Free The Children has been operating in Kenya since 1999 within the Narok South District, working with both Kipsigis and Maasai communities. Through Adopt a Village, we’ve engaged many communities across the Mara and built schools, libraries, water projects, latrines, kitchens and teachers’ accommodations. There are now many communities involved in our development and education projects and our team of community outreach and development workers consistently works with active women’s, men’s and youth groups.
Welcome Oleleshwa Girls!.
It is with great excitement that we welcomed the Oleleshwa girls to their first high school term!
The Oleleshwa girls arrived at the school with their parents, beaming with excitement. They couldn’t wait to be part of their new school family. Each Oleleshwa student was assigned a mentor from the Grade 10 Kisaruni girls, who would help her to feel at home and act as a guide and advisor throughout the year. The Grade 10 girls were over the moon with excitement because of the chance to mentor these new students.
Meeting the Oleleshwa students with open arms, the Grade 10 girls helped them carry in their luggage as they chatted away. The parents meanwhile were overjoyed to see the welcome that their daughters received at the school and were so happy that their daughters would become part of this school family.
The fact that the Oleleshwa school building is not yet finished has provided a unique opportunity for the students to start at the Kisaruni school, where they will receive the opportunity to be mentored by and learn from the older students. Then, next year, with the completion of their own school, the Oleleshwa students will transition to the new school site, as they welcome the second cohort of students.
These young students have arrived at Kisaruni with hopes and dreams, and the drive to make them come true. “Most of the girls in the family drop out of school at young age,” says Serewan Kukuni, a new student from the community of Oloonkerin. “I would like to be role model by working hard.” Kukuni’s goal is to become a lawyer, but she also has dreams for her family. “I would like to change my family status by educating my siblings,” she says.
In order to welcome new students like Kukuni to the school, staff held a special mentorship weekend. The new Grade 9 students spent time getting to know the teachers and bonding with the older students by playing fun icebreakers! Then the students and teachers cooked dinner together, sitting down to a delicious meal and getting to know one another better. The next day, everyone went on a hike, taking in the beauty of the Maasai Mara.
Overall, the new Grade 9 students found the weekend a welcoming and relaxing experience. As the Kisaruni and Oleleshwa girls settled into their new home for the school year, they have started to get involved with various school clubs. From the Music, Drama and Art Club, where members compose new songs and write plays, to the Health/Red Cross club, which engages students who aspire to be nurses and doctors, the Grade 9 Kisaruni and Oleleshwa students are enjoying becoming part of the school community.
Kisaruni Cares about Food Security.
The girls of Kisaruni have once again blown us away by showing how the pillars of the Adopt a Village model work to support each other. We run a nutrition program in all Free The Children schools to ensure that our students have the energy to learn to their fullest potential. This is the Agriculture and Food Security pillar working to support education. Now the bright minds of Kisaruni are showing us how, through the empowerment of education, they are working to raise community awareness of food security. Recently, the Grade 11 class wrote essays to explain how they were “being the change” at home. Let’s see what they’re doing to make their communities more food secure.
Sharon Tombo told us about her home in Pimbiniet. “My community is big, with a population of about twenty families per village. The people in this community are hard-working as they grow crops and also keep livestock. They also face a lack of electricity, social amenities and good infrastructure. This is really a challenge, but I’m hoping to help improve.” Sharon’s way of supporting food security is planting fruit trees in Pimbiniet to combat diseases caused by poor diets. “The problem is to do with malnutritional diseases,” she says, explaining the link between food security and health.
Faith Cherotich told us about life at her home in Motony. “In our community we have resources like sandy soil, dairy cows, and a large and accommodative wildlife game reserve called the Maasai Mara. However, there are several challenges in my community. There are insufficient means of transport, inadequate water supplies, poor transport and communication network and shortage of pasture for livestock.” Faith has been going back to her primary school to plant avocado trees. “I saw the need to have it within our community because many innocent children have been suffering from malnutrition.”
But Faith wants to do even more. “I would also like to put more effort in my academics so that in the future I can construct good transport systems, to have adequate water facilities to be used in irrigating our crops for domestic use.” Through her education at Kisaruni, she’s learned to think sustainably about food production in her community. She knows that her education is helping improve the agricultural infrastructure of Motony.
