To keep his students in school, a Laikipia teacher starts a poultry farm.
To keep students in school, a teacher at Somutwo Primary School in Laikipia West has had to use his own money and even take out loans.
Chris Saidimu has been able to help learners from impoverished families in the arid county by selling eggs and chicken. The teacher went so far as to sponsor exams for students in Standard Seven and Eight.
Saidimu began the project after realizing that most of his students lacked basic school supplies, and he used his salary to support the children. However, this was insufficient to sustain the students for a term.
The teachers began a project to generate revenue, which he will use to help the students. Saidimu approached the headteacher of Somutwo Primary School with his proposal, and the school allocated him a plot of land for his project.
Chris saw his own early life reflected in that of his students, having grown up in a small village in Wamba, Samburu County, and facing similar challenges. He felt compelled to break the cycle and make their lives easier and more pleasant.
“I began by purchasing stationery for the few students I had identified with my own money. But what I hadn’t expected was the large number of students in need. The number kept growing, and I was only able to provide for them for two terms.”
Chris went back to the drawing board after becoming overwhelmed by the number of students approaching him and having difficulty deciding who to assist. He knew he needed to create a self-sustaining project that could serve a much larger number of children.
I jumped into the project on the spur of the moment.
A viral outbreak in the area occurred a few months into the project, and Chris found himself in an unexpected situation.
“I had rushed into the project impulsively out of passion,” he admits. “I had no idea chickens needed to be vaccinated, let alone that vaccines existed.” The outbreak hit us hard, and only five of the original 200 chickens survived.”
Chris says he wanted to give up after being devastated and counting losses. He still had loans to pay off, and the future looked bleak for him.
But his desire to make a difference in the lives of his students kept him going. He decided to give it another try after some proper research and consultations, but this time he could only afford 70 chickens, sourced from the community, as before.
“I was a few shillings short, but it made me wiser.” I wasn’t going to take any chances this time, so I devised a strict medication and care schedule. My efforts were soon rewarded, and the number grew to 350. We then began selling eggs while continuing to raise the (chickens) to 1,500.”
He notes that he still faced other challenges, such as an increase in feed costs, particularly during the Covid-19 period, which forced him to supplement them with other products such as maize.
Aside from the immediate assistance provided by the project to students, Chris notes that it has evolved into a learning centre as well, in keeping with the current model of education. Students from Somutwo benefit, as do students from neighbouring schools and the community as a whole.
Have some fun and relax.
“They learn entrepreneurial skills, and my proudest moments are when a student approaches me and asks me to buy a chicken or eggs from them so that they can provide for themselves.”
He goes on to say that he wanted parents, many of whom work on a nearby flower farm, to embrace the idea of self-employment and reduce their reliance on employment.
“We also organize educational trips for the students, the majority of whom have never left their hometown.” When they travel to places like Thompson Falls in Nyahururu, they not only learn but also refresh and have fun, which is critical for their development.”
“When someone does you a favour, you are morally obligated to return the favour.
“When I met my godmother, Rudy Dundus, when I was still a boy, she adopted me as her godson and has been one of my most ardent supporters throughout my life,” said Mr Saidimu.
“She worked as a photographer for the Samburu Project, a group that has helped me in my current endeavours,” added Chris.
Chris says he hopes to help a generation of young people who will bring about change and improve the lives of the less fortunate in society.
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“If I left this school today, I would leave something remarkable behind, something that, with proper management, can last for a long time.”
“I encourage other schools to adopt and make this idea their own, as it goes a long way toward reducing dependency and supplementing government funding.”
Aside from chickens, the farm keeps guinea fowls, ducks, and ornamental birds such as peacocks and various pigeon breeds. Chris believes that the variety of opportunities broadens his students’ understanding of what bird rearing entails.
“Many people believe that giving back requires millions of dollars, but no act of kindness is too small to make an impact,” he contends.