Manuel Alexander School (MAS) is the first school of Mekaela Academies, a primary school from Standard 1 to Standard 8 including 2 Kindergarten classes and a Baby class. Up to 450 children may be educated at MAS, since 2001 the school is working at full capacity. Pupils are looked after by 18 teachers and other staff weekdays from 7:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. The size of the school compound is “only” 3 acres, so we have limited space left for further expansion.
The two little girls are wearing the standard MAS school uniform with an Amina-badge sewn on it.
Children of Manuel Alexander School
The first building was completed at the beginning of 1996. Its construction is built in the shape of an “L” and contains 4 classrooms, 1 staff room, 2 storage rooms, toilets and washrooms. Approx. 130 children from Class 1 to Class 4 are taught here.
Mutual assistance at work: Ahmed is a local painter who could send two of his children to the school with the help of donorships. In return, he did all kinds of painting jobs for the school without payment. Only the paint he uses is provided by the school. So far, Ahmed has completed four colourful paintings on the outside of the walls.
The classrooms are airy as they experience continual ventilation under the makuti thatch roof. During really hot days the temperature is about 10° to 15° C cooler inside due to the makuti construction.
The windows are secured by iron bars. The roof is lapping over, so rain won’t enter the classrooms even when it is windy. The blackboard consists of concrete which has been plastered and then painted black. This helps to avoid bugs and burglary.
Class of Std 1 in L-Wing
Like all school sof Mekaela Academies, MAS has its own water well for freshwater supply. The wells have to be dug to a depth of between 90 and 120 feet into the extremely hard coral rock – manually, of course. Two workers require 4 to 6 weeks to dig down to groundwater level for a fee of 5 Euros per foot.
The groundwater in the area is coming straight from Mount Kilimanjaro and is normally clean enough to be potable (at least if you are no sissy).
Theoretically, every school in Kenya has to display the Kenyan flag. Even if not all of the rules are followed in Kenya – Mekaela Academies are private schools founded by Europeans. Thus, every decent school inspector would be more than glad to earn himself a few shillings on the side by “enforcing” the law. Who would want to blame him, considering the low wages civil servants are paid.
So we erected a flagstaff (I know, this one is from LPS). The schools have small groups of scouts, often led by a girl. One of the tasks for the scouts is the hoisting of the flag in the morning and the lowering of it in the evening. This duty is carried out with great seriousness. After all, there is a law in Kenya that people should stand still the processing of a Kenyan national flag is taking place.
Std. 1, shortly after the official opening in 1996. The walls are still empty, however a few weeks later pictures, learning materials and the class-list were hanging at the walls. At the end of that year four desks and six chairs will have been broken in this class alone – children are alike all over the world!
Quite amazing that the children are eagerly paying attention to their teacher although Frank is taking one picture after another right in front of the blackboard.
It’s a pity, but true: At the beginning of 1997 the small Indian girl in the front row was taken from the school by her grandfather, although she had a sponsorship. The reason given by the old man: “Girls do not need education.” Other countries…
Std. 1 Class in 1996
A Kindergarten class in action. The cupboard in the corner next to the blackboard is made of brick and mortar, a good protection against nightly intruders.
In the beginning pupils are sitting at standard sized desks. Unfortunately, some of the children could hardly get their noses above desks. In 1997, guests of (former) Robinson Club Baobab provided furniture for the little ones to sit decently.
Those were the great-grand-dads of the chairs you see now which are probably the 4th or 5th generation.
Kindergarten of Manuel Alexander School
In 1997, the construction of a second building was started which took us nearly 2 years to completed due to minor financial shortcomings. The building is “T”-shaped with six classrooms for approximately 150 pupils. Since 1998, the building is being used for the classes 4 to 8, the Fikentscher-Library, the former Nemetschek-Workshop (today: the Computer Lab) and the tiny canteen where food is prepared for the children.
This wall is called a “Talking Wall” which helps the children learning the alphabet, it was painted by Ahmed, too.
MAS Talking Wall
The T-wing seen from other side. The roofs are overlapping because the building was gradually extended over the years, and the ground has some serious down slope. Several steps (for reasons beyound our comprehension steps in Kenya must never be symmetrical) were built to level the aisle.
On this side, you will find the sports field, the volleyball and the basketball pitch as well as the casuarina tree nursery.
MAS Basketball Pitch
In 1998, Uschi from Mainz went to great pains looking after the construction of the sports field. Just one or two raining seasons later the field was in decent shape. Here, the physical education takes place, the school’s team conduct their competitions, generally football matches.