For other Kisaruni students, food security means changing the way the community thinks about agriculture. Marcella Chepkemoi Sang, a 17-year-old Kipsigis with eight brothers and sisters, believes that innovation is the key to her village’s food security. “My hope for the future is that I would like the people in my community to improve in their farming practices. I would like to make the community a better place to be.”
Faith Chemutai, second-oldest in her family, believes that improving agriculture in her community will also help support the alternative income projects. “I hope that in the future my community will be the best known for growing fruits. I also hope to see them marketing their fruits to earn a living.” By saving money, her community would be better set up to withstand dry seasons and other crises. “They share what they have together in times of need.”
We are so excited to see how the girls of Kisaruni have become community leaders for the Agriculture and Food Security pillar. More now than ever before, our students are beginning to think sustainably about how to combat hunger at home.
And their success is thrilling. It shows that when students are empowered with the fuel to learn, they can direct their energy and leadership toward helping their communities become sustainable and food secure. So, to the talented essayists of Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School, thank you for being the change!
Kisaruni All-Stars Secondary School.
With their dedication not only to academics but to positive behaviour in all aspects of school life, it's no surprise that we've seen some all-star performances from the students of Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School over the last year. The prestige of Kisaruni's students is as diverse as it is impressive, ranging from exemplary teamwork skills to unbelievable soccer abilities to excellence in sports reporting.
Let's take a moment to celebrate some outstanding performances from Kisaruni all-stars in the last year.
Mercy Cherotich, stalwart school captain: Head of the student council, Mercy led her prefects in embracing the values of "we thinking" and "we acting" in their management of all school matters. Under her guidance, Kisaruni had a successful term with absolutely no instances of major misconduct reported. When the barriers to education are broken down and students are given the tools to change their communities, they can achieve great things!
Jackline Cherono, determined dormitory captain: An astute leader, Jackline did an exemplary job of leading students by performing her role with determination and sensitivity. School programming encourages values like respect, honesty, responsibility, humility, courage and confidence in its students, all of which are essential in a good dormitory captain.
Irine Nabaala, perfect prefect: Irine will be taking over as environmental prefect this year. After being recognized for mastering her exams earlier in the year, Irine said, "I know I can do even better and I believe I am going to succeed in my academics here at Kisaruni," thanking the education facilitators for the big impact that they are making in her life.
Kanoi Lankas, soccer superstar: A goal-scoring striker, Kanoi is the girl to watch in Kisaruni soccer. Her creative, highly skilled techniques for driving the ball down the field have earned her acclaim in the school sports community. Students at Kisaruni have lots of energy for physical activities thanks to nutritional programming and clean water access.
Mercella Sang, rambunctious reporter: Known by her business name, "Striker Number Nine," Mercella is a Grade-10 student who has taken in interest in sharing news with her school. She reports on events on Mondays and Fridays, injecting humour into the way she retells school events.
Faith Cherotich, conscientious community member: Faith has been involved in the agricultural and income projects that Kisaruni students have started in surrounding communities. Enthusiastic about Free The Children-facilitated programs, she said, "The projects are a great inspiration since they have made many parents understand the importance of education."
With stars in academics, sports, and community activities, we're excited to see what the great minds of Kisaruni will achieve next!
Building a Kisaruni family.
It’s been a busy few months for the girls at Kisaruni! As they head into their final term of the school year, Kisaruni’s community is growing stronger every day.
And this school community doesn’t focus exclusively on academics. Every Friday afternoon, some of the students’ parents visit the school and run workshops to promote cultural values such as respect, responsibility and confidence. These visits from parents also help to keep students connected to their home communities and culture.
The parents, along with other community members, also talk to the students about careers they could possibly pursue one day, such as business or agriculture. One parent from the Pimbiniet community talked about his successful career in agriculture, sharing tips with the students. His talk motivated students to study agriculture so they could gain the skills to become successful farmers one day, should they choose that career. These career sessions are important in teaching Kisaruni students how to be independent and self-reliant after completing their education. One student, Mary, said, “These skills are important to us because after our education ,we can become self-employed and also create jobs for others, so as to curb the problem of unemployment in the country.”
