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.
Students, Parents Learning in Ngosuani.
New books, new pencils, new friends. The school year begins with the promise of new discoveries, whether you are in Kenya or Canada. In the community of Ngosuani at the start of January, eager students gather in front of the school. Tightly clutching notebooks, students file into the classroom and pick their desk. Excited whispers mix with the rustling of paper as students settle in. With school called to order, the teacher explains the first lesson: it’s a class in mathematics. Concentrating on the problem on the board, students add, subtract and multiply. Hands eagerly shoot into the air to provide the answer.
For some of the students, this is the first chance they’ve had to attend class. For others, this year will be their last before graduation. Recently the Grade 8 students sat for the Grade 8 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education. This exam is completed by all Grade 8 Kenyan students for entry into high school. The better the mark, the better the high school the students will be able to attend. In celebration of all the hard work students have put in for eight years, community members organized a party! It was a touching reminder of the continued parental support of education across this community. Across all Free The Children schools, 182 girls and 188 boys sat for the exam. When they graduate, a new grade of pupils will take their places, with two newly finished classrooms to accommodate the growing student body.
The school has also served as the centre for new health initiatives that will help students stay in school rather than lose days of school to illness and disease. The school hosted a deworming session where 333 students received medicine. After a school health assessment on the availability of clean water, hand-washing stations and lavatories, we began to teach students about various health practices. One major focus was proper oral hygiene, including tooth-brushing and flossing. We distributed 100 toothbrushes to help students keep their pearly whites clean and in good condition. Even the teachers took part in the lesson so they could serve as role models for their students.
And it’s not only the students of Ngosuani Primary School who are eager to learn about health. To help their kids stay committed in the positive hygiene, the parents of Ngosuani have been taking part in their own health education sessions. We went over familiar topics like the 10 habits of a healthy home—health-improving techniques like growing kitchen gardens and using smokeless chimneys—as well as covering new ground by teaching about the importance of vitamin A, proper eye care and regular check-ups. We also talked about the causes and treatments of common eye conditions.
Community members’ commitment to improving family health is a sign that Osenetoi is ready to lead its children to a happier, healthier future!
Working hard and playing harder in Ngosuani.
Cheers break out on the soccer field. Players give high fives for the winning goal. “Good game,” is heard across the field. Every week this group meets for a game of soccer, honing their skills and having fun together. Their talent is undeniable, and it extends past the playing field. In August we told you they had invested in 11 goats, from which they could sell or use the milk. In the meantime the group has been working diligently to save and expand their herd, and their hard work has paid off: they now have 24 goats!
But this hard-working team isn’t the only small business group that has been making great progress since August. The Olchoro Omayiana men’s group has been increasing their savings and therefore the loans they are able to distribute to their members for small business opportunities. Currently, the group has 350,000 Kenyan shillings being used by members. The interest from the individual loans will be put into a separate fund, which will then be divided among members at the end of the year according to the number of “shares” they hold.
Buoyed by the success of groups like the Olchoro Omayiana, other groups have been formed and are flourishing. The Olokeri men’s group currently has 18 members, with each member contributing 1000 shillings every month. Altogether the group has saved up 27,000 shillings. We are looking forward to seeing what business opportunities members will start with the money borrowed from the fund.
Through programs like this Free The Children works to empower community members to be economically self-reliant, so they can not only support their families from the resulting income, but also be able to send their children to school. To facilitate these programs, Free The Children community coordinators work closely with groups in every community.
Ngosuani celebrates students and teachers.
In the neighbouring village of Motony, students and teachers from Ngosuani and all the other Free The Children communities gathered for a very special awards ceremony. As part of the School Pride Program, designed to engage students and teachers to be proud of their school, the annual event, hosted this year at Motony’s primary school, honours top students and teachers for academic excellence and involvement.
With hundreds of students and teachers coming together, the school yard buzzed with activity. Ngosuani students mixed and mingled with hundreds of teachers and students from nearby schools. Conversations and greetings filled the air, as neighbours greeted each other and met members from other communities. Proud parents accompanied their students—smartly dressed in their school uniforms—and there were smiles all around. Finally, everyone settled in and the ceremony began.
