Sunday, August 18, 2013

Maths Camp; The Finale

One of the leaders of our SAAS team, Maria, was a brilliant help during the camp. She brought her gorgeous son MJ, who was proud to wear his Ireland jersey. Many of our Kenyan friends are big fans of Irish rugby and football.

Claire was a natural at baking, and rustled up some seriously delicious chapatis. The process is difficult to get right the first time, since the flour and water combination has to be just right. It was very good of the cooks to let us spend so much time in their kitchen, so they deserve a special thanks.

The camp was run in Kongowea Primary School, so we also must thank the generous school staff, who let us use their classrooms for the week. We held the closing ceremony in the largest classroom, but still the students had trouble squeezing in. Some popped their heads in through the windows, and others somehow hung from the rafters. Five points if you can spot Rustan Leino!

This year I met Edson and Lydia, the twins sponsored by my aunt. The main aim of our charity organization is to sponsor students through secondary school. Dharshini and Rustan helped the students with their chemistry and maths study, and encouraged them to form study groups so that they can continue to help each other after the camp. 

Henry had a great time teaching maths, in a way that made the students less afraid of the subject and more willing to engage with the new concepts. Ajay was enthusiastic all the way through, hanging on to his red pen to be able to correct physics problems at a moment's notice.

 Claire was a big hit at the closing ceremony, with all of the students wanting to have a photo of them getting their certificates from her. Ebby did an absolutely amazing job of organizing the camp. Even with so many students, things never got out of control. Gina was brilliant as well, getting the teachers and tutors ready for their teaching tasks.

Perhaps the most remarkable contributors of all were the Kenyan tutors. They have come back every year to help out, and they really make a difference to the attitude of the students. They show that it's possible to do great things once you concentrate on education. Through the youth group that they organize, they foster involvement with the community in many important ways. Thank you to all the excellent tutors!

We all look forward to Maths Camp next year, where we'll work again with all of the brilliant people who keep SAAS running and help the community of Kongowea all year long. New volunteers and sponsors are always welcome, so do get in touch (ursula [at] saas [dot] ie) if you'd like to hear more about helping out!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chapatis, Motion and Matrices

Every day we learn a bit more about Kenyan cooking by helping to make lunch for the teachers and students. The number of students attending has grown hugely, with more than 60 students in each of the four classes. It's mind-boggling how Mamma Cecelia and her team can cook for so many, with only a few pots! Today we learned how to roll chapati dough. It's quite difficult to spread the dough; it seems to want to stay in a spherical shape. A few of us had a go, and all of our concoctions roughly approximated circles.

After our kitchen adventure, Daljit took charge of the pot washing. There were only a few containers to clean, since all the food must be made in bulk. Only a giant dishwasher could handle those cooking implements!

The Form 4 class, who are in their final year, revised some physics and maths today. Ajay covered circular motion, with the help of Collins, one of our excellent Kenyan tutors. Cormac went through calculations with surds, and I worked on matrices. Again, we saw plenty of different approaches to the problems. A feature that stands out about our Kenyan students is how flexible and creative they are when they tackle maths problems. Rather than learning things off by heart, they demonstrate great understanding. This helps them to solve new problems, which will be very important on the day they sit their finals!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Algebra and Football

It's day three of Maths Camp, and the students are getting a lot more confident with their algebra. From Form 1 to Form 4, they were up doing examples at the blackboard. The atmosphere was very relaxed and encouraging, with the students helping each other along and even teaching us their methods of solving problems!

 Our staff room is incredibly spacious. It consists of a school desk and a vast courtyard. It's where we spend our breaks, recuperating and preparing for the next class, of course, :-).

There's a great mix of personalities in the classes. There are the bright and eager ones, who jot the problems down and work on them in earnest. There are also the happy jokey ones, who bring a distractably joyful element to our lessons. There the daydreamers too, who somehow see the romantic side of our equations.

The footballers take the chance to run around during all the breaks. They make footballs out of lots of interesting things they find, bound up with orange twine. Somehow it keeps the football together, despite their hardest kicks!

Gina, one of the SAAS directors, played a blinder with the algebra class today. It's difficult when more students show up every day, as the word spreads about the camp. Some students will have seen our revision classes, while the new ones will have forgotten some of their sums. We do our best to get everyone up to the same level, keeping the brightest ones challenged and the newest ones motivated!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cookery, Chemistry and Rugby

A highlight for the students, teachers and tutors of Maths Camp is the delicious lunch cooked by Mamma Cecelia. Today Mamma Cecelia let us try cooking her famous dish of Kenyan beans.

The kitchen was warm and smokey and the pots were huge, but we learned plenty of Kenyan cooking skills and made a few tasty morsels.

Maths Camp has expanded to include some science subjects. Part of our teaching team includes some talented physics and chemistry teachers. This gives the students the opportunity to brush up on both their science and maths during their week off from school. It's especially encouraging that some of our past pupils have become tutors. They do an excellent job, and make a great contribution to the community.

Mombasa has a very skillful rugby team. They specialize in sevens rugby, with their speed and technique. Welland, one of our seasoned tutors, is an excellent player, and invited Cormac to their training session. The team was delighted to have an Irish player. It's exciting to learn how broadly the reputation of our rugby team has spread!