NAIROBI, Kenya — An 8-year-old Kenyan girl who presented flowers to President Barack Obama at an arrival ceremony last week got lots of attention when she returned to school on Monday. And she was a little overwhelmed by all the fuss.
Joan Wamaitha, who attends Mariakani Primary School in Nairobi's South B district, prepared for exams this week after her big moment Friday when Obama landed in Nairobi and hugged the little girl in a white dress waiting with dignitaries on the runway. Obama was in Ethiopia on Monday, the second stop of a two-nation African tour.
The state-run Mariakani school has 700 students, many of whom walk to class from poor areas in Nairobi, including a neighborhood of shacks visible from a dusty playing field where students scrambled during their lunch break. At the morning assembly, head teacher Lucy Obonyo sought to inspire the students with the same message of possibility that Obama delivered to an invitation-only crowd at a Nairobi arena.
Obonyo said she told the students that they were "very important" even if they lived in a "slum area."
The uniformed boys and girls clapped and cheered, Obonyo said in an interview with The Associated Press. She said many crowded around Joan, who wore a badge with a photo of Obama and a slogan about the "American Dream."
The girl's star turn was the talk of the school, where each class has about 40 pupils and furniture is lacking in some classrooms.
"She's a bit confused because she doesn't want so many questions," said Joan's teacher, Pauline Musyoka. She described the girl as smart and hardworking.
Joan was selected to meet the American president from Mama Ngina Children's Home, where she stays.
"She was disciplined," Jacinta Moses, a 14-year-old student, said of Joan. "She was good enough for the position."