It’s a sunny, clear morning as Nicola and her daughter cross the spacious school campus to reach the classroom. “Bye Mummy,” Emma says, giving her mum a squeeze, “perhaps you’ll find some friends today too?”
Emma’s form tutor steps out of the classroom, gestures for Emma to come inside and gives Nicola an indulgent grin. “New mums tea this morning is it?” Nicola blushes as Emma skips happily into her brand new classroom, immediately joining a chatter of happy children who are gathered around an interactive history display. “It’s in the main hall. Don’t miss the samosas by the way!” The teacher says kindly.
Nicola takes a breath as the school bell rings. The family’s arrival in Nairobi from the UK during the summer holidays presented a fairly steep learning curve for Nicola. First she had to get a handle on the slightly erratic local driving and then learn to navigate her way around the neighbourhood. The children had fed giraffes, watched baby elephants being bottle fed and picnicked inside the national park but what they were all looking forward to most was the start of school.
Nicola and the kids had had a full tour around the campus during the holidays. They loved the outdoorsy feel of the school with big, bright classrooms and once on the school mailing list, Nicola had received a flurry of breezy, information packed messages reassuring her that her children would be in safe hands. Meanwhile, settling into home life was more of a challenge. Nicola had been happy to accept a slightly dilapidated rental property for the sake of a sizeable garden but had not anticipated fine dust like cocoa powder that got everywhere, frequent power outages and a property manager who refused to pick up his phone to sort out the dodgy electrics.
A week into starting school and while Nicola’s children have settled in to their new lives like ducks to water, Nicola is feeling slightly bereft. She’s looking forward to the opportunity to meet some fellow mums; not least in order to find out which teabags to buy, why some supermarkets are poorly stocked and ask how anyone manages without plastic bags. Not to mention the million questions she has about drinking water, house staff and recommendations for a good exercise class or hairdresser.
Nicola enters the hall and is welcomed by the registrar. They start chatting about where Nicola is from and how her children are adjusting to the new school. Another woman, Cathy, walks in. She’s an old Nairobi hand and can’t help herself from chipping in. “Oh hello, are you new?” Cathy says, eyeing up Nicola’s name badge.
“Yes,” says Nicola, “well, we’ve been here for a month now.”
“Oh brilliant, I’ve been here for nearly seven years. You’re going to love it. I’m not new but my second child has just joined so I thought I’d come along for the tea. I know most of the teachers and they’re all great. So how are you finding it?”
“Good,” says Nicola, “the children love it but it’s been a bit harder for me.” She’s about to launch into her raft of questions when she’s interrupted by the Head Teacher tapping a microphone.
“We are delighted to have your children at Hillcrest and I know that they will all be very happy.” The Head Teacher says. Nicola grins at Cathy. She’s glad that she’s found such a good fit for her kids. It’s certainly one less thing to worry about.
*Hillcrest International Schools; which includes Early Years, Primary and Secondary campuses is one of a group of high quality, British curriculum schools in Nairobi.
For more information on Nairobi schools, click here: Moving here? What to expect from Nairobi schools.