Parents have also been volunteering at Kisaruni, helping with duties such as cutting grass and assisting in the kitchen. When students’ families visit the school, it gives the girls a chance to catch up with what’s going on back in their communities, so they can concentrate on their studies and not miss home as much.
And while the girls are not always with their biological families while at Kisaruni, they still have an adopted family of fellow “sisters” at school. Last term, a project started where each teacher adopts several students into a “family” that meets every two weeks to express their feelings and encourage each other. The project creates a sense of family among students, and also helps them to become a closer Kisaruni family overall.
We wish the best of luck to the Kisaruni students as they finish up their term, and can’t wait to see how they continue to grow as a close knit community in the coming months!
A year of education and opportunity for girls.
Hear from Robin Wiszowaty, our Kenya Program Director, as she shares highlights and impacts from the 2011 school year at the Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School. See girls education come to life, on-the-ground in Kenya.
Kisaruni expanding to accommodate more future women leaders.
With every year that passes, Kisaruni Girls Secondary School expands some more to make room for a new cohort of students. Construction is in full swing for the coming school year in 2013, in anticipation of the 50 new girls who will be joining Kisaruni!
So far, a new dormitory is being constructed to accommodate new students next year. This is the third dormitory at Kisaruni, and is expected to be finished and ready for students to move in by January 2013. As the number of students increases, so will the number of teachers (a.k.a. Kisaruni's education facilitators). Two more buildings are currently under construction to house Kisaruni staff. Finally, two additional classrooms are currently under construction, which will be ready for use at the start of the next school year, in January 2013.
All the continuous building and construction has only served to heighten the excitement for learning and creating a caring school environment at Kisaruni. The first two cohorts of students are aware of the legacy they will be leaving behind for newer generations of students, and are making the most of their experience at school. Along with setting stellar academic standards, the girls are busy turning Kisaruni into an extracurricular hub with long-term benefits for the community.
Our last update gave an in-depth look at the various games and clubs that Kisaruni students participate in. In addition to sporting their talents on the playground, the girls also demonstrate a deep passion for the school's health and environmental clubs.
The school garden is flourishing, thanks to the efforts of the environmental club! In addition to diligently caring for the trees and shrubs planted on the school grounds, the girls are also very aware of the importance of conserving the environment. As Kenya recovers from the worst drought in 60 years, Kisaruni's girls are taking the lead in the educating their peers about environmental conservation. It is exciting to watch them spread this message passionately and enthusiastically!
The health club has continued to maintain high standards of hygiene in the school. Club members are serious about their commitment to cleanliness, and are making every effort to ensure that students are regularly washing their hands with soap and water. In addition, the health club also oversees the entire school's deworming program. Every three months, all Kisaruni students are dewormed, thus keeping them healthy and fit for participation in the school's activities.
The students of Kisaruni Girls Secondary School are a true example of the remarkable capabilities of female leaders. Every single one of them is a trailblazer, working hard to show her community that women can be leaders, and great ones at that. Their deep commitment to, and passion for, education is paving the way for a new generation of leaders in the Maasai Mara. Free The Children is very proud of the Kisaruni girls!
Setting a standard for academics and extracurricular activities at Kisaruni.
Well into the fourth month of the school year, students have settled into a comfortable rhythm at Kisaruni Girls Secondary School. Under the mentorship and guidance of the older Grade 10 students, the comparatively new Grade 9 girls have easily adapted to the Kisaruni culture.
Academically, the girls’ performance has been outstanding. They take their education seriously, and apply themselves to their tasks readily and with enthusiasm. The Kisaruni team has observed that the drive to share and help each other is strong within this group. Students assist each other during group discussions, and always ready to guide and counsel each other whenever necessary.
In addition to their studies, the girls are equally dedicated to the school clubs and sports teams they participate in. Though the focus on academics is always present, Free The Children recognizes the importance of a holistic educational experience. Sports teams and social clubs provide students with an outlet for their creativity and talent, and are essential to their development as wholesome individuals. Participation in school clubs and sports teams also teaches the girls leadership, communication and interpersonal skills. These skills will later help them in their chosen career path.
This year, the school’s talent pool has doubled along with the number of students enrolled. Kisaruni’s playground now sees a hive of activity during lunch and before and after school hours with students playing football (or soccer as we know it in North America), netball, volleyball and even skipping rope together. Running is also very popular among the girls, and already there are emerging star athletes from each grade. The Kisaruni team says this is without doubt the most cherished sport of all. Girls love participating in the races and relays organized throughout the school year.
