Written by Elizabeth Ombati
The Storyhippo Village was a beehive of activity as more children kept trooping in to sample events specially meant for them.
The weather was been warm since the Festival started. This, coupled with the lively atmosphere at the Storyhippo Village and the colorful decorations donning every tent, transformed the the Village into one big party. Activities lined for the second day included a storytelling session, funky science experiments, reading, drawing, a musical puppet show and an awards ceremony for the schools that participated in the Reading Revolution.
At the Kenya National Library Services pupils continued with reading sessions, loosing themselves to the magic world of words. Sarah Otieno, a manager at KNLS said “The children are slowly finding it hard to stop reading.” Agnes and Daniella, both from Embakasi Secondary school in Nairobi, said that the Hay Festival had not only given them a chance to meet renowned authors but that it had given them a chance to learn writing skills in addition to building on their vocabulary through reading sessions at the KNLS.
Ogutu Muraya, performer, writer, playwright and storyteller kept the storytelling fire burning with a powerful narration to pupils aged 9 and 10 years from Kilimani Primary School. “Seeing these kids’ happy faces and their youthful energy motivates me to keep telling these stories; and the fact that they have so much to learn,” he said.
At the BIC tent, children both in primary and secondary schools spent the day drawing and writing as the final day for the winning piece drew near. Already more than 500 kids have passed through the tent to draw and paint. The drawings hang near the entrance to the tent and it is amazing the talent exhibited in the pieces.
Among drawings of interest was a portrait of Ben Okri, a Nigerian poet and author present at the Festival who must have impressed the kids so much as to warrant their drawing him!
“I didn’t know I could draw this beautifully,” said Everline Awour, of Embakasi Girls Sec School flanked by Whitney Daniels who exclaimed, “We didn’t expect this. We don’t even want to leave.”
At the Scotland Yard, funky science experiments to instill the love of sciences in the kids also hit their second day with the kids being shown how a volcano erupts, making a windmill and the science behind the telephone.
Fun with Science tent
Utawala it is…
On June 16th this year, Kenya set a National record in reading. 84,300 children from across Kenya read a story titled ‘Lydia’s Gift’ aloud to commemorate the Day of the African child. Pupils were also required to provide their own endings to the story.
Utawala Academy emerged winner as the school with the highest number of submissions. As Florence Odhiambo, the headmistress walked to the podium to pick the trophy from Emily Gumba, the Programme and Business Development manager at British Council, the packed tent broke into song and dance.
“We are privileged to have emerged tops,” said Florence, and indeed, it is evident to see why the school took home the trophy. Mrs. Florence brought together 380 pupils in Classes 6,7 and 8 and encouraged them to send their pieces.
“For 40 minutes during their preps time I watched over them as they wrote the stories. I’m glad the effort has paid off,” she said. Ms Gumba told the pupils in attendance that as inspiration to write come from reading, they should read as many books as possible. “If you have an idea, let it flourish,” she told them.
Dorothy Amayo, an English teacher at Utawala Academy, noted that the Storymoja program is motivating and inspiring to Kenyan children. “It has helped them to love to write and their composition writing has greatly improved.”
Ms Gumba said that over 100 schools participated in the Reading Revolution and added that commitment and dedication shown from individual schools will keep the event running. She said, “Children used to make journeys to administrative offices like the District Commissioner’s offices to celebrate the Day of the African Child. However the reading revolution has brought a new dimension to the children and has given them an opportunity to look at education in a different way… and not walk all the way to the chief’s office to celebrate!”
In the same event, 19 year old Mikha’elah Zeigler launched her book, To steal a Mummy and encouraged more children to write.
Music Puppet Show
Acrobatic dancers from the Kuruka Maisha Foundation spent the afternoon entertaining kids and parents with well-coordinated and eye-catching acrobatic dancing moves, skipping rope and juggling. As the dances went on, voices of children reading from Gamba the Gecko wants to Drum could be heard in the background.
The jugglers were dressed in white fitting T-shirts and black sporty trousers while the girls had pink skin tights and white wrap-arounds and white T-shirts.
Kaboge, the team leader and in charge of the drums gave a brief history of the drums. The Baboombombo drums are played in the Giriama community and they represent the ocean. They are used for bass and rhythm.
The Bunde are from the Luo community and also shared with the Kamba and Luhya. The Jembe drum is from West Africa while the Isikuti drums are from the Western province. Another drum, a long one is from Meru and Chuka. All the drums produced different sounds that guided the acrobatics in their dances.
Kuruka Maisha Foundation consists of former street children taken off the streets and given different skills in acrobatic dance, music, drumming, poetry and fine arts by the Foundation.
Abram Ochieng, the youngest and tiniest of them at 16 says that initially he used to be idle in the streets but since he was taken in by Kuruka Maisha, life has more meaning. Being the tiniest in the group, he could be seen balancing high up on the air lifted by the heavier boys. “Performing for kids in such a festival gives me stage confidence and am excited to see small children have expressions of awe when they see us perform,” he said.
As the clock ticked to 5pm, children could be seen trooping out of the Festival grounds, animated voices, new friends on tag and faces that said, “I had the time of my life.” We caught up with teachers and pupils from Baba Dogo Primary School in Nairobi who had so much to say about the day.
“Some of these children have never been to Nairobi city centre, it was amazing the look on their faces as they saw the tall buildings in the city centre,” said Teacher Hellen Kasyi who had brought a group of 50 to the festival. “Today they have been exposed to different ways of learning like publishing their own stories and they have made new friends too,” she said.
“I feel encouraged to pursue my interest in writing,” said Erick who had just attended a writing workshop, “Through interaction with different pupils I have been encouraged to work especially hard as I am in my final year of primary school.
Michael said he had played a lot and even painted a house, while Lavender who wants to be a doctor enjoyed reading In the land of the Kitchen, a children’s book published under Storymoja Africa.
Dayan Masinde, a well known illustrator and hosting Publish Your Own Book in Two Hours for the second year was inspired by the good work the group of 32 students did. “By these exercises we want to foster creativity and inspire future writers,” he said.
The theme for the day was ‘The Most Embarrassing Moment’. It was a story about Mr. Makuti who was addressing a children’s assembly in the presence of the head of the Ministry of Education. Suddenly Mr.Makuti farts! From this embarrassing moment the children came up with own a personalized endings.
“Children should know that it is not when they are all grown up that they should start to write. They can do it in their young age,” noted Dayan.