British headteacher’s intervention saves Kenyan school from demolition

Desai Memorial Primary School Trust
A meeting of the Desai Memorial Primary School Trust. Photo: Desai Memorial School

When Goddard Park Primary School headteacher Mike Welsh discovered the school in Kenya his primary had been twinned with for over 20 years was due to be demolished, he decided to act.

The Kenyan Rural Roads Authority (KERRA) had plans in place to build a relief road through the slum area that would go directly through the site of Desai Memorial School in Kawangware.

With time of the essence the Swindon head teacher, whose wife Veronicah is Kenyan, set up a meeting with government officials before flying out to East Africa. Following Mr Welsh’s intervention, the authorities agreed to re-route the road.

During his meeting in Kenya, the long-serving school head delivered a presentation outlining the significance of the work the school does, assisted by pupils who helped by collecting stones to mark out the new route of the road that they proposed.

“This is one of the toughest areas in the world, the kids look forward to be able to learn and this is something I couldn’t let be taken away from them,” he told the Swindon Advertiser.

 “When you have spent this amount of time and put so much work into helping it really does have an effect on you. It is part of my life to help this school. I was prepared to fight for this not to happen, there was just no way I could allow hundreds of kids to be left without a place like this and thankfully we were able to come to a compromise,” he added.

Desai Memorial School operates for 3-14 year olds. In 2011, it had the third highest pass rate in the KCPE (Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education) for all School in western Nairobi. It is dedicated to giving girls (50% of roll) and boys a chance in life and with a KCPE they have the chance of a job or of attending Secondary School.

Children from both schools communicate with each other via Skype and they have built up a relationship where they learn from one another which also something Mr Welsh sees as beneficial to his pupils as they each play a key role in each other’s lives.

However, despite saving the school, the new route agreed by the Nairobi County Authority and KERRA resulted in the building’s only block of toilets being knocked down.

So the Rotary Club of Swindon Old Town is trying to raise £1,000 to pay for new lavatories which need to be built by January 2019 to allow it to reopen.

The Rotary Club of Swindon Old Town has been involved with the school since 1999. Following Mr Welsh’s first visit to the school, he delivered a presentation to the Club at one of it’s Wednesday Breakfast meetings at Swindon Town Football Club. After the meeting Nobby Clarke, the then President, invited Mike to join the Club.

To learn how you can support the work of the school, please visit their website.

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