Kisaruni also has its very own resident girl guides! The girl guides are instrumental in organizing school assemblies on Mondays and Fridays each week. In true girl-guide fashion, this group shines during leadership activities, especially ones that are outdoors. They take the lead during class hiking trips, carrying a first aid kit and educating their peers about safety while hiking. They also lead first aid training sessions with their peers, ensuring that each student knows how to use the first aid kit.
Free The Children is so excited to share these updates about the girls’ progress at Kisaruni Girls Secondary School. Girls’ education is one of our most important initiatives, and we look forward to seeing these girls as they use education to break free of the barriers that entrench their communities in poverty.
Rhoda Toris Mpoe’s story.
On January 16, Rhoda Toris Mpoe began her first day as a student of Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School. She was incredibly excited, and found it difficult to keep a wide smile off her face.
Despite her youth, Rhoda knows more about hardship and challenges at 15 than most kids her age. Having lost her father not long ago, she now lives with her mother and seven siblings. In a community where child marriages are common and education is not a priority for girls, Rhoda's primary supporters have been her mother and a younger brother who have struggled to get her an education. "Sometimes I would use a uniform for four years, [and] I would have no pens," Rhoda recalls. Times have been tough for subsistence farmers in Kenya and the recent East-African drought has stretched the region thin. If it wasn't for Rhoda's head teacher in primary school, who supported her financially, she may not have had the opportunity to go to school.
As a student, Rhoda has always performed well academically. She is a keen observer of her surroundings and has tailored her ambitions to her community's needs. "I want to be a doctor," she confides, "I want to start to uplift our community." In Rhoda's community, only some girls get a chance at education. She hopes that in future all girls will have that opportunity. "I think as Kenyans, some years back men were ahead of ladies but it is time for ladies to catch up to men so we can be equal," she says.
And she keeps her motivation alive by striving to be like her role model, Wangari Maathai. She is looking forward to this upcoming school year, and hopes it will go by smoothly. When we ask her what challenges she expects, she shrugs and says, "It all depends on me, if I view something as difficult then it will be difficult, if I view it as easy it will be easy so my mind must be strong!"
Your continued support to Free The Children's projects in Kenya ensures that young, talented girls like Rhoda have access to education, clean water and health care in their communities. Thank you!
Welcoming new students at Kisaruni.
On January 16th, the excitement at Kisaruni Girls Secondary School was palpable. It was a day that marked new beginnings for all the students and Free The Children: the start of a new school year and a new cohort of 50 young girls entering Kisaruni. The Grade 9 class of last year shifted to Grade 10, to make room for the brand new cohort of girls entering Grade 9. Parents dropped off their daughters, proud to see them blossoming into young women ready to pursue the next phase of their education.
As the new students flooded into the school at 9 a.m., they were warmly welcomed at reception by the Grade 10 students. This year, the older girls have the opportunity to mentor new students, and be their "mothers" at school. The older girls happily took the new students under their wings and guided them around their new home, showing them their classrooms, labs, playing field, dining hall and their beds. Kisaruni's education facilitators sat back and watched with pride as these young leaders took ownership over their school and welcomed the newcomers.
The parents, students and education facilitators all met in the dining hall to do a formal welcome and introduction. The entire program was planned and executed by the Grade 10 girls as they gave advice and warm words of welcome to the newcomers.
There was a sense of camaraderie and friendship in the hall throughout the program. "When I first came here last year I was always getting lost, I sometimes get lost in my studies, I would try to go to the dormitory and end up in the dining hall, I would try and go to class and end up in the toilet but you don't have to worry about getting lost because we are here for you and we will guide you in everything you need," said Penina, a Grade 10 student, as she addressed her peers.
At the end of the day, the Kisaruni team took some time out to get to know their new students, find out what they are excited for and what challenges they anticipate. Most girls have high academic and social hopes for the year, but not many feel like they will be facing any challenges. When they were asked to explain why that was, a new student named Rhoda said "the only challenge we face is our own focus. If we look at something and say it is going to be difficult, it will be difficult. If we look at something and say it will be easy, it will be easy. So the only challenge we have is our own concentration and focus."
