As a member of the Board of Management at Morrison Primary School, Ms Margaret Ndanu is as passionate about the progress of her two children who are pupils at the school as she is about the impact of her participation on the Board. She takes her roles as parent and Board member seriously.

Her son Witness Matei is in grade 7, while daughter Stephanie Ndinda is in grade 6.  Her children were enrolled in 2015, and she was elected to the school Board in 2016.  “We constantly tackle many challenges affecting the school,” says Ms Ndanu. “Our learners are willing to come to school but many parents and guardians are poor, and their livelihoods are uncertain.”

Ms Margaret Ndanu and her children, Stephanie (r) and Witness (l)

The school is surrounded by a hostile social environment where drug peddlers rule the streets and underage girls are at risk of sexual assault either in their own homes or on the route to school and back. Truancy among pupils is common in this neighbourhood.

Yet despite these immediate problems the Board of Management is required to ensure a strategic approach to the school’s future by setting major goals, policy frameworks and strategies.  This calls for developing and maintaining healthy relationships with key stakeholders and keeping the communication channels open.   For this, Ms Ndanu is grateful for the good rapport with WERK and the inclusion of Morrison Primary School in the Operation Come to School project.  “We have benefitted greatly from our association with WERK and her networks,” she beams.  “We are a small school by Nairobi standards, but we are visible on the map!”

However, the review of school plans and budgets is always a thorny issue when parents are called to give their input and their approval is sought over major decisions for budgetary and non-budgetary expenses.

“The response we are likely to get from parents and guardians is that they are too poor to contribute to the bills that include the school feeding programme and wages of support staff,” she notes.  anticipate problems as much as possible and act to diffuse issues

Her sentiments are echoed by Board of Management Chair, Ms Elizabeth Gichuki, who says that in as much as her Board is keen to anticipate problems and act to diffuse them, the resistance from parents and guardians is a source of discouragement.

“There is a pervasive culture of apathy or indifference,” she notes, “We need to promote a change in the pervasive perception that education is the sole responsibility of the government.”

Ms Elizabeth Gichuki, Morrison Primary BoM

When she was elected to chair the Board of Management, she made a promise to the parents and teachers of Morrison Primary School that with their help she would change the face of the school – by safeguarding discipline among learners to improve academic and extra-curricular performance, improving the infrastructure and creating an environment that would attract more learners as well as partnerships to sustain new pathways.

Although the high poverty levels in the school’s vicinity affect the day-to-day running of the institution and the Board acknowledges the struggle to balance income and expenditure, she is working on strategies that will ensure that children will not stay away from school because parents are unwilling or unable to co-share the cook’s ages, or to keep up with payments for the school feeding programme.  “We want to encourage parents that they could also contribute their skills, time and labour in lieu of a cash payment.”

The partnership with WERK has positioned Morrison Primary School to benefit from the renovation of two classrooms, opening up space for the enrolment of more students as well as creating more space for learners to enjoy the experience of being in school.  “These interventions mean a lot for a school like Morrison,” she adds, “The parents appreciate the facelift to the school, our learners are proud of their school and it is reflected in their elevated discipline and academic performance.” Ms Gichuki is confident that Morrison primary will quickly shed its old associations with truancy to become a beacon of hope for Makadara ward and Kamukunji sub-county.

As a member of the Board of Management, Ms Ndanu appreciates the role she plays in sensitising fellow-parents as well as the school management on the issues of children with disability.  She does so with the empathy of a parent with a disabled child.  “My son, Witness, has a disability, but I am happy to say that he is coping very well and the entire school team has made room for him and many others like him despite their disability,” she adds.