The Rudolf Steiner School, Mbagathi, on the outskirts of Nairobi in Kenya recently celebrated another milestone with the completion of four new kindergarten classrooms. Judith Brown, a teacher at the school, looks back over more than two decades of school development. But as she also explains, the school still has plenty more plans for the future.

NAIROBI (NNA) - The Rudolf Steiner School, Mbagathi, has just over 300 children - ranging in age from three to fifteen years. The school lies on the dry flat plains, situated south of the Nairobi National Park, where lions are still free to roam and are heard regularly; giraffes silently graze the acacia trees nearby.

Since the land was bought in 1989, the school has grown from the original main building with its three classrooms. Water, which was then brought in tanks, is now pumped from our present borehole which was drilled in 2002. In the early days three months of evening darkness was not unusual, candle light being necessary to prepare for the next day's lessons. In 2006, the school was connected to the mains electricity, and since 2010 we have had 24 hour internet!

The children are manifestly happy to be at our school as they find an environment which is different and child friendly. Many children come from difficult economic backgrounds, some with family breakdowns, orphaned or suffering from AIDS and other illnesses. There is now full boarding accommodation sufficient for 90 children. Our boys and girls find the security they need to grow, play and study.

This year the school completed four new kindergarten classrooms with the support of the German Government through Friends of Waldorf Education as well as the Acacia development fund in Switzerland, the Vidar Foundation in Sweden and Sanduko in Denmark. The kindergartens were officially opened on 27 May.

traditional dancing

The children now have the environment and space they need for a good start in life. We have four kindergarten groups and classes one to nine. The school employs 44 staff, 19 of whom are teachers; we have boarding parents, cooks, drivers, farmers, a maintenance man, cleaners, as well as security and office staff. There is an organic garden and farm with cows, geese, ducks and fish. The school also accommodates a Steiner/Waldorf modular teacher training course, where teachers from East Africa come to train for two weeks during the holiday periods.

As the school has been growing, more staff are required to help carry out the increasing volume of work. To help this process, teachers ready to carry this responsibility need to live closer to the school. After years of planning it is now possible to build two staff houses on the compound in the coming year, again with supported from the Vidar Foundation in Sweden, the Acacia fund and the Karrer Foundation in Switzerland, the Zukunftsstiftung Entwicklungshilfe development foundation and Friends of Waldorf Education in Germany, Sanduko from Denmark as well as friends from abroad.

We are at present exploring new ways to run our farm; this process is going ahead with the help of Anne and Rolf Bucher - gardeners from the anthroposophic medicine and natural cosmetics manufacturer Wala in Germany. We need to build up a structure so as to produce the required vegetables economically with a regular supply to our school kitchen.

In February this year our teachers traveled to the Hekima Waldorf School in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The latter hosted the East African Conference on Waldorf Education - "Inspire Children to Learn". The teachers traveled the long distance in our school bus. Teachers, parents and friends attended from the different Waldorf Schools in East Africa. There was a variety of lectures and workshops, people met and shared experiences - it was a fruitful and rewarding conference.

The school is aware of the shortage of adequate training for our school leavers for their future careers; it wishes to support the needs of these young people in the future, with vocational training as a possibility. As the land prices in this area have been rising rapidly, the school decided to try to secure land for its future.

We are presently buying a 17 acre plot of land through a loan from Friends of Waldorf Education, and a 7 acre plot neighbouring the National Park has just been bought by a friend of the school, who is holding the land until the school is able to buy it. The school needs to raise money to buy these plots or sell one to buy the other. Then we can develop a project for young people in the future.

Nairobi is an advanced city with all the modern developments. Despite this, large parts of the population struggle to make ends meet. Buying food and clothes and paying the rent is basically about all one can do even if one has a job. Our local town of Rongai is a suburb of Nairobi and economic migrants come from afar in their search for work.

The children are generally in extreme poverty, they often lack sufficient food and other basic requirements. Living close to Nairobi we feel the cost of living rising fast. Recently prices have rocketed partly due to the drought situation in this region of the world. Driving too is more stressful as the roads are not adequate for the increasing traffic.

Our children, mainly from disadvantaged homes, are brought to the school and sponsorship is found for those unable to contribute; they pay what they can. Many donors from all parts of the world give regular contributions for the welfare and education of our children. Without them we could not manage. Thanks to their generous support we are able to provide stability, joy and a sound education.

Anyone interested in donating to or regularly sponsoring the school please contact either: Annette Massmann at: [email protected] or the school directly at:[email protected] website:
Or write to the school at: The Rudolf Steiner School,
P.O. Box 15609,
00503, Mbagathi, Nairobi, Kenya.

Copyright 2011 News Network Anthroposophy Limited. All rights reserved.