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Kibwezi Lewis ....another St Teresa's success story

I was born in Nairobi and raised on the fringes of Kenya’s Tsavo West National Park (fondly called the “the heart of wildlife” by wildlife lovers) in Kibwezi. As a result of this early introduction to wildlife, I have been a keen wildlife enthusiast. Nevertheless, my earlier interest was as a “destroyer of wildlife” through sports. But ever since I got into tourism in 1968, after my formal education and a working stint in my family’s business, I opened my heart to conservation, believing then as I do now that sensitive tourism is the best way to enjoy the marvels of nature with which the world is endowed

Not only does sustainable tourism reward your heart with a feeling of being part and parcel of such a beautiful natural world, but it also ensures that future generations too will have the chance to experience the same. To paraphrase an African saying, we must take care of the earth not because it was given to us by our parents, but because it belongs to our children.

The many years I worked in different capacities for various tourism based establishment provided me with the much-needed hands-on experience required to participate positively in the industry in Africa. Apart from being sensitized to the needs of our very fragile environment that is the life and blood of tourism in this part of the world, I also came to understand what it takes to satisfy the needs of each and every visitor.

When in 1984 I started Visit Africa Limited, my goal was to establish a firm that shied away from “mass tourism” dedicating itself to providing customized and personalized service to the visitor. This begins with the language our guides use on safari. For example, if you are French, we will get you a French speaking guide. We do the same for Spanish, Italian and English –speaking visitors.

St Teresa's: A Nun's story

Sister Thomas More:  Memories of St Teresa’s …

(Catherine McGrath is my secular name.  In Kenya, I was known as Mother Thomas More and then, later on, we dropped the title Mother and became Sister.  Now here in England, I am known usually as Sister T M (Thomas More). )

I was a member of the English Province of the Loreto Sisters when in August 1960 a letter was received from the Mother General inviting Sisters to volunteer to go to Kenya to teach in a Primary School.   I put the request on the long finger, but at the end of the month, I volunteered.  I got a response by the return of post!

At the end of October, I left for Kenya and was based in Loreto Convent, Msongari.  I travelled to Eastleigh each day in the company of Sister Teresa Gertrude, the headmistress and Sister Stanislaus who taught in the Senior Department.

Sister Teresa Gertrude, fondly known as MTG, was a woman way ahead of her time.  She felt restricted by having to be driven to school by the convent driver and collected when he was free!. So, a driver had to be at her back and call!  Hence, I learnt to drive just a few days into my arrival in Kenya.   In the following February was acquired a car for the school and we were off!  Netball, rounders etc. teams were transported all over the place!

Sister Stanislaus was with us until the summer of 1961 when she went on home leave.  On her return to Kenya, she was transferred to Loreto Limuru.

When I first went to St Teresa’s – January 1961 – The Standard 2 class teacher, Mrs Almeida, was on leave and so I was trusted with her class.  When she returned, I was a kind of “unofficial supervisor” in the Primary section as there was only one head at the time.  I did graduate to some class teaching later.  I taught French to the Std. 7 class, but I really have no recollection of what else I did! Apart from being the driver!!

I also remember teaching French to the 3rd form and for this, I had to spend time preparing and revising during the holidays! The Second Vatican Council occurred in 1962 and we used to listen to the reports from the Vatican each lunch-time whilst we were eating our lunch. (In those days, Loreto sisters did not eat in public!)

After two or three years with MotherTeresa Gertrude (MTG), I got a new headmistress – Sister Francis De Sales.  She was a driver and so we took it in turns to drive to school.

Things and families, I remember during my time in Eastleigh:

From the school, one had an uninterrupted view of the Mathare hospital across Mathare valley.  Now, this valley has given a home to thousands of people and the hospital building is no longer in sight.

One Sunday morning we were called to the school following a break-in.  Someone had stolen rolls of uniform cloth which were housed in the office block. We went to Pangani police station and on entering we saw the rolls of cloth in the station.  I think that they gave it back to us there and then.  They had caught the one who had stolen the cloth.

In the school office, the clerk was Mrs Blanche Nazareth.  She was a very efficient and pleasant lady.  She used to take me into the city for my driving lessons in the afternoons.

Teachers on the staff were usually quite young and were all very friendly. The older ones were Mrs De Sa, Miss Maisie Nazareth, Mrs Mary Fernandes, Mrs Caroline Alpin and Mrs Delphine Noronha.  The “youngsters” were Miss Jeannette Paes, Miss Clemmie, Miss Olga, Miss Florrie, Mrs Marie, Mrs Almeida, Miss Ivy (who married Silu Fernandes who played hockey for Kenya).  I remember going to a local park with MTG to see him play in an international match.

We had great dealings with the Boys’ school which was presided over by Fr Hannon CSSP and Fr Cremmins CSSP.  On St Teresa’ Feast in October, we had the day off and both staffs went on an outing which was very popular.  ‘The Brown Trout’ in the Rift Valley was a place which we enjoyed. The pupils were usually very biddable and had respect for their teachers.  Some of the teachers had their own children or sisters in the school.  The Paes family, Verona, Maureen and Lilian were sisters of Miss Jeannette.  Mrs Noronha had June, Sonya, Fernanda and Colin (we had boys up to Std 3 and when we had  “housetrained them,  they went across the road!!).  Mrs Almeida had Francesca, Amelia and Gerard in the school.  Mrs Alpin had Teresa and Gail. Some of the other pupils whom I remember were Rosalind and Maria De Silva, Rosalia D’Mello, Yvette D’Souza, Maria Margaret Fernandes, Fanny and Driscoll D’Costa, Jeanne Nazareth, et al.

In 1972 when I was home on leave from Kenya I attended the wedding of Fanny D’Costa and the church was full of ex Nairobi Goans.  As I had been out to a hospital in London, to visit a former pupil (Irene Barros) and it was Saturday afternoon, Rosalind D’Silva and I arrived late.   In fact, we had just time to get into the back row of the church when the happy couple came down the aisle!  We were in time for the reception where many stories were exchanged.

In past years, I have been to two or three reunions of pupils from the Girls’ and Boys’ schools.  These have been very well attended as the Goans like to keep up their club systems.

I was transferred to the Catholic Parochial School in January 1966 and then was involved in the building of the new school which was a building crying out to be refurbished.

In 2004 I attended nephew’s wedding in Idaho and then went over to North Carolina to visit my sister and her family. Because of meeting Rosalia, I was invited to visit Toronto and had a wonderful week with her. One day I met up with about 40 past pupils and teachers at a park in the city.  They were all excited to talk about school days and we had a lovely afternoon.

During my time there I met up with Elma D’Souza and her husband and was taken to visit Niagara Falls.  Elma came down the corridor looking as young and youthful as she had done so many years ago.

Whilst I was in Toronto I was able to visit Loretto Abbey, the home of the Loretto Sisters of the Canadian Province.

Since I returned from Kenya, I have met up with Ethel Price, now known as Jill, who taught music to the girls in St Teresa’s.  She is very involved in the local Parish where she plays the organ and trains the choir.  

I think that that concludes my memories as after the Catholic Parochial I taught in Eldoret, one year in St Teresa’s, Valley Road and Loreto Msongari.

I returned to England in 1995 when my mother had a stroke and I was able to visit her before she died in 1995. 

I am sure she would love to hear from ex-students:

Jinja Goan Institute

When Speke discovered the source of the Nile on July 28, 1862, little did he imagine that a sizeable town would replace the dense bush and elephant grass on the opposite bank.
In time, the indomitable Goan reached the inhospitable opposite bank to find himself in Jinja, which was still in an embryonic stage.  Drawbacks were numerous. Most of the Goans got to Jinja by palanquin carried on the shoulders of porters.  The District Commissioner’s clerk – who was invariably a Goan—had the privilege of being provided by fifty porters to carry his luggage and belongings.
It did not take long for a small clutch of Goans to populate Jinja.  Goans happen to be a gregarious lot.  After their basic needs of food, shelter and clothing are met they invariably gravitate towards finding a common meeting place for socializing, reading, and the pursuit of sports. The pioneers lost no time in getting together to build a one-roomed club-house where they “could read papers, and thus break the monotony of office work”. The sod was broken on March 26, 1911, and land tenure was secured by a 25-year lease. Membership was open to all nationalities.
Records are somewhat sketchy, but it is known that the first President was Mr.L.C. Fernandes.
In 1933, spearheaded by Mr.Stephen De Souza (Stan’s father), the adjoining overgrown bush was cleared and a hockey and cricket pitch set up.
Around 1935, the first Goan School was started as an adjunct to the amenities provided by the club, with the late Miss Lucy Fernandes (later wife of the late Leo Gama), as the first teacher.

In 1949, a hall was added to the modest single room which was converted to a library.  As would be expected, a bar was seen as an essential adjunct and was included in the extensions.  Mr.D.C. Vadgama designed and supervised the construction, free of charge. Several non-Goan businessmen donated funds for what they saw as a worthwhile cause.

In 1954, Messrs Aniceto Rodrigues and James Lobo were instrumental in floating a loan to carry our major extensions to the club that were dictated by the growing membership. Debentures were issued and the response was very encouraging.

Mr Vadgama was again responsible for the work which gave the clubhouse a secretary ’s room, a ladies’ cloakroom and a change-room for sportsmen. Not to be forgotten is the fact that women’s hockey had started in 1951, with the late Alvita Fernandes (later Furtado) as captain. Of course, ladies’ badminton was ongoing and the mothers of some of us here today, were the early proponents.