It was well worth the wait for Ngosuani, which was the proud recipient of the following awards:
Everyone left the event and returned home inspired to work even harder in the coming year and continue to boost the academic excellence of their school.
Since Free The Children started working in the community, there’s been tremendous growth in student enrollment and graduation. From 2011 to 2013, there has been 64 percent increase in the number of students graduating. And, if the recent awards ceremony is any indication, the students and teachers are passionate about education.
But classes are not the only part of the school that is flourishing. The 40 students in the environmental club are busy taking care of the demonstration garden at the school, which has a new addition: Kale has been recently planted, and they are already spreading out their leaves, looking like little green trees planted in a row. The plants have been thriving, in part due to the new drip irrigation system, which has been put into place. Through this new system, a generator is used to pump water in a holding tank, which is then distributed through pipes through the garden. We look forward to seeing how new initiatives, such as the irrigation system, engage students in further agricultural initiatives.
Ngosuani: Buzzing With Business .
The community of Ngosuani buzzes with activity. Children walk along dusty roads to the Free the Children school (it’s the dry season in Kenya right now) yelling “Jambo!” to passersby. Meanwhile, their mothers and fathers are doing household chores, heading to the local market or working in their fields.
Many of these community members are involved in Free The Children’s groups, which offer the opportunities and tools to empower them to build a better future for their families. In fact, one of the most rewarding aspects of working in this community is seeing the dedication and successes of the members of these groups as they work together, whether it’s by pooling their resources for larger projects or by starting micro-businesses.
We wanted to highlight some of our dedicated groups and share their latest successes with you:
The energetic Ngosuani youth group is all about working hard and playing harder! Together, the group collectively owns 11 goats, which are a great source of nutritious milk that can be sold at the local market or be made into soap. But the members also make time to play soccer together. Every week without fail they meet up to play a match. They even had some exciting news recently. One of the group members received a scholarship to play soccer in Australia! The rest of the group members are very excited and supportive.
Meanwhile, 27 members of the Olchoro Omayiana men’s group are pooling their money as part of the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA), where all the members contribute into a central savings fund by buying “shares.” The money is used as a central fund from which the members can take short-term loans while paying 15% interest. These loans are then used to purchase livestock or start small businesses. At the end of the year, the accumulated interest is divided between community members, according to the number of shares they hold. In total, the group currently has 160,000 Kenyan shillings circulating among its members.
They’ve also got plans to make sure all their families have access to sanitation facilities. And that means toilets! We don’t often talk about toilets, but they make a big difference in ensuring a family stays healthy. The group is contributing 50 percent of the funds needed to construct a toilet for each member’s family. How will these new toilets improve health and sanitation in the community? We’re on the edge of our seats.
Enhancing student education in Ngosuani by supporting our teachers.
After a month-long break at the end of the first term, students in Ngosuani are back at school! The students and teachers worked very diligently in the first term, and have returned from their break with renewed enthusiasm for their classes.
Free The Children is committed to making our schools the best they can be—including ensuring that the teachers at our schools have continued access to training and professional development resources, so they can better motivate and teach their students.
Recently, head teachers from all of the Free The Children schools in Kenya met in the neighbouring community of Motony for a focus-group meeting. Through discussion and debates, the teachers addressed pressing issues at their schools—including how to prevent students from dropping out and how to improve academic performance.
The head teachers also recently attended a presentation by Mr. Langat, an inspirational speaker and lecturer at Moi University. The teachers really enjoyed this professional development opportunity, and brought renewed inspiration, determination and ownership back to their schools.
School nutrition programs were also a key topic discussed at the meeting. As a result of irregular weather and a lack of sufficient rain, community members are at risk of malnourishment and hunger—issues our nutrition programs aim to address. We are continuing to ensure that all students at Free The Children schools receive healthy, nutritious school lunches. This past term, we distributed 24 bags of maize and five bags of beans to Ngosuani’s primary school.
