GATOTO UPDATE: COVID REACHES KENYA
The coronavirus reached Kenya in early March, when seven cases were discovered.
On March 15, 2020, the Kenyan national government ordered the closure of all schools in the country. A series of additional orders closed all points of entry into the country to all travelers except Kenyans.
All Kenyans were ordered to stay at home. On March 27th, the government issued an order setting a 7.00 pm to 5.00 am curfew, which it is aggressively, often violently, enforcing.
Local leaders quickly pointed out that the quarantine and curfew orders were unrealistic for dwellers of so-called informal settlements such as Mukuru, where Gatoto is located. Residents of these areas include Nairobi’s poorest, who live and work day to day and flatly cannot afford not to work. Moreover, the population of the slums is extraordinarily dense. Physical distancing is impossible.
The following week, construction of Gatoto’s new classroom building was put on hold.
SHUTTERED GATOTO DISTRIBUTES FOOD TO STUDENT FAMILIES
Gatoto closed in compliance with the government order. Students no longer enjoy the many benefits of attending: education, daily breakfasts and lunches, room to run, and of course the security that the campus provides.
School leaders, including school head Betty Nyagoha and local Gatoto chair Orla Cawley, immediately saw that nutrition was now a crushing issue for Gatoto students and their families. Supported in part by emergency help from AFG, they decided to distribute all of the schools’s on-hand inventory of food, along with some quickly purchased soap, to student families.
As a similar effort by another school in Mukuru had resulted in a near riot, Gatoto management saw that careful planning was essential. On the day of this distribution, security was tight. Gatoto sent texts to school parents, giving instructions about how to claim their allotments. When they arrived at campus, they were required to show the message on their phones to an armed guard and were admitted. In addition to receiving their food and soap, parents participated in sessions offering guidance on behavior during the pandemic, including proper hand-washing.
THE WAY FORWARD
The leadership of Gatoto is firmly committed to sustaining this important institution through the pandemic, with a goal of being intact and ready to go once the pandemic is over. At that point, the school’s value to its community and Nairobi itself will be greater than ever.
Important steps have been taken, including securing the campus and construction site, continuing to pay teachers and staff, and, in view of the impracticality of distributing food, developing a program to provide minimal financial assistance directly to families.
More detail will follow shortly.
VIDEO OFFERS DRONE'S EYE VIEW OF GATOTO
In case you missed it, AFG’s latest video offers compelling insights into Gatoto and Mukuru, the neighborhood surrounding it.
AMERICAN FRIENDS OF GATOTO REACHES $1M MARK
We’re happy to report that over its almost five years of operation, American Friends of Gatoto has raised more than $1,100,000 in support of the school (as of the end of 2019). As described below, American Friends’ funding of Gatoto has increased in dollars and diversity over the years and includes support of the general operating budget, two hot meals daily, post-Gatoto scholarships, and infrastructure improvement projects.
Thank you for your help in making this happen.
PLEASE SUPPORT GATOTO
Or send checks to:
AMERICAN FRIENDS OF GATOTO
4320 Tuckerman Street
University Park, MD 20782-2145
AFG is a 100% volunteer, not for profit 501(c)3 corporation. AFG’s limited direct costs are paid by restricted board member donations. 100% of all other donations to American Friends of Gatoto are forwarded to Gatoto. Receipts are sent to all donors for their tax filing purposes.