Chickens. The Israeli embassy gave chickens to St. Mary’s School for Girls in Nakuru, Kenya today. It’s part of an approach called Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), which the school’s top educator learned in Israel. The essence of ESD is for children to invest in school life in an empowered way, working to create a sustainable community. As part of this, they help produce the food which is used for school meals… hence the chickens!
But even here in Kenya, challenging and inspiring, I am following the news from North America. I am heartsick at the news of the continued bomb threats against Jewish Community Centres, and now against the Muslim community at Concordia as well. Halfway around the world, we experienced the contrast of a warm, respectful interfaith dialogue with Jews, Christians, and Muslims at East Africa’s oldest synagogue. Even more than the symbolism and content of that meeting, though, my mind is still on the girls’ school, especially in light of recent events.
We were lucky enough to be there on a special cultural day, when all the different classes were presenting songs and dances from different Kenyan tribes. The senior teacher, Magdalene, made a point of telling us that with an election coming up in a few months, Kenyans face the potential exacerbation of tribal divisions. In this context, the school aims to teach its students a way to appreciate diversity and one another, showing the richness of the different traditions.
Kenyan society, like our own, is far from ideal. But I am inspired by the proactive effort to keep differences from leading to discrimination, and the attempt to forge a positive, pluralistic national identity.