Saturday, 2 February 2013

School in a class of its own

Nature walk with Madam Tanui and class
Sarah Flanagan has put a lifetime’s experience as a teacher to very good use by volunteering in our Happy House school.
She is also learning how very different things are from schools in the UK.
Here Sarah, from Blackburn,  gives an insight into our Happy House school.
‘’I met Sue at a Lancashire Woman of the Year event last  September where she was the speaker and practically knocked her over in my enthusiasm to know more....I had been to Watamu two years previously to stay with friends and couldn't believe the Happy House was just two kilometres from their house. This, coupled with retirement from 38 years of teaching in July meant just one thing...I was definitely going to the  Happy House
So, two weeks in, with one more to go I like to tell you a little of what I have seen, specially in school.
There are currently nine classes, the babies, then KG (kindergarten) 1, 2and 3 and then Primary classes 1,2,3,4 and 5. 
The classrooms are well equipped thanked to donations from those who support the charity , particularly when compared to other schools in the area, but ,of course, could always do with more resources. 
The teachers are great, very committed. The one I have got to know best is Madam Tanui who teaches KG 2 ( mostly four/five year olds). She is wonderful- patient, resourceful, funny and takes no messing. The kids behave beautifully with her as they do with all the staff. She can also start a rousing chant, encouraging children to succeed, of ' Happy House Power..Super Power!’
In the afternoons I work with the older children, mainly on English punctuation and comprehension. They have really neat handwriting,get down to work with minimal bidding, and do homework every night.  In addition they make sure the classrooms are tidy before they leave....UK kids take note! 
Each child takes five  subjects for the Kenyan National Curriculum: Maths, English, Swahili, Religious Education and Social Studies ( I know Science, I am not sure if science is compulsory but I know that  IT, French and art are subjects that the Happy House offers as an addition).
It has been really exciting going back to teaching. Latterly in my career I was mainly limited to so many meetings that I actually spent very little time in the classroom, so being able to teach and feel that real learning is taking place has been so refreshing.
 Classes range in size from but Mama Sue has vowed that they will never exceed 25, which is tiny when compared to Government schools where they maybe 90 or upwards
The school day runs from 8.30am - 4pm so everyone works very hard compared to the UK system. However the two youngest classes do have a nap in the afternoon......all snuggled up outside but under shade of the makuti rooof and they look so very sweet!
If this all sounds a bit dry it's not meant to, every moment spent at the Hapy House is a joy.....the children are endlessly welcoming, polite, affectionate and kind to each other. 
They are unquestionably a family, albeit a large one, and give back so much more than they receive. 
It is very hard to be leaving but I very much hope that this won’t be my last visit.
Finally, I'm in awe of Mama Sue who is a truly remarkable woman who has realized a unique vision.
 If you would  like to help by making a donation  or sponsoring a child, I urge you to do's no more than an average takeaway for a couple once a month!
To find out more about sponsoring a child please email:
 or to make an online donation visit: