THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

School owner turns to farming to support himself, his workers

Makes Sh2,000 daily from selling vegetables and poultry products

In Summary

• James Kung'u has converted his school compound into a farm and planted horticultural crops.

• He works with his teachers and sells his produce to neighbours.

Roka Preparatory School in Wang'uru, Kirinyaga county.
TURNING MISFORTUNE INTO FORTUNE: Roka Preparatory School in Wang'uru, Kirinyaga county.
Image: ALICE WAITHERA
Roka Preparatory School proprietor James Kung'u on a farm in the school compound.
TURNING MISFORTUNE INTO FORTUNE: Roka Preparatory School proprietor James Kung'u on a farm in the school compound.
Image: ALICE WAITHERA

Since the government ordered schools closed in March as a measure to contain Covid-19, most teachers and workers from private learning institutions have been suffering with no income. 

The reality of the effects of the pandemic got one proprietor of a private school in Kirinyaga county thinking of what he could do to keep himself and his workers afloat.

In April, James Kung’u, the owner of Roka Preparatory School, converted his school compound, including a playground, into a farm to support himself and his workers during the pandemic.

Kung’u, who lives in the school compound, said he had to think quickly and come up with something to keep his mind busy and sustain himself financially and those who depend on the institution.

“That is when I thought of farming and immediately ploughed every available space in the school, including the playground,” he said.

Together with his teachers and workers, they planted horticultural crops, including cabbages, sukumawiki, spinach, onions, carrots and pepper. They also planted  maize and started a poultry project.

The school headteacher, Moses Wandera, is in charge of planting, irrigation and spraying while secretary Nancy Wambui markets the produce.

“This project makes at least Sh2,000 per day from the sale of chickens and farm produce,” Kung'u said.

He said currently, they sell their produce in the neighbourhood. Some customers place orders and the commodities are delivered to them while others come to the school.

“I am very proud of this project. Parents and residents of Wang’uru come to us to buy vegetables and poultry, and we are also able to support ourselves,” Kung'u said.

 

He said teachers join him in the farm immediately after concluding their teaching sessions with pupils on Zoom.

“When the schools closed down, most of us were fighting mental and psychological issues. My main challenge was sending my teachers home without an income. I worry about them,” Kung'u said.

The school paid the teachers up to April and remitted NHIF remittances up to May but could not continue as its coffers dried up.

The proprietor further noted that most private schools are run on loans with the collateral being the pupils.

Without a good rapport with financial institutions, many proprietors risk having their property auctioned for defaulting on loans, he added.

“Some of us had bought new school vehicles on loans and they are just parked. It is extremely difficult. If you do not keep yourself busy, you can end up having mental illnesses,” he continued.

Kung’u said it is after planting in April that he started poultry keeping and selling bananas to diversify his income.

“I started going to the market and buying bananas which I ripened and sold to neighbours. It keeps my mind busy,” he added.

Kung'u challenged others who have been affected by the pandemic to substitute their income through other economic activities.

Having come from a poor background, Kung’u said he learnt early that hard work pays and stopped seeking employment opportunities.

“I went to the market one day at 5am to get bananas and I found a large population of women. Young men appear later in the morning inebriated,” he said. Kung'u urged the youth to work hard.

Wambui praised parents for supporting the project by buying their produce.

She said she gets daily orders to deliver eggs, chickens, and the vegetables which she said has been putting food on their tables.

“Coronavirus has come to teach us to diversify our sources of income and stop relying jobs,” she said.

Edited by A.N

 

Roka Preparatory School secretary Nancy Wambui, proprietor James Kung'u and maths teacher Kevin Mbugua on a farm.
TURNING MISFORTUNE INTO FORTUNE: Roka Preparatory School secretary Nancy Wambui, proprietor James Kung'u and maths teacher Kevin Mbugua on a farm.
Image: ALICE WAITHERA