Watoto - Our History

Our History

Our story began in April, 1993. We were invited by Suleiman Odoyo, a waiter working at the hotel were we stayed during our holidays, to visit his quarters in Ukunda.

This meeting took place around midday. The apartment, which had approx. 24 square metres, contained ourselves, some further eight people, as well as not more than 30 cubic metres of stifling 45° C warmed still air. To avoid the troublesome tropical diseases and to help the already cheery mood, a good mix of beer and brandy (4:1, don't try this at home!) was added.

An hour later we thought to have solutions for all the problems in the world, for example the need for a good schools in the community of Ukunda. For those who (for various reasons) couldn't send their children to the local Koran school or to an expensive school in far away Mombasa, were left with no other choice than the Word of Life Academy, a church-run school in Diani. And then: the waiting-list for Word of Life Academy was miles long, and whoever managed to secure one of the rare spaces, had to dig deep into his pockets for school fees. The story sounded sad, but nevertheless solvable.

So, our endless wisdom brought us to the conclusion that it couldn't actually be that difficult to raise the roughly calculated 25.000 Deutschmarks for a piece of land and the construction of a small school-building. Driven by our tipsy euphoria, we let ourselves be carried away into promising our very best when returning back to Germany. Later that day, in a more sobered state, we decided to let a few deeds follow our boastful announcements.

Back in Germany, we were lucky to quickly find a company which was prepared to make a donation of DM 25.000 for the school project in Diani. Depending on the project's development there would actually be DM 50.000 at our disposal. Between 1993 and 1997 we travelled well over a dozen times back and forth at our own expense to Kenya to get the project off to a start and continually monitor the progress. Between 1994 and 1996, with overwhelming help and commitment from the local people, the piece of land was bought, development took place, the first school building was constructed, teachers were hired and the necessary bureaucratic hurdles were overcome. Towards the end of 1997 the school had already accomplished being one of the best institutions on the South Coast – all the pupils received above average grades compared to the rest of the country.

Following are some pictures accompanied by a few little stories:

With the great help of Jeremiah Murungi, the Resident Manager of  Robinson Club Baobab, we were able to find a piece of land of approx. 13.000 m² in the middle of nowhere in the bush. In November 1993, the plot was rooted out and partitioned off. For the time being serving as a spearhead, a small mud hut was built for storing materials and as a place where the workers could live. The hut had to disappear in 1998 allowing space for the second building.

This shot was taken in 1994 just after we had started construction. Left of the hut are building materials for the windows and doors of the first building.

Musili, Murungi, Wentzel
A discussion among Jeremiah (Jerry) Murungi, Stefan Wentzel and Elijah Musili (the director of Mekaela Academies). Both "local" gentlemen have played a major part in the success of this project. Jerry practically headed the starting phase and saw to it that a plot of land could be acquired at a reasonable price. Jerry is to this day a member of the board of Mekaela Academies.

Elijah Musili allowed himself to be enticed away from a good position at the Word of Life Academy and conducted the 3 month long preparation for the opening of the school with neither contract nor social securities. He has everyone's confidence and possesses the high regard and esteem of the children, the parents and the founders equally. We have him to thank that Mekaela Academies have become the best schools of South Coast.

Finally, the school is ready for business. Deputy Minister of Transport Mwamzandi  is handed a document at the opening ceremony filled with excited commotion and activity. The document details the plot and building for unlimited usage as a school. Even the night before the ceremony, construction work was being carried out by the light of petroleum lamps.

Just before the hand-over, the minister had tried to persuade the founders to give him the school as a present. Thus, he would have fixed his political position in the local district. He didn't succeed in his attempts, as we all know, and in the 1998 elections he lost his seat and job as minister.

Kantine vor Abriß
AWA - Africa wins again. In Africa things hardly work the way you want them to. In this photo you can see the first attempt to build the school's canteen. The man in the red shirt is on his way to tell the workers to pack it in, and roughly an hour later the area is empty again.

One must imagine: A canteen which is   A) cooking with an open fire and  B) spreads smells of cooked food not more than ten metres away from  A) the next classroom and  B) the usually bone-dry makuti thatch roof! The canteen was eventually built next to the gate.


Florence Ng'ang'a
The picture shows the children of the first and second classes presenting a Massai dance under the guidance of their teacher Mrs. N'gan'ga, at the closing festival of the first term in 1998. The children perform dances, songs and rhymes at all the official occasions, to which the parents are always invited. The scouts show their skills at marching exercises and drills.

It is a pleasure to watch the children's performance. They simply possess a natural talent for dance, music and rhythm and evidently the show gives them a lot of fun.  

Musili und Sohn Brian
Brian, the little son of Headmaster Musili, also joined Kindergarten classes at Manuel Alexander School in 1998. Naturally, Brian didn't have a sponsorship, his father paid the regular fees.