With the start of a new school year at Kisaruni, we can celebrate the culmination of Kisaruni's first year of operation and the success of all 41 girls from the first cohort climbing into their second year! Overall, we are off to a great start at Kisaruni and everyone is looking forward to a fantastic year of being a community, building on cultural values, valuing diversity, promoting leadership and engaging in active learning.
Celebrating Clothing and Clubs at Kisaruni.
It's been a wonderful and busy few months as the first girls of Kisaruni have continued to learn and thrive at Free The Children's new girls' secondary school in its first year of operation.
The highlight of the summer had to be when the girls got their first school uniforms. Four girls put on a fashion show in the dining hall for the other students to see the various ways to wear the red and gold uniforms. When the skirts, blouses and sweaters were distributed, all the girls at Kisaruni were very eager to put them on.
Collectively, the girls have gained a lot more confidence when preparing for tests. That confidence has translated to improved academic performance in recent months.
Kisaruni continues to enhance the girls' education with five extracurricular clubs, including the Environment Club, Debate Club, Health Club, Computer Club, Music and Drama Club and Girl Guides. The clubs have given the girls new skills and experiences and encouraged them to improve the school as well. Says Rita, the prefect of the Environmental Club for the third term, "It is important to take care of our environment and keep it clean. When we plant trees it will provide rain, fresh air and shade."
The school also has a wide variety of sports and exercise activities, including soccer, volleyball, netball and jump rope, to help keep the girls healthy and active. The girls also get to practice the measuring skills they learn in class, by helping to make playing fields for soccer and netball.
The girls at Kisaruni have been studying agriculture, geography, biology and business studies at the Baraka Farm. These lessons have been instrumental in providing the girls with practical knowledge that will help them in their lives outside of school. "Since agriculture is the study of farming and we come from farming communities, we are learning how to grow food and earn an income by doing so," says student Naomy.
Kisaruni also strives to teach its students about their culture. Every two weeks throughout the term, a parent will come to the school to speak about the cultural values of their community, including courage, respect, honesty, patience, generosity and responsibility. Also adding to their cultural education, each girl makes a visit to one of their classmates' family's homes after each semester. These visits give them the opportunity to observe the various roles of family members in the home in that community's culture. The hope is that this learning will help preserve the girls' traditional cultures for future generations.
Kisaruni is expanding this year, with some construction projects expected to be completed by January, for the start of a new school year and the new girls that will enter Grade 9 – one is a new dormitory that will house them.. Also nearing completion is an outdoor study space. It is hoped the space will give the girls another place to work, in addition to the school's library, classrooms and labs.
Free The Children is excited about these developments and is looking forward to continuing its life-enriching work at Kisaruni Girls Secondary School. It is hoped that the girls at Kisaruni will develop the knowledge and skills to become successful, happy and healthy adults.
Kisaruni, the brand new all girls secondary school, has now been open for three months! With 41 girls currently enrolled, they are soon finishing the first term of the 2011 school year. In addition to their regular classes, the girls have been kept busy participating in leadership and extracurricular activities, such as soccer and football, the debate club and even ensuring the school grounds are maintained and flowers watered. Promoting Leadership is a part of the Kisaruni philosophy and is a value that Free The Children, the educators and students at Kisaruni take to heart. Each girl at the school will have an opportunity to be a student leader or ‘prefect.’ At Kisaruni, we have a prefect system, with each prefect being in charge of a specific area, such as the dormitory, dining hall, classroom and games. There is also the head girl and the assistant head girl who oversee the daily activities in the school. There are 10 prefects in total. The prefect system is rotational in the nature so that we will have a new body every term in order to promote leadership in all the girls. Through this system and various other leadership opportunities at Kisaruni, these 41 girls are going to become not just student leaders but future community leaders.
Stay tuned for your Spring 2011 Report coming soon…
Take a Video Tour of Kisaruni High School.
Check out the video above to go on an extensive tour of the brand new Kisaruni All-Girls High School with Free The Children's co-founder Marc Keilberger. On the tour, you will be able to see the library, science lab, dormitories, and classrooms that you helped build -empowering girls in the South Narok District with the tools and knowledge they need to go far in life.
