The next time you are in Eastleigh, it would be worth while to visit Penuel Educational Complex located on Second Avenue just next to Mini Bakeries. This learning institution comprises of a Nursery (Pre Unit), Primary and computer school and is run by the Free Pentecostal Fellowship Church of Kenya who have appointed a manager to run the daily affairs of the institution. The fact that Penuel Educational Complex has a Christian name has not deterred students from other denominations in quest for knowledge. Fred Amuty, the deputy headteacher, says that Penuel Educational Complex began as a language centre for adults and later embraced the 8-4-4 education system in early 2000. “Enrollment has since been influenced by the majority of residents in Eastleigh, who by default, are Muslims.” The institution has thus become a melting pot of pupils from diverse races and religious backgrounds where all are accommodated and treated equally.
According to Amuty, the management had issues and challenges to address. “Initially, the Christian name of the school was an issue with some Muslim parents, but these differences were ironed out after the management assured parents that students are taught what is in the syllabus as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Education,” says Amuty. “Their concern was that Muslim students would be taught Christian Religious Education (CRE) but that was not the case, we give students freedom to take religious lessons of their choice.”
Strike a balance
For this reason, the school management has hired both a Christian Religious Education (CRE) and an Islamic Religious Education (IRE) teacher to strike a balance. With that assurance to parents and guardians, Penuel Education Complex is a model for other schools in Eastleigh worth emulating in terms of accommodating students from diverse religious inclinations. “With time, our institution has thus evolved and learnt to be sensitive to the needs of students,” notes Amuty. In an effort of promoting interfaith coexistence, the school has also banned groupings of students labeling themselves as either Muslim or Christian. Instead the management has gone an extra mile to create harmony by holding inter-class activities like ball games, quizzes, debates among others as a way of bonding and creating teamwork. “The best students from the activities get an opportunity to be chosen to form a team that represents the entire school in competitions,” says Amuty. Asked how the school is coping with addressing the ‘prayer needs’ of students. Amuty says that the management has organised the provision of water for purposes of ablution for Muslim students who stay in school over lunch time when Dhur (noon) prayers are held. “Though the school has no specific prayer area, students are at liberty to perform their prayers at either the playing ground or take up an empty class. This also applies for the late afternoon prayer.”
Amuty also notes that the Parent Teacher Association has a 50/50 balance rule that is observed during their meetings. “Every parent and guardian is given an equal opportunity to air their grievances and suggestions.” That is not all; Penuel Education complex has also hired a cook who takes care of the ‘halal meal’ needs of the students. “Meals acceptable to everyone like pasta or rice are offered to students, but at an extra cost,” says Amuty. At the end of the day, all the above measures have paid for Penuel Education Complex as it continues to attract students across the board. However, the challenge of a 50/50 balance ratio is something the deputy headteacher Fred Amuty says the institution is working on.