Our main goal when we set out for Irovo — apart from acting as willing mules for all the fantastic supplies donated by kind friends and colleagues in Lancashire — was to purchase the building and small piece of land that was being used as the school.
However, on arrival we discovered that the patch of land was tiny and the crumbling building had recently been used as a short row of shops and a posho mill (corn mill). The remains of the mill fixtures were still evident in one of the classrooms — the other three were also grim. To add insult to disappointment, the landlord wanted 1.5 million shillings (over £10,000), almost double the original asking price.
We moved on.
A friend of Vitalis’s called Martin had recently bought a piece of farm land for 300,000 shillings. He was sympathetic to our plight, but he had already planted corn and saplings for timber, so whatever asking price he came up with would have to include compensation for the investment he had made.
His price? A cool million.
Vitalis knew that time was running out because eventually Olive and I would have to return to Cape Town. We left Vitalis to negotiate with Martin without the distraction of two mzungus, and we took a holiday around Lake Victoria, largely retracing a motorbike journey that I took four years ago.
On our return two weeks later, Vitalis said that he had visited Philip Malimu Tosi, the village elder (they don’t have chiefs here), for some advice.
It turned out that Philip was grappling with a predicament of his own. His youngest child had recently performed superbly in his school leaving exams, and Philip felt he owed it to him to raise the money to send him to medical school. And it just so happened that he had a piece of land he was willing to sell to pay the university fees… (tbc)