Once again, our sincerest thanks for helping make higher education for girls in the South Narok District a reality!
In a little bit over a month's time, the Kenya All Girls Secondary School, also known as Kisaruni High School, will be opening its doors to girls living in the South Narok District. The construction of the classrooms are already complete while other parts, such as the administration block and science labs require only finishing touches. We are also currently working on outfitting the school with proper furniture and supplies. Just last week, we were finalizing all the equipment we needed for our biology, physics and chemistry labs!
Free The Children's staff in Kenya have started to interview prospective students and their parents to determine their level of commitment to education and potential to do well at Kisaruni. Once the final group of girls are chosen, they will all meet on January 17th, 2011 for a week of community-building exercises where they will get a chance to their fellow students and staff, and help build out the school culture and philosophy. Much to our excitement, classes officially start on January 24th, marking the beginning of many special changes to come.
Removing Barriers From Attaining Higher Education.
Now that all of the secondary school's classrooms have been built and the administration block, dormitories, library and science lab are only awaiting roofing, we are turning our focus towards the educational programming for the upcoming school year which is set to start in January 2011.
We have connected with the Kenyan Private Schools Association in order to learn best practices in operating a brand new high school. As well, we have held various meetings with educational stakeholders to make sure that everyone is on the same page about the for the school.
Already, grade eight students have been sending in their applications and interview dates have been scheduled for prospective students. In order to ensure that the high school stays accessible, we will be providing scholarships to students who have excelled in academics and to those who are in high-financial need. Tuition is charged on an as-needs basis so that all economic barriers to attaining a higher education will be removed.
If you are interested in providing a four-year scholarship to a girl attending the new high school, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to check back soon for more updates on the secondary school!
Stories Behind the Secondary School.
Robin, our Director of Kenya Programs, tells you the stories of strength and determination by the girls and women in rural Kenya who have been working extra hard now that they know there will be a girls high school in their very own community.
Since 1999, Free The Children has built several primary schools in rural Kenya, bringing access to education for thousands of young people every day. Children have never before been more motivated to attend school and are so proud of their achievements. For many, however, education ends after grade 8, especially for girls. To meet the demand for girl's secondary education, Free The Children has been working diligently since 2009 to build the organization's very first sec-ondary school in Kenya. This residential school will be accessible not only to girls from its home village of Enelerai, but also to girls from neighbouring Free The Children communities in Narok South District, including Emori Joi, ', haiti_solidaritesiyoi, haiti_solidaritenkerin, Motony and Salabwek.
To date, construction of the secondary school is well underway! We have already installed the roof and window frames for the first and second classrooms, and the third classroom has been completed up to the ring beam. During the past six months, our staff members have also been busy putting slab concreting on the floors and erecting walls for the dining hall, kitchen, student dormitories, and teachers' accommodation. Considering that the computer laboratory and library are being constructed this summer, we are on track to completing all construction by January 2011, just in time for the new school year!
Upon completion, this all-girls secondary school will fulfill many girls' aspirations of furthering their education. In the future, girls who graduate from the secondary school will be able to build stronger livelihoods through better employment opportunities as a result of higher learning and computer literacy. The chances for them to enter university or college are greater with the support of their families, who are thrilled and proud to have their daughters enrolled in a quality secondary school. Moreover, they are able to lead healthier lives and contribute to a brighter outcome for the future of their households and community.
Features of the Secondary School.
Free The Children has completed drilling for a deep-water well in the nearby community of Enelerai. We are currently building a generator that will be used to pump clean water from the well to various water kiosks located around the Enelerai community as well as on the grounds of the secondary school. This will ensure that the students at the secondary school will not have to travel far to access clean water.
Computer and Science Labs
The all girls secondary school will be the first school in any Free The Children school in Kenya to have both computer and science laboratories! These labs will provide students with the proper tools to learn computer skills and to receive a practical, hands-on science education. Gaining access to such valuable classroom resources means that girls will no longer have to leave their own community to receive a quality higher education.
As with libraries in other Free The Children schools, the library at the all girls secondary school will serve multiple purposes. Not only will students be able to easily access a wide array of interesting educational materials, the library will also be a cheerful and bright space in which they can study outside of school hours. The library is also a gathering spot or meeting space for women's groups, health clubs, and other community members.