By Prudence Minayo
In the beautiful vast Nakuru county lies Rongai Agricultural and Tech school. This is a boarding school founded in 1973 by the De La Salle Christian Brothers and offering its students both academic and agricultural skills. The school has a unique model unlike that operated in most learning institutions.
According to their website, the school has over 400 young boys aged between 12 to 18. Most of their students hail from very humble backgrounds raised by single mothers hence the school uses donations to pay for the fees of several students.
WoK looks at the institution and how it’s managed.
The school has its own farm where it produces all of its food. Students are taught to grow cereals and vegetables, rear pigs and cows and practice poultry. They also learn farm management skills. The students eat a well balanced diet with their meals coming from what is produced within the institution.
Form one students take care of the animals, form two students are in charge of the farm while form 3 students are given tasks to do with farm management. Students in the final year are exempted from work to help them prepare adequately for their final exams.
The Form ones are allowed to go without performing any tasks during their first two weeks in the school. They use this time to observe and afterwards they are assigned work with cows, sheep and pigs. They also milk every evening and record production. Each section has a student manager who records production and chooses animals to be eaten once they reach the required weight. The meat is also checked by health inspectors to ensure it is healthy.
The Form Two students plant maize and vegetables which they also weed to ensure maximum production. They also pick vegetables and chop them before giving it to the cooks. The Form 3(s) manage different sectors including the stores.
The students also mill maize and split firewood. In an interview appearing on The Standard, the principal said that this model creates well rounded individuals who leave the school with extra skills. They are given a certificate of community service and all their work in different fields is acknowledged.
The school has a duty roster where everyone knows their responsibility. When the bell rings, everyone scrambles to perform their tasks.
“Everyone knows their role. The boys do almost everything for themselves, and they get rewards too. We never buy vegetables because the boys plant, tend and harvest them. They also feed and milk the cows,” the Principal Paul Emuria shared in a previous interview.
Students are up at 5am, attend preps, take breakfast then embark on their duties. Classes begin at 7:10am and end at 3:30pm. Their duties continue even during school holidays. They break in turns except during the national examination period.
According to Paul Emuria this model helps the school to save money while moulding responsible students. The students enjoy meat at least twice a week, eggs on certain days and tea every evening. Some of their former learners are pursuing agri-business while others have ventured into farming-even exporting their produce. He said CBC would be easy there since learners are not solely focused on theory studies.
The school’s self sufficient program dubbed Tujitegemee slogan was started more than three decades ago by the late Steve Grey. He was an American brother and member of De La Salle Brothers.
In July 2021, the school went viral following a post from a former student. The social media user said said the school is self sufficient growing and rearing their own crops and animals, hence, not hiring outside labour.
“If most schools could adopt this kind of model, it will even be better than CBC, it instills a form of self responsibility, management at early age, imparting of technical and agricultural skills and so on, there is so much the Govt can learn from this and improve on CBC,” the user shared.
While others lauded this model, some were questioning whether using students as laborers was child abuse.