Since most students aren’t able to bring a lunch from home, a warm meal at lunchtime makes a big difference—letting students concentrate on their studies instead of their hunger, and motivating them to come to class. The program also allows for more studying time, as students no longer have to spend time walking home for lunch. Since the nutrition program began, teachers in Ngosuani have seen huge benefits! At the head teachers meeting, representatives from several schools talked about the changes in their schools thanks to the nutrition program, such as higher attendance rates and fewer dropouts.
Also this past term, our mobile health clinic visited Ngosuani’s school to run a de-worming session. Students were given preventative treatments against intestinal worms, a serious health issue that can arise as a result of using unsafe water sources. By undergoing regular de-worming, students in Ngosuani will be less likely to miss school due to illness.
Students also attended health education sessions, with topics covered including the importance of personal hygiene and hand-washing, first aid and healthy behaviours at home.
With such a busy start to the term, we can’t wait to see what the students and teachers in Ngosuani will be doing next!
A field trip for students in Ngosuani.
Students in Ngosuani have been on a great adventure!
The school’s environmental club members recently headed out to the Maasai Mara reserve for a game drive, joined by teachers, Free The Children staff, and students from other Free The Children communities.
This field trip was an amazing opportunity for students in Ngosuani, made possible by your continued support! Though they have lived in the Maasai Mara their whole lives, for most students this was their first time visiting the game reserve.
The Maasai Mara reserve is famous worldwide for being home to a diverse variety of wildlife, including the “Big Five”—lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes and rhinoceros. Students had to depart before sunrise for their big adventure, but there was no complaining in Ngosuani! In fact, many students said they didn’t sleep the night before the trip because they were so excited.
Students also learned a lot on their game drive! Along the way, students observed the interrelationship between wildlife and the environment, taking note of the Mara’s different ecological niches and the types of animals that call each one home. For example, lions use the rolling savannah grasslands to camouflage while looking for prey, while buffaloes graze in the wetlands. Students also learned about the importance of conserving wildlife and the environment as vital resources.
Back home in Ngosuani, students sat down to discuss their trip highlights and had a chance to ask their teachers questions about what they’d seen throughout the day. Students were also challenged to do their best to conserve the environment in their school and at their homes.
The environmental club has also been hard at work taking care of their new demonstration garden! Students are responsible for planting crops as well as weeding and maintaining the garden. Under their dedicated care, the garden will soon be host to new crops of kale and tomatoes. The garden will support the Ngosuani’s school nutrition program, which ensures all students are given a healthy, filling lunch—letting them concentrate on their studies instead of their hunger. It’s also a great way for environmental club members to get hands-on agricultural experience, enhancing what they learn in the classroom.
It’s been a busy few months for students in Ngosuani—we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the coming months!
A New School Year Begins in Ngosuani.
While the North American school calendar begins in the fall and ends in the spring, students in Kenya spend January celebrating the start of a new year of fun and learning. But it wasn’t just the returning students of Ngosuani Primary School who were smiling this January—our latest batch of graduates had a lot to get excited about too!
In December, our largest graduating Grade 8 class to date—17 boys and 6 girls—sat down to tackle the highly anticipated KCPE’s. The KCPE’s are the nation-wide exams that Kenyan students write to compete for high school placement. While exam time can be a period of immense stress, our students were optimistic and the school atmosphere was very supportive and focused.
And our students’ results speak for themselves. Ngosuani Primary School improved on last year’s score by 11 points, beating the district average by 15! They also placed in the top three Free The Children schools for their outstanding grades in English, science and social studies. We couldn’t be prouder of our ambitious achievers who have set an example for the new cohort of Grade 8 students who will follow in their footsteps.
To make sure that our next year of graduates does just as well as their trail-blazing peers, Free The Children is constantly looking at new ways to work with community members to make life in Ngosuani more sustainable. Because we believe that providing education and breaking the cycle of poverty doesn’t just mean building schools—it means empowering the families and communities that support our students.
That’s why we’re continuing to facilitate alternative income programs that help the families of Ngosuani support their children through school. It’s why we don’t just provide maize and beans for school nutrition programs, but also teach students and parents how to manage crops and livestock at school or on collective farms. It’s why the water projects we are planning will be maintained by the community to support their school and the projects of our men’s, women’s and youth groups.
