The School for Field Studies (SFS) continually works to enhance our approach to safety at our centers in Kimana, Kenya and Rhotia, Tanzania. By closely monitoring the security situation in East Africa, including political and environmental threats, SFS manages group activities, itineraries, staffing, and overall program models to evolve with changes in-country in order to provide programs of the highest quality.
Highlights of our safety strategy include external and internal safety reviews, 24-hour phone coverage for emergencies, regular review of the hazard landscape, emergency medical training for field staff, knowledge of local and regional medical resources, and a full-time Student Affairs Manager (SAM) at each station who is dedicated to safety and student life. The SAM holds a 72-hour Wilderness First Responder certification. Most others on staff hold a 36-hour Wilderness Advanced First Aid certification.
SFS also employs at its headquarters, a full-time Safety and Student Life Department that has extensive experience in managing student health and safety in international settings. The Safety Department seeks input from a variety of external resources and continually monitors world news, U.S. State Department Warnings, daily briefs from the Overseas Security Advisory Council and oversees our 24-hour emergency contact system. Every SFS field station has a satellite phone, cell phones, land lines, Internet access, etc. We have 24-hour communication lines as well as regularly scheduled conference calls with SFS headquarters to monitor the day-to-day situation.
All students are met at the airport at the beginning of the program and taken to the airport at the conclusion of the program. Students do not travel to Nairobi or to the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha unless they need to visit a major hospital. Per U.S. State Department recommendations, we do not frequent heavily touristed areas such as shopping malls and restaurants. Most of the students’ time is spent at our two field stations or in game parks performing research and our activities occur far from high crime areas. Our field stations are located in small, rural communities where our predominantly local staff maintains tight relations with our neighbors and the region. Unlike the case at other SFS program locations where students are permitted limited non-program time during which they may leave the field station and travel farther afield without direct SFS supervision, in Kenya and Tanzania there is no unstructured free time or mid-semester break.
Participants of all SFS programs are enrolled in emergency medical evacuation and repatriation coverage with Chartis Travel Assistance. Additionally, participants are required to have health insurance valid in the country or countries where they will study. In Kenya, we have developed a strong relationship with medical clinics local to our center, and Tertiary-level care is available in Nairobi. In Tanzania we work closely with FAME, an outpatient medical clinic which has examination and treatment rooms, acute care facilities, a minor procedure room, laboratory, pharmacy, and an inpatient ward with 24 hour Emergency Care. Additionally both sites are partnered with AMREF Flying Doctors in the event a medical evacuation by air is required.
If SFS determines that it is unable to operate a safe, high-quality program in Kenya or Tanzania due to natural or manmade events, SFS will cancel, postpone, or move the program location. Students based in Tanzania can be evacuated to SFS’ Kimana field station or to SFS’ stopover location in Nairobi; while students based in Kenya can be evacuated to the Rhotia center. All locations have a water supply, sanitation infrastructure, and food store. Large canvas tents are available for overflow housing. In the case of an early program close, SFS works closely with Advantage Travel of Syracuse, N.Y., and can assist students in modifying their return travel plans. SFS maintains vehicle fleets at both its East Africa centers and can provide transport to airports in Kenya or Tanzania.
With elections in Kenya slated for March 2013, we made the decision to suspend operations at our Kenya center for Spring 2013. This was a proactive decision to minimize any potential risk, and we anticipate resuming full program activities in Kenya by Summer 2013. The situation is being closely monitored by the SFS Safety Department, as well as the Kenyan staff in-country. The Safety and Student Life Manager will be on site post-election to perform a full risk assessment.Students considering going to Kenya or Tanzania with SFS should make their decisions carefully and consider their goals and risk acceptance as part of their own evaluation. While SFS does not presume to guarantee safety for our students or our staff, our decades of experience in the region, robust safety management system, and our exceptional and experienced staff add to our ability to provide a positive, enriching experience in East Africa.