News and opinion

Alfred Oduor

Seeds of hope for girls in Kenya

27 April 2017

Our communication development officer in Kenya, Alfred Oduor, shares what he has seen through our work delivering Wasichana Wote Wasome (let all girls learn), part of the UK-funded Girls' Education Challenge.

A wave of optimism is slowly sweeping through Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands and urban slums, in form of a new awakening on education especially for girls. This wave has been generated by a convergence of forces centred on education, with a potential to alter the cultural and socio-economic dynamics in this region, forever.

The optimism is palpable: you can feel the passion in their talk, the excitement in their laughter and commitment in their actions. Now, they firmly believe, and rightly so, that salvation lies in education; going to school and completing the learning cycles.

Challenges abound

Whereas challenges still abound in the form of poverty, early marriages, pregnancies and gender stereotypes, the situation is slowly changing for the better, particularly for girls. And it is being driven by an ingenious model for supporting girls’ education dubbed Wasichana Wote Wasome (WWW) – Let All Girls Learn – designed by Education Development Trust, implemented by a consortium of partners and funded by the UK government; it aims to support girls at home, in the community, at school and the girl herself.

Imparting knowledge

During my visits in my role as communication development officer, I have met and talked to teachers, pupils and community members who continue to defy great odds to impart knowledge. In Marsabit County a teacher singlehandedly re-started a school that had been closed and brought it up to a level where it now has over 60 pupils. The teacher, Eric Micheni, was posted by the government of Kenya to a school which had no pupils; he was the only teacher. He went from village to village pleading with parents to enrol their children to the school and when they heeded his plea, he became their teacher, their cook, their watchman; in short, he played all the roles in the school.

Improving infrastructure

Another teacher in Turkana, alone in his school, taught over 200 pupils – of different classes, class one to class six – all crammed into one classroom; the school did not even have a toilet. They used the bushes: he reserved one side for himself while the pupils used another side of the school. Now the school has a toilet block, thanks to the Girls Education Challenge (GEC), through Education Development Trust.

Financial support

In Likoni slums, within the coastal city of Mombasa, women, who were brought together by the WWW project to support education of their girls, started table banking, a scheme where members of a particular group meet once every month, place their savings, loan repayments and other contributions on the table then borrow immediately either as long- or short-term loans. They started the scheme using cash transfers given to them by the WWW project for the purposes of supporting their girls’ education. It has grown to a level where their savings scheme has accumulated a capital of about 600,000 Kenyan shillings (USD 6,000) within four years. They can now easily support their children through secondary school.

These cases all symbolise the determination and quest for education that is spreading in areas where education was considered a luxury for a chosen few. Not anymore. Now, more girls are enrolling and remaining in school. Even young mothers are going back to school. In Turkana County for instance, three primary schools – Nalemsekon, Lokichar mixed and Nagis – have more than 15 teen mothers. This has been possible through the community conversations that are part of our programme; we ensure that girls’ education is firmly on the agenda with those whose opinions count.

Achieving dreams

And, so we see, a little support, a nudge, a push and lives can change for the better in the near future. That is what the WWW project is all about: giving girls the support they need so that they can escape the trap of poverty through education. There is hope for our girls in arid and semi-arid areas. Let us support them achieve their dreams.

Find out more about our work in Kenya.