Sunday, 13 September 2009

Our Latest - Juba and Limuru

It's a long time since we put a few things in our blog and much has happened since the last one.
In early July we had a conference of the ECS Theological Commission. It met in Juba next to us and made decisions about the five provincial theological colleges in the Sudan, of which Bishop Gwynne College is one. One of the decisions was to become re-affiliated with St Paul's University in Limuru, Kenya.

St Paul's University, Limuru

A visit to St Paul's was requested so Trevor and others visited Kenya in mid-August. The university began life as a theological college on its present site in 1903 and theology remains one of its major disciplines. Limuru is about an hour north of Nairobi and is quite high. This means that it was much colder than anticipated and in the evenings, when the temperature dropped to around 12C,Trevor ended up wearing three shirts on top of each other! The visit was very successful, however, and we were most encouraged by the welcome we were given. We will be applying for affiliation when we begin with the students in the New Year.

Part of Limuru Library - we have a long way to go to reach their standards

It has now become quite clear that we have no chance of getting a new college site sorted out before January - let alone any buildings on it - so we are reconciled to having to be confined to the existing building for at least the first term of the year. Making something out of the little we have is not so much a problem as our African friends had believed. We believe that with proper management and making good use of a small income and a small place we can provide a good enough standard of accommodation for fifteen students to teach at the highest standard we are capable of. We hope to employ just one full-time member of the academic staff in the first instance and use visiting lecturers as the numbers increase. So we are putting £1000 of our Bridport money into repairs, painting and decorating. We have ear-marked a different room for the library away from the side of the dusty road and on the cooler side of the building. We plan to install solar panel electricity so that there is light for the library after dark (usually just after 7 pm). The college has had no electricity for several years. We are also paying the arrears on the water bill so that we can have running water again and bring the toilets back into use. We are building a new kitchen lean-to so we can cook on this site for the first time. The old library and the rooms on the east side will be used as dormitories and what used to be a series of offices, one for each member of staff, will become study rooms for the students. In August 2010 we will have to open a new dormitory but we should still have enough teaching space for the forty students we hope to have by then.
Tina is now spending most of her time cleaning and cataloguing books. We are using the American Library of Congress system that they employ at Limuru. This means researching on the Internet for all those older books that do not have the number on the fly leaf. Unfortunately many of the books are in poor condition having been covered in a very thick layer of dust left on shelves - some of which were broken - and oiled high on a table.
Tina has made return visits to some of the primary schools to take letters sent by the Salisbury Diocesan schools. These were very well received. Large numbers of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who were living in makeshift accommodation in Juba have now returned to their home areas. This has meant that the numbers of children in some of the schools are greatly reduced. Two small schools on the outskirts of the town, which Tina visited for the first time, have been particularly affected by this. These schools have some of the poorest conditions, the children do not even have chairs unless they have brought them themselves from home. Those without have to sit on the dirt floor. One school has three classes in different areas of the church because of lack of classrooms. Those who have experienced 'open plan' will know how difficult this is.

A school yard after heavy rain. It became a sea of mud with a lake in the centre.

We are now well settled in our permanent accommodation. We have got five easy chairs, a dining table and some plastic chairs. We bought a bookcase and a set of five low tables which are locally made and solid (even if the legs are of different lengths!).
Our cooking is becoming more adventurous. Robin has introduced her favourite Mexican food - tortillas, guacamole and salsa. And we ate our first crop of moringa leaves from the demonstration garden. They don't really taste of much, but if you know they are rich in nutrients it makes you feel good. Pulling all the leaves off the stems though takes quite a long time - it is reminiscent of dealing with red-currants.

Our first moringa leaf meal. The leaves have to pulled from the stems

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