day, every cent counts.

Will you join them our Takaungu community for this joint effort? We must all pull together to show that each parties' hard work and sacrifice not go unnoticed.

Join the Haramabe by matching our Kenya contribution. Together we can collect $5,000 in the next week and break ground on the new classroom next month.

The average attendee gave $20 (almost 15% of the average salary in Eastern Kenya).

Can you match that contribution at $40 and make the ultimate declaration that we are committed to supporting them in their pursuit of happier, healthier, and more productive lives?

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"What an inspiring event and a strong testament to the community's commitment to its partnership with EAC and its future." - Jared Watkins . EAC US Board Member

Thursday, January 7, 2010

End of Year Report from the Head Teacher Catherine

Happy New Year!

The 2009 school year was a great success, beginning on January 5th and ending on November 30th. In the course of the year, two long-term teachers left for other positions and careers, Madam Ummi and Mr. Musa. We were sad to see them go, but we replaced them with two wonderful new teachers Madam Malemba and Mr. Omar. With the OLPC grant, we hired a new teacher, Mr. Onesmus, to replace Madam Anita who was promoted to computer teacher. We have our most competent and committed teaching staff yet! We finished the year with a total of 231 pupils taking the final exam.

Here are just some of the exciting things that happened at VJS in 2009.

Student selection of a new board of prefects

Introduction of award pins to be worn by the top scoring student each term

Strengthening of parent-teacher relationships through termly parent-teacher conferences

Strengthening the level of teaching by working with teachers on ways to overcome weaknesses


Our academic targets were achieved. VJS performance is well above average – most classes scored at the top of the Shariani Zone.

Computer classes were introduced to Class 4 and 5 this year through the OLPC grant. The students are very excited!

Electricity was hooked up to the school, also through the OLPC grant. This will mean many exciting things in the future!

The teaching staff received more development from the Ministry of Education this year. Many teachers attended workshops and seminars on new curriculums, and two teachers even traveled to Rwanda for the OLPC computer training!

The students participated in many extracurricular activities – interquiz competitions with neighboring schools, a district girls football tournament, camping for the Brownie’s troop, a school field trip to the law courts in Mombasa, and many Stay Alive drama presentations.

We introduced extra reading time and a handwriting class for students who were struggling with the basics. This has boosted the performance of the remedial students greatly!

Many teachers began their bachelor’s or master’s degree work this year.


Lack of sufficient school buildings. There are no administrative buildings and too few toilet facilities

With more resources, the teachers could offer more exams and quizzes to the students.

More teacher rewards would help motivate the teaching staff.


Parents need to become even more involved in their children’s education. The right to education for a child should be explained so parents understand the importance of children coming to school every day, on time.

The school can introduce monthly exams to further prepare students.

Build an administrative building, and a temporary class to house religious classes, where students are broken into two groups.

Hire a floating teacher to assist with workload of teachers as we add more classes every year.

Thank you to all from distant places who support VJS. In every way, the school continues to be central to lives of so many.

Catherine Munga

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Individual class reports from end of year 2009

KG1 - Margaret M. Kimolo

This is the first time many of these 30 pupils had attended school. I helped them through practicing a lot of coloring to improve their small motor skills to prepare them for writing work. During the second term, some of the weaker children were identified and helped with remedial work. The main challenge during this term was working with the children who were having problems expressing themselves in English.

Third term began with most students able to identify numbers and read and write capital and small letters. All the children were able to respond to questions in English. The challenge for this term was the addition of religion on the mid-term exam. Many of the children were unprepared for this, but most performed above average.

By the end of the year, I noticed that three children were still having difficulty recognizing numbers and letters. These children will repeat KG1 next year. There were not too many absences this year, but I worked with those that did have trouble with attendance and discussed the issues with their parents. The entire required syllabus was covered this year, and the children were well-prepared to enter KG2.