We are committed to the belief that, as the African proverb says, it takes a village to raise a child. With all of Ngosuani standing behind its students, we look forward to seeing this community not only raising a generation of empowered children, but raising all of its families out of poverty and into a sustainable future.
New Enterprises Underway in Ngosuani.
Over the last several months, the community of Ngosuani has committed itself to new ways of generating sustainable income. The Naserian, Ololebu, and Olduboi women's groups have been learning how to write reports, divide roles and work in teams while choosing a leader with the skills necessary to lead them in sustainability projects. Through a positive attitude and coordination they believe they can find new ways to support their families.
Ngosuani's three women's groups have also been improving the economic sustainability of their community by holding merry-go-rounds at their meetings. In a merry-go-round, the women all contribute a small amount of money to a community fund. At the end of each meeting, a different mama takes home the collection and saves it to plan for her family's financial future.
A merry-go-round is much like a harambee, the Kenyan tradition of collecting money to help struggling community members through times of need, except that it allows every mama to stay one step ahead in ensuring her family's livelihood. The financial stability this offers makes it easier for parents to send their children to school, breaking down a barrier that frequently gets in the way of education.
And it seems the children of Ngosuani are as enthusiastic and enterprising as their parents! The students of Ngosuani Primary School's environmental club worked with Free The Children to fence off a demonstration garden and plant a kale nursery. The students, already experienced gardeners from weeding and watering flowers for a school beautification project, are eager to get their garden growing food for the school nutrition program. Surplus crops can be sold to generate income for other school projects.
With so many groups active and so many programs underway, Ngosuani has shown great success and independence in its alternative income and livelihood planning. We're excited to see what the new year holds for this remarkable community!
Ngosuani's school community: Happy, healthy and productive.
Itrsquo;s been a very busy summer in Ngosuani! Wersquo;re thrilled to announce that construction is complete on the very first Free The Children classroom at Ngosuani Primary School. Ongoing development is also continuing at the school, with construction on two additional classrooms underway.
Having access to a school that has clean, well-equipped classrooms is so important for children in Ngosuani. It provides an environment that is conducive to learning and gives children the tools they need to get an education and help lift themselves and their families out of poverty. This healthy school environment is especially important for the communityrsquo;s Grade 8 students, who are working hard to prepare for their national exams later this month. The Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam determines the studentsrsquo; eligibility for high school—and the improved resources in their school will certainly help them on the way to success!
Wersquo;re also happy to report that Ngosuanirsquo;s school performance has increased greatly in a short period of time. In a recent regional exam, Ngosuanirsquo;s primary school ranked first among eight other schools! Thanks to your support in developing Ngosuanirsquo;s school community, the school is quickly becoming one of the strongest in the region.
The schoolrsquo;s nutrition program is also going well—Free The Children supplied 13 bags of maize and four bags of beans to the school over the summer. This was especially helpful during the recent drought experienced in the region. The nutrition program provides students with a warm meal each day—motivating them to come to school. The school has reported that since the program began, student attendance and retention has gone up. When students are well-fed, theyrsquo;re able to concentrate better on their studies, which is especially helpful to the Grade 8 students as they prepare for their exams.
Free The Children also recently ran a health education workshop at the school, discussing topics such as personal hygiene, staying healthy at home, basic first-aid, and controlling illnesses. Students were encouraged to practice healthy habits at home as well as at school, and to share their knowledge with their parents and younger siblings. Students were also taught to boil water before drinking to prevent water-borne diseases.
In keeping a community healthy and safe, itrsquo;s also important to extend programming to a household level. Free The Children also conducted workshops with womenrsquo;s groups in the community, where topics covered included healthy living at home and the importance of having a chimney. The women were also told about the services available at Baraka Health Clinic.
When the women in a community stay safe and healthy, theyrsquo;re empowered to send their children to school. And a healthy school environment ensures that children stay in school and reach their potential as leaders in their community.
With the entire community learning about health and sanitation, the future looks bright for Ngosuani!
