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Do you have the spirit of the slum children?

Kevin Kelly

It was a hot Summer day; the heat intensified by travelling on the local mode of transport, the matatu. The matatu is a minibus that caters to the masses of Nairobians, the nation’s citizens. Grabbing a ride on one is quite an experience and leaves you in no doubt why Kenya has one of the highest rates of traffic deaths in the world. I had arrived for another day in the Slums working with the teachers and students of Gatoto School in Mukuru, Nairobi. (Interestingly they were happy to be described as Slum children; that was who they were.)
The school was located right in the middle of the slums. I had decided to realize a lifelong dream of living and working with people in the slum, an opportunity facilitated by an education charity Suas (the Irish word for up). The charity introduced me to the Gatoto Primary School, and the officials there were more than delighted by my offer of free teacher and student training in motivation and communication.
The school was a short distance away from the bus stop. Walking towards the school gates one day, I couldn’t help but be drawn to a child who was scavenging in raw sewage for whatever pickings she could find. Inches away, a pig’s snout competed with her for the morsels. Some days the stares of the local residents at the only mzunga (white man) meant that the distance appeared that little bit further. The majority of families in Mukuru were living on a dollar a day caught in poverty, many of them ravaged by AIDs. All of this grim reality was there to be seen as you made your way to the school.
Upon entering the gates, it was like you entered a different world: The smiles of the children would brighten up any dark night and made the harrowing scenes outside a distant memory.
In the classroom, the atmosphere remained consistent. The children were so excited to learn. Their free schooling was a ticket out of the slums and a clear privilege. They wanted to learn. Their eyes focused on me like lasers, any opportunity to ask questions was taken with great enthusiasm.
Do you have that spirit? That eagerness and willingness to learn? The spirit of the slum children?
Willing to learn is a key strategy if your want to move to the “exceptional execution” space. Remember as will be highligted in DO! it is less about the idea and the business plan when you start up and more about your ability to DO, to take action, to execute with exception, and pivot and learn in the process.