It’s disappearing in Kenya’s public schools: students learning about musical instruments and playing in a school band. Public primary schools have completely removed music education from the curriculum and only two public high schools in the nation have an active band.
I went to one of those high schools, Nairobi School, and met a very committed teacher. Mr. Obaga is the only music teacher at Nairobi School. He’s been there more than 10 years. He’s a jolly man; I found his intermittent chuckles and shiny cheeks so comforting. He’s the kind of man who will introduce himself to you for the first time and then take you to his home to let you meet his family. Open. He treats you with the respect due to a fellow human being. It seems such people are hard to find, and one must fight for basic respect. In the music department of the Nairobi School, the students rehearse in a one-room metal building known here as “a mabati.” But how can a flutist practice freely when he’s hearing the overwhelming roar of a trombone? Most times, they practice outside where they have more space.
Music education isn’t taken seriously here, from what I’ve been hearing. One fellow named Moses teaches music at an elite private high school and he told me that the state of music education in Kenya is a “sad scenario.” He graduated from the Nairobi Boys school in the late ‘80s and he said the music department is nowhere near as good as it used to be.
I met Moses at his home in Hurlingham. I absolutely adore his bungalow! I would love to have a bungalow in Kenya. But, we’ll see how and when that can happen. A poster of Michael Jackson hangs in his hallway and he played Michael Jackson’s “Earth,” on the piano. Moses is a kind, soft-spoken gentleman.