Photographing Schools In Kibera

by: August 18th, 2014 comments: 0

A Daily Diary post by Map Kibera team member, Steve Banner

Steve photographs a school for the Open Schools website

Pictures tell a lot, probably too much for some head teachers in Kibera. They won’t allow anyone to take them in their compound before you explain in detail why you have to take photos, what you intend to do with them and of course how they stand to benefit. Before you pull your digital camera out of your pocket, and press anything, the head teachers, directors, or teachers in charge have a number of questions for you to answer. Forget the journalistic five W and H, theirs probably double or even triple that of journalists.

Me, and my colleague Zack met our first questions at Kicoshep School, where the head teacher wondered why a lot of research was being done in Kibera and what the impact of all these research would be. We took her through the details of the project that entailed collecting new data and coming up with a website that will bring together all the educational facilities in Kibera, and how, not only her school, but all the schools in Kibera stood to benefit from the project outcome. She agreed to help fill the form we had, but then she sent us to their headquarters near Wilson airport to get permission to take photos in her school.

No shutter was going to be pressed at Shofco School for Girls either. Explanation given was that there are strict rules on photo taking in and around the school. Shutter was pressed at Bethel school, but not until after we had spent two hours trying to convince the head teacher, her deputy and other two teachers who had many questions to ask, including some in vernacular language that none of us could understand. They argued that since we as Map Kibera are the ones who will host the website, Map Kibera stood to benefit more than them, citing past examples where organizations collected data and nothing was ever seen or heard of them again. They were keen to know the most immediate benefit that they’ll see and fell just short of asking to be paid for the information they were to give. But just when we were giving up on them, they gave in to our request.

Otherwise, I was free to slide the exposure of my Canon and turn on my flash sensor where I felt necessary in all other schools, which was both fun and educative in equal measure.

Every moment I had my lens focused on a signpost, school compound or classroom, most of which were in a very poor condition, I felt like I was doing something that the Kenyan government had failed in: giving the schools a voice to speak on the challenges they face. For instance, some school directors pointed out that the government is not very keen in improving education within the slum itself, and is only doing so in the schools that are on the outskirts of the slum. So by me being there documenting the facilities with my camera, I felt that I was indirectly offering a solution to the problems facing school going children in Kibera slums.

So, as I switched off the camera, I felt an inner satisfaction that I had done what many people, government officials included, had failed to do to the schools in Kibera, and when we’ll see improvement in education within Kibera as a result of the online education directory, my happiness will be complete.

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