If up until now there were any doubt about the quality of the school, it speaks for itself when the headmaster's own three children child have started schooling at Mekaela Academies. One may be reassured that the quality of the school food, the drinking water, the toilets and all the other important elements of the schools are kept under close scrutiny.

Gisela Galbori im April 2000
A case of luck for Manuel Alexander School: Derek from Oregon had come to Diani to teach at a different school. What they hadn't told him before: The other school required a particular confession from their teachers, but his wouldn't do, so they turned him down. Naturally, Derek was not the least amused, and we shall refrain from publishing his comments on that development.

Before Derek had a chance to leave the country, he was "poached" by Mr. Musili and hired as a voluntary teacher. He made quite some achievements during his time: He taught, he introduced the internet, he organised other volunteers and generally boosted morale among teachers and children.
Derek worked at the school from January until June, 1999. Thank you, Derek.

Gisela Galbori im April 2000
From 1999 until 2002, a German teacher came to work at Manuel Alexander School. Gisela from Munich held German lessons for the children as well as her Kenyan colleagues with great success.

For the older girls, she introduced counselling lessons, during which the girls may openly and sincerely discuss their problems in life. Gisela's counselling has been very well accepted, and already the young ladies from higher classes show a pleasant grade of self-confidence. We were not surprised when a girl was elected head-student in 2000.

Kindergarten 1
We managed to get part of the little ones of "Kindergarten 1" to pose in front of the camera. Kindergarten places are in great demand because of the school's high standard. Approximately four children apply for one space.

In the background the playground can be seen, which was donated by Roswitha together with a seesaw and swings. The complex is situated far away from the roads and offers ideal conditions especially for small children.

Kindergarten Abschlußklasse 1999
At the end of each year, a "Graduation Day" is held for the graduates of "Kindergarten 2". During the ceremony the children, who are dressed in cap and gown, receive their certificates of graduation.

The children and their parents celebrate the entry into "real" school life with pride. The nursery section of Mekaela Academies has a very good reputation. Here, the children learn English among other subjects in a short amount of time, so that they will be well prepared for primary education.

Mädchen beim Seilspringen im April 2000
Here they are, the young ladies we just mentioned, rope-skipping during their lunch break. Even if the schools' main objectives are education and training, sports and games are equally important. While being at our schools, the children may forget the burden of their daily struggle.

The girls, at least, make good use of their opportunities. In 1999, for instance, the girls' football team was more successful at tournaments than the boys' team. Keep it up, girls!

KGs im Meer 2002
Occasionally,  the graduates from Kindergarten celebrate their achievement with a big beach party on the beach. 

Isn't it appealing to watch the children having so much fun in the water? Many have never been to the beach before, and most of them can't swim, anyway, but for them this is the happiest day of their live. 

Lehrer und Volontäre 2004
Without doubt we have the best and most professional employees of all schools in South Coast, if not all of Kenya. They won Mekaela Academies top scores during the last 3 KCPE (first and second place, of course) and will surely continue to do so in the future. Asante sana, rafiki.

P.S.: In 2008, LPS and MAS scored 9th and 15th place among more than 18.000 Primary Schools in Kenya.

Die Schülersprecher der 3 Schulen 2007
Since 2005 the head students of our schools (a boy and a girl of each school) are taking part at the regular management meetings of the schools' directors and head teachers. They openly discuss problems of their schools and possible solutions. Since this policy was adopted a lot has been improved at our schools, as well as the students attitude.

In 2006, the students will established their own school newspaper called "Mekaela Times" which they edit and publish own their own.

Mattis im Chor Nov. 2006
During the last term of 2006, Mattis (then 17) from Germany was an exchange student at Lulu HighSchool. He led the same life as all other students and did not enjoy special privileges. The remarks he made to the circumstances of life in LHS, i.e. the required discipline or the diet that was offered,  were extremely funny but may not be repeated here for legal reasons. It can't have been that awful, though, because in 2007 Mattis returned to LHS to teach German as a deputy teacher for a while. 

Mattis, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. We are deeply impressed!

Rukia im Interview mit ZDF Reporter Jörg Brökel
Rukia Swaleh in an interview with ZDF-Reporter Jörg Brökel. Because of outstanding marks in her Secondary School exams Rukia received a scholarship at Pavlov Medical University in Ryazan, Russia (she will mostly wear jeans and jumpers there). In a few years, Rukia will return to Kenya and work as a gynaecologist.

Rukia belongs to the first generation of graduates at MAS. During her time at Mekaela Academies she had always been supported by Watoto e.V.  Rukia makes us very proud, as she has managed to achieve such a lot in her only 17 years of age.


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 © Watoto e.V. 2013