On-the-ground in Kenya with Robin Wiszowaty.
Learn more about the education pillar of Free The Children's sustainable development model, Adopt a Village. Hear directly from Robin Wiszowaty, our Kenya Program Director, as she explains the details of building a school and related infrastructure. See the education pillar come to life, on-the-ground in Kenya.
The environmental club gears up for an interschool competition.
Still basking in the glow of School Pride Day, Ngosuani now has another reason to laud the accomplishments of its talented and hardworking students.
This time, students of the Ngosuani Primary School environmental club are getting the opportunity to expand their educational horizons with a new and exciting competition. An interschool Environmental Club Competition is being organized across the Narok South communities Free The Children works in. The environmental club at Ngosuani Primary School has lately acquired new members since some of the older members graduated last year. Club members are required to compete in two categories with environmental conservation as the common theme: a drama competition and a composition writing competition.
For the drama portion of this competition, students must prepare a skit with the following theme: "Trees: the beauty of our environment." The objective of the skit is to not only inform students and teachers about the values of environmental conservation, but more importantly, to enable them to understand their role in conservation. In addition to performing a skit, students will also be writing an essay or composition on two topics, delegated as per class level. Grades 4 and 5 will write about the importance of planting trees, whereas Grades 6, 7 and 8 will write about the importance of conserving the environment. The composition section aims to promote writing and communication skills among students, as well as test them on their ability to understand and analyze current environmental issues.
With so much excitement brewing in the community, Free The Children looks forward to what's next for Ngosuani!
When the long-awaited day finally arrived, Free The Childrenrsquo;s School Pride celebration was a spectacle of colour, song and dance, ceremony and community.All of Free The Childrenrsquo;s partner schools in Kenya, including Ngosuani, gathered in the small village of Motony, brandishing school pride posters and performing school songs for an audience of more than 1,000 students, teachers, parents and community members.
School Pride Day is the culmination of a year-long School Pride Program—a friendly competition between all Free The Children area schools—that runs throughout the academic year (in Kenya, from January to December). The ceremony featured prize winners in 18 categories, including the top three schools, top three individual students and various other achievements for the 2011 academic year.
Free The Children couldnrsquo;t be more proud of Ngosuani Primary and their long list of awards. The school ranked third among all Kenyan Free The Children schools for their scores on the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education Exam, a nation-wide exam that determines which high schools Grade 8 students will attend. The school also took home the award for best math teacher, the best score for a male student on the national examination and second place for the social studies teacher! Prizes include trophies or a small, but meaningful tokens, like a blanket or thermos to keep warm in class.
The day was also an opportunity to showcase studentsrsquo; health and environmental clubs, students with the best attendance, the most improved school, the cleanest school, and for students to share their schoolrsquo;s achievements with the entire community.
The School Pride Program is a great incentive not just for students and teachers, but for parents to become more invested in their childrsquo;s formal education. In poor, rural areas like Ngosuani, where parents are concerned with earning enough food to feed the family, schooling often comes second to helping with household income. But for parents to watch their child receive an award in front of more than 1,000 people is an honour, and a testament to the value of education.
Free The Children is so proud of Ngosuani, and we canrsquo;t wait to celebrate again next year!
Ringing in the New Year with health and environment.
The start of a new year in Ngosuani also means the start of a new school year! Ngosuani Primary Schoolrsquo;s students and teachers are back in class, ready to educate, grow and learn.
Although Ngosuani is Free The Childrenrsquo;s newest community in Kenya and the organization is still in the beginning stages of fully implementing all four pillars of our Adopt a Village sustainable development model there, wersquo;ve already seen much growth and progress.
In October 2011, two nurses visited the school where they de-wormed 386 students and 8 teachers. Worm infestations can lead to serious health issues and, as a result, cause a child to miss school and not fully realize their potential.* By undergoing regular de-worming, children like those in Ngosuani can increase their school attendance and combat many childhood illnesses.
