Day 3 of our trip found us back in Nairobi, for the purpose of focusing on the educational challenges faced in urban areas of Kenya. Despite the fact that the Kenyan government has taken significant steps to prioritize education in recent years, educational quality has suffered. One reason is due to the dramatic rise in enrollment, stressing Kenya's teaching force and physical infrastructure: for example, the primary school student/teacher ratio has been increased from 34:1 in 2002 to 45:1 in 2008, with ratios as high as 62:1 in some areas of the country. To say that providing quality education to all areas of Kenya is a challenge would be an understatement.
Today however, we visited the Mwangaza Tumaini School, located in the informal settlement community (or slum) of Mukuru. This amazing school was founded by the church and community members of Mukuru: in 2003, several parents were concerned about the education their children were receiving in the nearby government schools, and approached the staff at their local Tumaini Church to ask if there was anything that could be done to help their kids to learn. And so, the school was formed. Most of the teachers come from the community and nearby, and all of them have no formal training; and yet, through their dedication and passion for teaching the kids and getting them off the street (as well as receiving assistance from USAID's Education for Marginalized Children of Kenya program), the kids are performing to a considerably higher standard than the government schools.
We were given the opportunity to watch the classrooms in action, and I must say I was struck by how incredibly well-behaved the children were, and how focused the teacher was. At one point, I stepped out, and was met by Rachael Wanjiku, the Head Teacher of the school.
"These are some of the sweetest children I have ever seen," I gushed to her.
She laughed. "They truly are. I'm getting married next week, and my fiancé said he was worried that they were all going to show up at our wedding. But I don't mind, I hope they all come. They're so lovely."
"And they're so well-behaved! You're doing such a great job."
"Thank you." She smiled.
"Are you from the community?"
"Yes. I've been teaching here for several years, and became the head teacher a few months ago. It's so important that we get these kids off the streets and learning while they're young. I've seen what happens when they stay on the streets -- what happens if they start sniffing glue or doing drugs -- it's hard to get them back. My sister tried to turn to the streets, it wasn't good. It's important that we help these kids learn, and keep them safe."
I smiled at her. "You must feel very proud."
She looked at me, a slight expression of surprise on her face.
"Well," she said, "I feel very blessed."
* * * * * * *
During the school's presentation, we learned that the school motto is "There is hope in perseverence." I love this, and agree wholeheartedly.
But as I looked around, I found hope in other places, too.
I love the idea that one of these children might one day grow up to be a teacher at this school, a leader in their communities or even the President of Kenya. With all that potentiality, there's always hope, yes?
* * * * * * *
I'm traveling to Kenya at the kind invitation and expense of The ONE Campaign, a nonpartisan, advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. ONE works to convince governments (the US, as well as others) to invest in smart programs that help to eliminate proverty and preventable disease in a sustainable way. This week, along with 9 other bloggers, I'll be bringing you images and stories of how the organizations for which ONE advocates are effecting real change in Kenya. If you're moved by anything you read here and you'd like to help, please consider adding your voice and join ONE by simply filling out the form below. Your information will remain confidential, I promise. And if you're already a member, and would still like to help, I'd love if you'd spread the word by sharing this post with your friends and followers.
(In addition, for fun, if you'd like to follow along on our trip and help by performing a "daily action" while we're here, be sure to check out the ONE Mom trip page.)
That's all there is to it. Because ONE never asks for your money, just your voice.
As always, thanks so much, friends.