In 1963, Percy DeSouza put his sextant, spirit-level and engineering talents to good use.  He laid out one of the finest turf pitches of the day, on the ground adjoining the club. Goans interacted well with all communities.

Of all the Uganda Goans in Toronto, the Jinja clan stands out as the only one that has kept the flame burning with the most annual socials. They stay true to their club motto of “Animo el fine”.

(Acknowledgement: Salient points gleaned from material provided by Stan DeSouza)

Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Home Truths

Decolonising Africa – Securing The Base

Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, ranks among the great literary minds of Africa. He is also up there with the best of the free thinkers of the world.

Africa has undergone a significant stride of structural changes that have influenced the mind-sets and convictions of the African people.  
From the guise of bringing advancements, the continent has been placed under slavery, colonialism, apartheid and post-colonial submissions that have continuously been challenged through social movements, literature, art and other forms of influential expressionism. African discourse leaders and authors such as Kwame Nkrumah, Sol Platjie, S.E.K. Mqhayi, Dr WB Rhubusana, Nontsizi Mgqwetho, Mazisi Kunene, Bantu Steve Biko, Chinua Achebe, Xolela Mangcu and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, to mention a few, have dosed sharp intellectual injections coursing the veins of the African Renaissance, Pan Africanism, and Decolonisation of the African continent.

Pressing on the fundamentals of a decolonised African state, renowned Kenyan professor and author; Ngugi Wa Thiong’o informs of the boundaries needed to break down, to decolonise Africa and secure its base. 

The colonial mentality of looking at Africa as an outsider

It’s time for Africa to do things for themselves

The most apparent problem with many African people is the sight of Africa through the eyes of an outsider, said Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.  He said that this was an imperial intent specifically designed through languages and policies, which normalised the abnormal, to foster post-colonial measurements that would be indestructible for many generations.
“One of the problems of looking at Africa with an eye of an outsider is that you look at the state as a looting mechanism, not as a responsibility. Have you ever heard of anybody robbing their own house?” said Wa Thiong’o, exemplifying the lack of ownership that many Africans have to their continent. He said that this mentality removes us from the responsibility of decolonising the continent and securing our base.
Wa Thiong’o said having colonial mentality strips us from our rightful ownership to the resources on the African soil. “Africa has to control its resources, we have to make things with the resources and exchange them with other countries just in the same way as other countries exchange final products with us – using our gold, copper and diamonds amongst other resources.
Because when you secure the base you can interact with the world, through the basis of equality and respect.
Wa Thiong’o spoke of the imbalance of power between Africa and Western states, affirming that the West shows less representation for African goods and service, when Western goods and services are overwhelmingly represented across the African continent.
“You hear of joint military services but soldiers are always on African soil, and western state companies are always drilling resources on African soil. Further, Africa’s own banking systems are not evident in the western states, but their branches are dispersed across the African continent.”
According to Wa Thiong’o, Africa has over the last 100 years been the eternal donor to the West but has been represented as a state that has always been reliant on aid from the Western community.
Wa Thiong’o said Africa has to find a way of reversing this, by becoming the makers of our own raw materials, to think of Africa alone, and Africa’s relation to the world.
Countries such as Korea and Japan do not have raw materials but are able to manufacture cars that roam on African roads, said Wa Thiong’o.
“It’s time for Africa to do things for themselves,” said Wa Thiong’o, it is not a seeking of isolation but a matter of upholding values of Pan Africanism and having ownership and responsibility of the continent, he said.
Wa Thiong’o presented a map of Africa indicating the depth of the continent, that more than 5 continents in the world can fit into the continent, “so why is Africa still the poorest?” he asked.  Being the largest continent and holding vast lands of resources, and yet it is still the poorest continent.
“We have to realise that we are one as Africa and connect and progress,” said Wa Thiong’o emphasising the importance of ownership and unity for a decolonised Africa.
Colonising African languages as a tool for a colonised mind.

We must acknowledge more than our own to own our own – you can use English, but do not let English use you

