For the past half century, the children of Matunget, Kenya have enjoyed a head start on life thanks to the passion and dedication of Margaret Kosgei. Perched a mile and a half high on the edge of the Great Rift Valley, this remote and beautiful area is known for producing some of the fastest distance runners on Earth. But not everyone can be a champion athlete and for the rest, life is hard.
The public elementary school is more than 10 kilometers away and by the time children are old enough to attend, many are occupied working on the family farm. Post-independence Kenya had no early childhood education program and Margaret noticed that youngsters were not prepared to excel, and the lack of a hot meal further dissuaded attendance.
Margaret, determined to start a school, obtained a donation of land from the local church and called for a Harambee to build a tin panel building to accommodate 75 students age 4-7. Starting in 1967, for the next 4 decades, Margaret taught the children as best she could, receiving as pay contributions of food from the students’ families, some of which she would cook for the mid-day meal.
The Kipkalwa School was always outside the official system and to this day does not receive government support. Margaret’s daughter Emily obtained her teaching credential and for the past decade has taught the students, who the Kenyan government has recognized through their exceptional performance at the Epke primary school.
Long ago, Margaret told her son Abraham “run for me”, and that is just what he did. Abraham ran around the world, was selected for the Kenyan 2000 Olympic team in the 1,500M run (he did not compete due to injury) and in 2005 made his home in Pojoaque, New Mexico where along with Joseph Karnes, he founded the Santa Fe Thunder Half Marathon and Global Running Culture, an all-volunteer non-profit organization with the mission of bettering the lives of youth through the powers of sport and education in 3 primarily indigenous communities where running is a vital part of the culture: northern New Mexico, Matunget, Kenya and Copper Canyon, Mexico.
Like Margaret, GRC is determined to get things done. In addition to its local programs, over the past 6 years GRC carried out an assessment and Harambee in Matunget, purchased 4 acres of land, had the school designed by a well-known Santa Fe architect, stockpiled building materials, including 2,000 linear feet of stone blocks, purchased a 72 horsepower tractor “Big Blue” and shipped her to Kenya along with farming equipment. GRC will use Big Blue along with a heavy duty trailer GRC had manufactured in Kenya, to build the school and then to run a farming business, generating operating funds for the school, including the vital hot meal program, and transforming the economy of Matunget, which has never had a locally-based tractor. Abraham has met with the Governor of Elgeyo-Marakwet County along with many government officials and the prospects appear positive for support with operating expenses, though we do not intend to rely on that support.