Why Kiambu vet is promoting chess in primary schools

By STEPHEN MBURU

Moses Kwereba started playing chess by default when he was only five years old. He was at King’eero Primary School in Kabete, Kiambu County, and his father Harun Gathua would go with him to the Ngong Race Course in Nairobi to engage in his betting passion. The boy, bored by being left on the terraces, would get indoors and watch people playing chess. He got interested in the game and learned it through observation.

At the age of nine, he was included in a junior chess tournament at Nairobi’s Visa Oshwal and Aga Khan schools. Today, Kwereba, a veterinary doctor, is not only an accomplished chess player, but a trainer in Kiambu schools. The former chess captain at Kiambu’s St Joseph High School is the founder of Kabete Cares Chess Club, his forum in promoting the game in the county. The young man from King’eero village, who graduated with a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Nairobi in 2008, says were it not for chess, he would not have been what he is today: a much-sought after self-employed vet.

 

Chess opened mind

“Chess opened my mind. It helped me define myself in creating business. Even before I graduated, I had already decided not to seek formal employment but start my own business and create employment opportunities for others,” the soft-spoken veterinarian tells the Metro at his Musa Veterinary Clinic at Wangige Market. The holder of a diploma in animal health and production from the Animal Health and Industry Training Institute (AHITI) at Kabete, says he used his chess knowledge to start his own firm, with an initial capital of Sh2,000 he had saved from his pocket money. Though he traverses the county offering his much-needed veterinary services, he faithfully sets aside one hour every week to teach pupils chess. “I know the benefits of chess and that is why I volunteered to teach the children, starting with my old school King’eero in 2009. Chess helps and improves creation, logical thinking, execution of ideas, and planning and evaluation,” says Kwereba. “With chess,” he says, “you easily learn what is happening around the world, for instance, in athletics and soccer. With chess, you deal with moves and you study opportunities open to you. You have to make the right moves and come out with difficult tactics to attack your opponent. You have to really think before making any moves. The practice helps the player navigate future challenges of life. “Chess aims at enhancing a child’s general knowledge, which has been left out from our school curriculum.” Kwereba’s free services have since been recognized by officials from the Ministry of Youth Affairs department in Kiambu, who asked if he could help set up a chess centre. His proposal led to pilot projects at King’eero and Msamaria Mwena Home at Kibiciku near Wangige. “We started with children who had no idea what chess was. The class at King’eero had 30 children, but many fell by the wayside. Only 14 pupils have made it this far,” says Kwereba, whose ambition is “to spread my chess gospel beyond Kiambu.”

 

Manchester United and Arsenal

To make his lessons more lively he has divided the children into two teams named after the English Premier League arch-rivals: Manchester United and Arsenal. He also uses a laptop, iPod and Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). He asks teachers and parents to encourage children to learn the game as it could help them earn extra income as he does through coaching children in other scools. “The Ministry of Education should have chess taught as a lesson in all schools as in other developed countries such as Russia, Germany and the USA,” says Kwereba. James Owino, King’eero Primary School deputy head teacher and Nancy Githinji, the Kikuyu District Youth Officer, say they are committed to helping Kwereba achieve his goals.

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