Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki’s decision to provide free compulsory education at the primary and upper school levels has received a boost from a charitable American company that is building schools in Kenya. Freeflow, an American provider of inventory asset management business solutions, has teamed up with the non-profit organization, Build African Schools, to construct the first of many primary schools in Kenya’s Maasai Mara game reserve. Retired technology executive and founder of Build African Schools, Patrick O’Sullivan, recalls that a visit to Kenya two years ago gave him the idea of partnering with corporations and individuals to expand educational opportunities to thousands of boys and girls.
“I went there on my vacation two and a half years ago to write a book, and during my time there, I kind of discovered this village, and they were building extensions to their small school. And I asked them questions – how long will it take? And they said, about four years. And I asked, what would happen to the children meanwhile? And they said, well, they don’t go to school. So I decided to help them out, and we finished that school together. And from that came the question, ‘Gee, if I can do that on my own, can I persuade others to do it?’ And as a result of that, we have built African schools today,” he said.
From his base of operations in San Jose, California, O’Sullivan explains how his concept has started to spread to many communities in Kenya and to other African countries as well.
“We have at least eight other countries in Africa asking us to build schools. This is an enormous undertaking that, to be honest with you, we discovered by accident. And we’re so grateful for companies like FreeFlow. We have two of the biggest computer companies here in Silicon Valley (in northern California) who are just about to come on board with us. One of them is going to be supplying computers for the next three years. For every school we build, they will provide the training and the internet. Another one is providing the facilities and computers and money. So we’ve been very lucky,” he indicates.
From brick, block, struts for the roof, and a tin shed, Patrick O’Sullivan admits that the building materials his local Kenyan construction team employ are quite basic. But he adds that modern technology has brought along a lot of advantages as well.
“There are normally six to eight classes and they sit about 45 to 50 children in each classroom. However, we actually installed electricity through solar power and as a result of that, we can also give them computers. In our next school, which we just started, we will be installing ten laptops, ten printers, and the internet,” he says.
Not only are Kenyan children lining up in large numbers to qualify for enrollment in the newly built school. But O’Sullivan says that American universities and investors are also scouting out new recruiting opportunities for gifted exchange students and talented entrepreneurs with whom they can launch new commercial and community service ventures in the popular Kenyan region.
“Already, I am inundated with schools and universities here in the United States, who are looking for the best graduates from our schools. And one school in Seattle, in Washington state, are currently organizing funds so they can bring over two of the high school students to spend a year with them as part of their training in school. I’ve had a number of investors here in the US, who’ve asked if we could help identify employment opportunities in the areas where we build the schools,” he notes.
O’Sullivan and FreeFlow representatives plan to be on hand in Maasai Mara in July when the alliance’s first completed school building will be dedicated with Kenya’s Education Minister in attendance.
For further information on the project, you may consult Building African Schools’ web page at: http://www.buildafricanschools.org