It will not surprise anyone that there is a law making sports pitches mandatory for private schools. That is fine with us. It is amazing how much the children enjoy any kind of motion – as long as it is fast.
MAS Sports Field
A photo for those of you who have already been there and may know the school from earlier times. This shot was taken one late afternoon in 1999 from the steps of the T-WIng. The children are just being collected from the school. It is nice to see how well the trees and bushes had grown since 1997. In the years since then, the school compound has really become a beautiful place.
And, mind you, MAS has a flagstaff, too! MAS in 1999
Since 1999, the school has a wonderful gateway with two white obelisks. Initially they were hand-made with much effort from small pieces of coral rock but this very beautiful design only survived two raining seasons.
Behind the school’s signboard on top of the guards’ house you see the makuti roof of the former canteen. It was converted to a house and provides housing for a family. (Before 2004 it used to be even two families, but fortunately things have been getting better.)
MAS Main Gate
As required by law in Kenya in 1999, a workshop was built as an extension of the the L-building. The funds for the construction and the tools were donated by Nemetschek AG. Since 2002, a workshop is no longer mandatory, so we turned this one into a computer lab. We added a ceiling and glass windows before installing an air-condition set made much sense. (Hey, we are smart!)
Today, the lab still is a hot and humid place, and if I was a PC I would kick the bucket after some weeks, but our original computer equipment turned 5 in 2007. Amazing.
Thanks to generous donations, the new Computer Lab was equipped with 10 brand new PCs and a network. Both children and teachers receive computer training in the most common programmes. Our European volunteers have to teach here quite often, too, because we simply lack skilled teachers.
The Computer Lab is so popular that the voluntary lessons on (otherwise free) Saturdays are over-crowded. For the time being Internet access for pupils is not available, the connection charges would be too expensive. Who knows, that might be good after all.
PC Lab Manuel Alexander School
The teachers body in October, 1999 (without the then Deputy Headmaster, Simon Mwachia, and Elijah Musili had to be cut off on the right side, I could only save part of his sleeve). Our teachers have to be credited for the school’s educational achievements which made it the best school in Kwale District within a couple of years.
Sitting on the left side is Sarah, a voluntary teacher from Derek’s college in Oregon. Sarah had travelled to Kenya on her own expenses, paid for her accomodation herself and worked without a salary. Thank you, Sarah.
MAS Teachers in 1999
Lunch break at MAS. The playing ground is densely populated mostly by children from the Kindergarten. When playing, they show no mercy neither for themselves nor for the swings, slides and seesaws.
The equipment for playing and sports has to be maintained regularly, as it is hard to obtain and very costly in Kenya. Such items are placed on top of every wishing list of the school’s headmaster.
Mr. Musili brought along a catalogue for certified playground equipment from his visit to Germany in 1999. The rocking ducks are home-made, copied from the catalogue. High-DIY, kind of, with concrete foundations in the ground, old car springs stuck in them, and wooden ducks from the local carpenter on top. Works just fine.
The rocking ducks are very popular with the little ones, although they still have to learn not to board the ducks with twenty kids at a time. Which of course they wont, so our ducks had the life-expectancy of a chocolate cake on a birthday party.
DIY Rocking Ducks
In October 1999, we met Andrea and Markus Lange in Kenya. Markus was then Managing Director of Logitech Germany. After visiting Manuel Alexander School Markus declared he wanted to complete the desperately needed I-Wing. Thus, the building was christened “Logitech House” on its official opening the following spring.
The architectural drawing was kindly donated by the father of one of our school-girls. Asantini sana, Markus and father!
Plan of Logitech Wing
In the beginning of 2000, a pool was built thanks to Gerda Pawils and her team, and it is probably the most popular installation in the school. The water is only about 3 ft. deep, but that is sufficient for paddling and swimming lessons. Suprisingly enough, most children who are living on South Coast (?!??) can’t swim properly.
Behind the pool, you can see the new Logitech House. It has become a real nice building. When the photo was taken the official MAS colour was light blue, now it is orange. (I hope it stays that way for a while, I hate to change the text every few years).
Gerda Pawils Pool
A 4-year old boy at the blackboard in his KG 2 classroom. Even in Kindergarten, the youngest are being taught reading, writing and even maths. The children have to qualify before they may graduate to the “real” school. The advantage of this procedure is rather obvious: all children join Std. 1 under comparable conditions, which improves their opportunities a lot.
This is one of the reasons why the schools of Mekaela Academies are achieving such positive results.