Siaya grannies learn English ahead of Obama’s visit

Siaya Granny learning
Siaya Granny learning

Elderly women in Bar Ogong’o, Siaya County are taking English classes ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit.

The grannies say they are learning in English so that they can speak with Obama should he stop by the Nyanza County during his three-day state visit.

The students, who come from all over Siaya County, congregate under a tree in Bar Ogong’o where they take their lessons. Their pursuit for knowledge is not deterred by distance or by the lack of proper training facilities.

Siaya grannies taking notes during lesson Photo/Brian Okoth
Siaya grannies taking notes during lesson Photo/Brian Okoth

65-year-old Jane Wanjiku Ahenda said she wishes she could meet Obama face to face, adding that she would like him to fund more adult education centres.

“I would be so happy to meet Obama because I have never met him face to face. I can now say am confident to stand before him and speak in English. If I meet him, I would request him to fund more learning institutions in the area so that we can continue schooling,” says Ahenda.

Ahenda’s teacher, Florence Auma Okoth, says that she is pleased with the progress of her students despite the fact that it takes the elderly longer to grasp concepts.

Florence Auma teaching her class English Photo/Brian Okoth
Florence Auma Okoth teaching her class English Photo/Brian Okoth

Mrs. Okoth revealed her class was disappointed when they heard President Obama will not visit Siaya when he comes to Kenya.

“They were really excited earlier in the year when they heard of Obama’s visit. They had even rehearsed English songs and dances to perform during his homecoming. Despite the U.S. Embassy’s announcement, they are still hopeful he will visit Siaya,” said Florence.

Undeterred by age

Though the eldest in the class is 73 years old and the youngest is 21, they can be seen conversing like age mates during the lessons.

The camaraderie in the class is evident as they correct each other gently through out the lesson.

The women are also learning Swahili and Mathematics, and they say that the skills they acquire help them in carrying out their day-to-day businesses.

The adult education initiative was kicked off in February 2015 following requests by the elderly population who wanted to acquire basic education.

They requested Siaya County’s Education Officer for English, Swahili and mathematics lessons. The county backed the initiative, set up a learning centre in Karemo Division and assigned them a teacher.

Siaya District Adult Education Officer, Joseph Ogutu Ogola, says the residents sought to learn English so that they could communicate with foreigners who tour Obama’s ancestral home.

“Tourists, who mainly speak English, visit Karemo Division where President Obama comes from. The residents here predominantly speak Dholuo, so they find it difficult to communicate with the visitors,” said Ogola.

Joseph says the residents want to be fluent in Swahili because it will ease communication with members of other ethnic communities.

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Brian Okoth
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