Guest speaker Jackline Lusweti and school support counsellor David Tackney outside of Sherwood Public School. Photo Christine Hudder
BARRY’S BAY – Imagine waking up in a one-bedroom house with six of your siblings next to you, sharing a bed. There is no electricity, and you must collect water from a nearby well before beginning a 40 minute walk to school.
That was the reality for Jackline Lusweti who grew up in a village in Kenya. It is still the reality for countless children living in Africa today.
On March 23, Lusweti, 26, visited Sherwood Public School and Killaloe Public School to share her life experiences with the children.
She was born and raised in Bungoma, Kenya; about two hours north of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa. Lusweti said Bungoma has a population of about 5,000 people.
Growing up, her school days would start around 8:00 a.m. and sometimes continue as late as 8:00 p.m. She would walk with her two brothers and four sisters to school, where they would be taught lessons in Swahili and English.
Lusweti said she lived an average life. Her mother was a nurse and her father was a college professor; whom she only saw twice a year.
Their home was a one-bedroom house, and Lusweti said she never had a bed of her own when she was a small girl. The children would share a bunk bed. There was no electricity in the home – it was too expensive – so water had to be gathered from a nearby well.
There were plenty of chores to be done around the home. She went to school for every month except for April, August and December. During April and August, Lusweti and her siblings would help family members with farming duties.
But in December, the children had the month off. It was her favourite time of the year because at Christmas, she would receive a gift – like new shoes or new clothing.
Lusweti said she and her siblings enjoyed school. Bullying was not a common occurrence because the children were happy to be out with their peers. She said everyone appreciated each other.
The children at Sherwood Public School had plenty of questions for Lusweti, largely about the landscape and about the animals that lived near her village. Some asked how she would carry water back to her home, and she said she and other villagers carried buckets of water on their heads.
While life was difficult for Lusweti and her family, she said she enjoyed her childhood.
“Looking back at my life, it was good; I would redo it again,” she told the Gazette.
She had the opportunity to attend boarding school, where she finally got her own bed. After she graduated high school, she became pregnant at age 20.
Lusweti attended college and eventually got into the tourism industry and waitressed for several years.
She had always wanted to visit America and Canada, after seeing the countries on television.
Her first visit to Canada was in 2010, when she stayed with her sister who is living in Ottawa. Lusweti came to Canada a second time to marry her fiancée in Pembroke in 2011. She is now living in Canada on a visitor’s visa.
Lusweti wants to go back to school to become a nurse or a teacher.
Story continues in the MArch 29, 2012 issue of The Valley Gazette.