Recently a team of eight visited Ark Quest Education Centre and participated in the beginning stages of the construction of the permanent classrooms.
Valuable time was spent with Calvine and his team, renewing relationships and gaining a deeper understanding of the challenges faced daily by the dedicated staff. We also had the opportunity to share with teaching staff and students, about life in New Zealand, and bring a greater cross-cultural understanding.
We were able to visit the homes of some students, who are in extreme poverty, living on less than $1 per day. Their houses are made of mud, and finance is often raised through sale of produce from the land they live on. They will walk to get water, and mostly have no electricity. They cook on an open fire within their living/sleeping area.
As some members of the team support the secondary education of past Ark Quest students, we visited 2 students in their high schools and were impressed by the high quality of their education.
Ark Quest Education Centre currently has approximately 130 students, who are fed twice daily. The school is excelling academically, and is ranked 3rd in the Vihiga County (approximately 400 schools).
For more detailed up-to-date information about Ark Quest, please Click here.
Ark Quest School
The school currently has approximately 130 students who are fed twice daily: porridge at morning tea, and beans with maize for lunch. The school is excelling academically and is ranked 3rd in the Vihiga County (approximately 400 schools). Every year there are students who qualify for Secondary Schooling.
Due to extreme poverty in the village, many of the primary students are unable to afford the school fees, and Calvine will not send students away if their families are unable to pay. The cost of school fees for these students (which contribute to the running of the school) is just over $500 per year (or $10 per week).
The school faces significant running costs such as: wages for support staff, the school license, private school registration, exam fees, and transport costs such as fuel and maintenance for the van and the water pump.
Teacher salaries are paid every month with funds sent by the trust. Support staff (farm workers, cooks, cleaners, administrator, guards, cow workers etc.) are not paid on time every month, due to insufficient funds. They are paid when other money arrives usually from Calvine, and yet they are grateful to work and to receive what they are given. Currently the teacher salaries (averaging $75-$100NZD per month around $3 per day) are significantly lower than what would be received in a government school.
Building Stage 1
The first phase of building 3 classrooms is complete: the foundations have been finished, and building is progressing. There are enough funds raised to finish 3 classrooms, which will be used until the next phase of building can be completed.
The current mud classrooms are functioning and being used by the school. However, they are not up to standard and we saw signs of the rear of the buildings sinking. The MOE have also indicated the size of the classrooms is too small. We noticed that the lighting is very poor with only one light bulb in some of the classes, and frequent power outages.
Cows: Raising money through sale of dairy
In 2018 the cow herd diminished due to infection in the herd. Four cows died and Calvine was forced to dry off the others in order to save them. This was a difficult time, since the cows required continued feeding, but were not providing any income. Since then the herd has recovered, and is supplying milk for the students, and surplus milk is being sold to the dairy company and it is almost covering costs.
Secondary School Students
Each year, students from Ark Quest Education Centre qualify for places in various secondary schools, most of which are boarding schools. Which school they are selected for is dependent on the results they achieve in the end of year exam (Kenya Primary Certificate of Education). The national school accepts the students with the highest grades, and is the most expensive, followed by regional schools and then local schools. The majority of student who qualify are selected for schools they cannot afford to attend without sponsorship. As a result, often students are unable to go to secondary school. In 2020, Calvine foresees at least 5 students being eligible for secondary schooling. If you are interested in supporting a student to secondary school please let us know.
The school now has 2 vans. One van is used to transport children to and from school, and for local trips. The other van is used to transport feed for the cattle. When we saw one load of cow feed arrive at the house, the van was full of 15-20 50kg bags of feed, which men unloaded themselves and carried to the cow shed. There are approximately 17 cows now. The van is also used to transport manure from the cow shed to the paddocks around the farm where Napier grass, maize, bananas and other fruit are grown. The roads are rugged (to say the least!) and so regular maintenance is imperative. The school vans also require fuel, regular replacement of tyres, suspension, and licensing.
We were all very aware of the pressure that Calvine has on him within his local community. His standing in the local community means that he is seen as a source of income, so that when there is a need within a family, he is the person they will first approach. While he doesn’t always provide for these needs, often the need is so great, there is little choice in the situation. E.g. We saw a mother who had been living in a shack, and who could not feed her family. Calvine told them to come to the school to eat the food provided to the students, and the mother was employed to do small tasks around the school and paid a little. With this money, she was able to build larger mud-house so her family could be dry.
Calvine’s father Fred is unwell and there are significant monthly medical costs for his ongoing treatment. We met Fred, who is a local pastor with responsibilities across the local community. In spite of illness, he continues to minister to a number of churches in the area, and hold regular prayer meetings.
Calvine’s mother Leah is currently studying at theological college. She manages the support staff at Ark Quest, and oversees the running of the school. While we were there, we noticed her presence with the Year 8 students, motivating them and also providing a level of correction when needed.
Our perception of the school was very positive. We were amazed at the level of the teaching and learning, and how eager the children are to be at school. The teachers were very thankful for any resources we are able to provide, and so when each teacher was provided with 2 sets of coloured pencils, 2 pens, and a blackboard duster, they were extremely grateful. The children will often share pencils, and rubbers, and any books and paper are quite precious.
We are very aware of the pressure Calvine and Laura are under to keep Ark Quest Education Centre afloat. Despite this, they both remain very positive and passionate about God’s work in Mahanga Village and the enormous impact the school is having there. Calvine shared about the story of Gideon and how he thought he had a capable army to fight, but God chose just a few to fight the Midianites, reducing the army drastically. This is what he has also experienced, but his faith and trust in God is as strong as ever. And so our faith is also strengthened and we continue to hold our dear friends in prayer and provide support as we can.