New challenges for Kenyan Orthodox school amid another lockdown

May 14, 2021

by H. David Sauls

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Last fall, OrthoChristian featured an article on Fr. Antipas of Nairobi and the unexpected destruction of his school and the Dagoretti sub-slum neighborhood by the Kenya Railway Company. With the imposition of a new COVID lockdown in March, the trying situation continues in Kenya.

Since the demolition, the 3,000 inhabitants of the former Dagoretti neighborhood have been absorbed into the surrounding areas. They have primarily moved in with other families, returned to their home villages, or managed to find a ramshackle rental space in a tenement. The 200 businesses are having a harder time recovering.

Fr. Antipas and the staff and students of the school were able to find a space in neighboring Ngando, in the southwest of Nairobi. Through the charity of donors, three rooms were added in order to accommodate all eight grades, and a new slit latrine was dug. The school had just begun to recover, and the students were thrilled to be back in class.

But the slight economic recovery that was beginning to emerge on the tail of the summer COVID 19 lockdown was lost when the Kenyan government imposed a new lockdown in March of this year.

The situation in Kenya was showing slight signs of improvement by last December, slowly adjusting to the 10 PM curfew and a new economic pattern (albeit still diminished) developing. But in March of this year, amid fears of another wave and a second strain detected in South Africa, the Kenyan government imposed a new, stricter lockdown that impacted the operating hours of the Kadogo economy, reducing them to 4 AM until 8PM; street hawking is one of the primary sources of income in Nairobi, and commute hours are the best time of day for earning money.

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While the curfew was set at 8 PM, the prime hours of 8-10 PM for sales was been lost, and many parents of Fr. Antipas’ schoolchildren are struggling for food and medicine. In spite of participating in meetings to address the newer, stricter COVID 19 restrictions, some attended by representatives of the President’s Office and Ministry of Health, harsh sanctions remained in place until earlier this week. Vaccines for COVID-19 have been shipped, but are subject to corruption and theft. Hospitals don’t have enough respirators and oxygen supplies to answer the rise in cases and are running out of bed space.

In Fr. Antipas own words from recent correspondence:

Beloved, we are experiencing more crises! The number of infections is on the increase not only here in Nairobi, but also in the other counties in the rural areas! The government seems to be confused and helpless. The Covid-19 patients in critical conditions now cannot access oxygen or ICU beds and they are dying! We are heading towards what is currently happening in India, beloved! You may follow Citizen T.V as they [are reporting] on both India and Kenya. Things are getting worse... The media is briefing us on the situation. Yesterday [May 1st], we lost 20 people within 24 hours!

The vaccines are scarce and we are not likely to receive more.

The H.I.V. patients are also in great danger as the anti-retroviral drugs they depend on for survival are no longer coming.

We no longer have the much-needed ICU beds for the COVID-19 patients, beloved, and even the oxygen is not available! Such is life in Africa! Most of the billions that the government was given to help fight the pandemic ended up in people’s pockets! The medical equipment and materials donated by the Jac Ma Foundation from China and from other donors disappeared into thin air. I believe that even the vaccines will be stolen and made available in private hospitals where people will have to pay for them.

The schools were closed and social gatherings banned. The doors of the churches closed by government ordinance. The immediate needs for Fr. Antipas are the children and their families that attend the school, and his neighbors.

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The lockdown was lifted earlier in the week, and the school has reconvened. But the needs remain the same, as do the risks. The clergy and laity of Kenya, especially in Nairobi, live under adverse conditions, and it will take some time for them to recover, but some of the damage done may be permanent for many.

Please remember all our Orthodox laity and clergy across Africa in your daily prayers. Consider helping Fr. Antipas of Nairobi as he confronts poverty-stricken people and school children whose circumstances on a “normal” day are bad, but now are compounded by the pandemic and a poor government response.

Included below are links to make donations to help Fr. Antipas support the school and the local and immediate needs of the families of the school children.

Further updates will be provided in the future.

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