AFG’s largest project to date was completed in November. This new 6 classroom building replaces the last of the old and rotting corrugated iron classroom buildings. The classrooms will be warmer in cold weather, cooler in hot weather, have better lighting, and generally allow for an enhanced academic experience. Gatoto’s academic achievements already compare well against state-funded and private schools in Nairobi. We hope this new building will help students and teachers feel the pride in the progress they make day by day and promote greater achievements.
For reasons not fully understood, Africa has generally weathered the pandemic better than other regions. Early concerns of a potential health disaster in Gatoto’s neighborhood have thankfully not come to pass. However, the school and the surrounding Mukuru kwa Reuben slum and economy have been impacted severely. The school has been closed since this spring to the majority of students. Curfews and lack of work have had negative effects on Gatoto, its students and their families. The livelihoods of many families were impacted by the loss of work for breadwinners, which led to a food crisis. The American Friends of Gatoto (AFG) provided masks and emergency financial assistance, distributed by the school via MPesa (mobile money), to ensure that Gatoto families had enough food during this crisis period.
What about learning at Gatoto during the pandemic? The teachers organized modest distance learning efforts, and provided some textbooks and homework. But in a community largely without electricity and computers, education has been greatly disrupted. Grades 4 and 8 returned to classes in October with masks, increased social distancing and regular hand washing. 98% of the students in these grades returned to classes. Other grades are expected to return in some fashion in early in 2021 – perhaps with split sessions to allow for greater social distancing. Unfortunately, the government has now prevented Gatoto from making food available to students not yet called back to school.