KG2 - Malemba Mwenba Mwadime

During the first term of the year, the main challenge was reading and recognition of words and letters. Extra reading work was given using the library at the school.

During term 2, four children were moved up to KG3 because of very high performance. One new student was received from KG1, and three transfers from other schools. The mid-term was difficult due to the addition of Kiswahili and religion, but through hard work, our final score was raised to 439 out of 500. The main challenge of term 2 was handwriting, but many students were able to read sentences on their own.

During term 2, most children were able to read and write sentences, and many could recognize numbers up to 100. The challenge was with those students who were having trouble with reading and writing numbers, and whose handwriting was behind the other students. Some of these students will need to repeat KG2 next year. The year finished well with a final mean score of 436.

KG3 - Faith Munyiva Nzuki

This was a good year for KG3. During the year, we had some changes with 4 students being promoted from KG2 during the second term, and 2 children transferring schools. All the syllabus topics were covered during the allocated time. Challenges were met by working with the other nursery school teachers, and by meeting with parents of struggling students. By the end of the year, all students were able to read words, sentences, and story books and can write well. They will all be promoted to Class 1 for 2010.

STD1 - Onesmus Chai

Some of the students began the year with problems in reading and writing. These were overcome with extra help during reading and study time. The class was strong this year as no students transferred or dropped out, and no new pupils joined. This meant that all pupils progressed together, finishing the year with all being able to read and write well. They will all advance to class 2.

STD2 - Saade Mohamed Abdallah

Class 2 began well with the students reading and writing well, and able to speak English fluently. During the year, their reading, writing, and math skills greatly improved and they were ready to be promoted to class 3 by the end of the year. Some students needed extra help in reading, which also improves their English, and they were coming to school early, or reading during lunch break. This greatly improved their performance.

The parent meetings during term 2 also helped to create a better relationship about education between teacher, parent, and student. With the parents being more involved in their children’s education, attendance and homework completion rates have improved.

STD3 - Mundigi Nyaga Joseph

When school began, some of the students were not performing well and were scoring below 60%. With hard work, by the second term, many had raised their scores. During the second term, 7 new learners joined the class from other schools due to open spaces. Their performance was far below the performance of the other students, and many of them had trouble with English.

Mr. Omar, the English teacher for class 3, worked especially hard with these students. Some students were also given an extra half hour of reading each day. This extra time has improved their performance. By the end of term 3, 23 out of 29 students were scoring more than 80% on their final exam.

Other achievements for the year include improved discipline over the course of the year, cooperation between class teachers and parents, and a high annual scoring average of 370 marks.

STD4 - Mary Okelo Atieno

This was a good year for class 4, despite low performance compared to other VJS classes. The syllabus was fully covered for the year, so the class is up-to-date. Revision of exams was taken very seriously, which pupils assigned different topics to cover with the class. Quizzes were added during the term to better prepare students for the final exam and to make sure they understood the material. The class 4 students were very active in sports, interschool quizzes, debate club, and the XO classes and club.

The biggest challenge this year was students get bored sitting in class for so long due to strict requirements in Kenya. This was overcome by encouraging students to fully participate in games during lunch break, and in all after-school activities. Parent-teacher discussions were also held during the term to reduce absences and late arrivals.

STD5 - Omar K. Kazungu

This was a wonderful year for class 5. The class really excelled academically, and enjoyed the XOs, sports, clubs, and the field trip. In the beginning of the year, it was seen that the challenges for the students are reading, handwriting, absenteeism and late arrival, and failure to complete homework. This was handled through parent-teacher meetings, extra reading time in the early morning, and the addition of a volunteer handwriting teacher (a parent) to teach weekly classes to the students.

During parent-teacher meetings, every party (parent, teacher, student) promised to do their best to ensure the best education and future for their child. This was shown to work by greater attendance, better class participation by students, and more students attending closing day.

The students particularly excelled during their XO classes and the computers have helped them to have even more enthusiasm about school. They are all ready to be promoted to class 6 next year.