Language has been used as a method of subjugation in colonial conquest, and presented as an instrument of learning, advancing and interacting with the rest of the world.  Colonisation saw that the conquered despise and denote their own languages meanwhile living through the languages of their conquerors.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o referred to a question posed by one of Africa’s literature and philosophy pioneers, Kwame Nkrumah who asked; “Are we really sure that we are in touch with the nation and the continent, is the independent African state now in existence for some 50 years, in touch with its people?”
“How can it be in touch when it has embraced European languages, spoken and used by only 10% of the population, as a language of power, commerce, law and even justice?” adjudicated Wa Thiong’o.
On the African nation today, the majority are rendered linguistically deaf and mute by government policies that have set European languages as the normative mission, said Wa Thiong’o.  The professor affirmed that this was, in fact, the result of the fulfilment of a conscious imperial design in the history of conquest.
Wa Thiong’o highlighted exemplifiers of the colonial conquest and its results on the language of the vanquished and its people. He informed that when imperial Japan took over Korea in 1910, they made Korea use their language and gave them Japanese names. The colonies saw the importance of intellectualising empires of the mind, setting a metaphysical empire of language and literature.  In the 19th century the English established practical language policies in India that placed English as a medium of communication in order to create a class of people; who are Indian in blood and colour, but English in mentality.
Wa Thiong’o said the French and the Portuguese used a process called assimilation, and language was at the centre of assimilation, to create a linguistically westernised middle man who would automatically carry out the intent of the ruler onto the masses.  It was necessary to reach the mental core by a solid psychological bond against the day when their progressive emancipation ends, and they are French in language, thought and spirit.
“The colonial utility of educating the African masses was discovered; creating empires of the mind,” said Wa Thiong’o, “and France still controls the national treasuries of many African countries today,” he added.
According to Wa Thiong’o, the success of the empire of the mind or colonies of the mind can be seen in the late defenders of the dominance of European languages in Africa.  He said there is an appearance of some African intellectuals and policymakers who uphold the dominance of European languages in Africa.
“Colonisation of the mind is when we can think that African languages are impediments to our ability to engage with the world,” said Wa Thiong’o, adding that there is a further distortion in the dynamic – when we are not only proud of knowing English but also proud of not knowing our own languages.
“They gave us their access to their accents in exchange for our access to our resources – you gave Africa your resources of your accents, and Africa gave you access to the resources of our land.
Accents for access – that is postcolonial Africa,” he added.
“But this business that English must thrive on the graveyard of African languages – we have to really reject that.
That in order for English to be, then African languages must cease to be – that’s really absurd and we have to reject that”.
Wa Thiong’o said that what is important is the relationship between languages, as no other language is better than the other.  He said it was an empowerment to know one’s own home language even with all other languages in the world, but a service of enslavement to not know one’s own home language.
“We must acknowledge more than our own to own our own – you can use English, but do not let English use you,” affirmed Wa Thiong’o.
“Remember that there are forces that will never want us to be aware of the dimension of our presence in the world – To counter these forces, we have to know ourselves – this is the importance of decolonising ourselves and securing our base,” he said.
Wa Thiong’o said we have to make a conscious language policy that will pour in resources and open doors for the African language. We might embrace the fact that we have a number of languages as Africans, but do not put any resources into that is imperialising.
“We have to know ourselves before we can secure the base,” said Wa Thiong’o.
Maintaining colonial school curriculums to condition African discourses

We have an entire archive of black historical knowledge that is living outside of the educational institutions

Education was for emancipation and knowledge to the people, but the curriculum was designed to maintain chains of enslavery and misdirection for the African people said UCT (University of Cape Town) Professor Xolela Mangcu speaking on decolonising African universities.
“We have to redefine what we think we know about knowledge,” said Mangcu who was a student of Wits University during the ‘80s where they advocated for, and challenged issues of decolonisation and misrepresentation of black historical heritage.
“We, as the academic community in this country owes it to our students to re-visit the curriculum of this country, and to revisit what constitutes knowledge,” emphasised Mangcu critiquing that our universities are “quite provincial, and in many cases quite mediocre, as they operate at a sub-optimal level”.
Mangcu said that when he came to university in 1983, the texts that were prescribed remain the same texts being taught to students today, “the prescribed text was Marx, Parson and the like, but some 40 years later our students are still learning the same thing – to me that shows stagnation,” said the professor.
“Our study of humanities has to make us return to ourselves as African people,” said Ngugi wa Thiong’o, he said this was important in order “to find out where the rain begun to beat us,” quoting one of the prominent pioneers of black history; Chinua Achebe.
“And it is not as if we do not have a very rich history – a very rich black history, I might add, that traces back centuries,” said Mangcu, “we have an entire archive of black historical knowledge that is living outside of the educational institutions”.
“We must know our history, otherwise we are doomed to repeating it,” said Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, adding that it must be a history of an African people, not a history of African people told by European people.”
Mangcu emphasised how universities have very little knowledge on black historical heritage.  “How many of our departments teach the writings of Sol Platjie, S.E.K. Mqhayi, Dr WB Rhubusana, Nontsizi Mgqwetho, Mazisi Kunene and so on?
“Decolonisation has to start at home,” said Mangcu.
According to the professor, students are shocked that human development did not start in Europe but in Africa, he said it was due to the curriculum they learn which teaches them otherwise.  He urged students to challenge the system to incorporate the rich art that exists outside of university – into the university, so that students can speak from their own experiences to foster their learning.