In addition, Primary School students were educated about the benefits of personal and environmental hygiene. As part of Free The Childrenrsquo;s health care programming, the organization conducted a school health assessment in Ngosuani, part of which included evaluating the cleanliness of latrines and appraising the cleanliness and general maintenance of the school compound. As well, the schoolrsquo;s head teacher has initiated the process to start a student health club. The educators are now working together to select a health patron who will facilitate the formation of a club, whose members will be responsible for ensuring the school and compound are clean and maintained. The students will become the health mobilizers of their school! The head teacher was also encouraged to share with the students the importance of washing their hands, for their health and safety.
Free The Children is also excited to announce that 200 trees have been planted so far at the Primary School! The schoolrsquo;s environmental club has taken an active role in making sure the trees are regularly watered, especially during dry seasons.
Sadly, Ngosuani is still facing malnutrition due to the drought that continues to plague East Africa. During the last school term of 2011, the organization supplied the Primary School with 41 bags of maize, providing students with a lunch at school. This not only ensured students werenrsquo;t hungry, it saved them from walking home for lunch, freeing up their time to concentrate on school and studying and helped maintain student attendance. As a result of Free The Childrenrsquo;s nutrition program, the school has noticed higher student performance and attendance and retention rates.
At Free The Children, we are so excited about these developments in health and environment. We canrsquo;t wait to see what this school year will bring next!
Ngosuani, Free The Children's newest community in Kenya.
Free The Children is proud to announce that Ngosuani is the organizationrsquo;s newest Adopt a Village community in Kenya!
Located in the Narok South District, Ngosuanirsquo;s nearly 2,000 inhabitants face many challenges. Currently, 98% of the women and 90% of the men living here are illiterate. Thirty percent of the communityrsquo;s children are not attending school. Too many are girls. There are many reasons so few children are getting an education, including extreme poverty and early marriage. On top of that, 34% of Ngosuanirsquo;s children are in situations of child labour.
Like with all new Free The Children communities, the organization has conducted extensive research and needs assessments before beginning any work in Ngosuani. Guided by the principles of asset-based development, the organization is l assessing the communityrsquo;s needs and also determining what the community already has that can be built upon.
Sustainability being a main factor of Adopt a Village, the organization is working closely with Ngosuanirsquo;s community leaders, families, educators and students to ensure they are empowered—not merely recipients of charity—and feel a sense of ownership over each future Free The Children project. Not long ago, a meeting was held with over 100 community members explaining all of this and officially launching the start of Adopt a Village programming.
At Free The Children, education holds the key for children, families and communities to lift themselves out of poverty. When children have a safe space to learn, theyrsquo;re free to achieve their full potential. Thatrsquo;s why Free The Children is proud to have begun construction of Ngosuanirsquo;s first classroom!
In addition to this construction, a meeting was held with the School Management Committee to discuss the beautification, maintenance and cleanliness of all classrooms. The committee and one of the schoolrsquo;s teachers have agreed to trim flowers and remove thorns from flower beds in addition to ensuring the classrooms and grounds are clean, safe and conducive to studentsrsquo; learning. The idea of installing and maintaining a school garden was also brought up at this meeting. The women of the community thought it to be a great idea and promised to make it work.
Amazingly, even though Free The Children has just adopted Ngosuani, 60 women from the community have already met to form three womenrsquo;s groups! The groups have held elections and each selected a Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer.
The need in Ngosuani is great and Free The Children is overjoyed to be working here. As with all Adopt a Village communities, the organization will over time roll out projects as part of all four pillars of its development model: education, alternative income, health care and clean water and sanitation.
The hope is that the people of Ngosuani will one day have the knowledge, tools and resources to lift themselves out of poverty, exploitation, disease and thirst.
Naserian Yiaile's Story.
Ten-year-old Naserian Yiaile lives in Ngosuani with her father, mother and bothers. Her father is a game ranger, her mother a housewife and her brothers are in school.
Growing up as the only daughter in her family has been somewhat difficult for Naserian. Culturally, it is believed that boys go to school and girls help their mothers at home. Boys receive an education and girls help cook, clean and carry water.
Recently, Free The Children started working in Ngosuani. In August of 2011, the organization broke ground for the first classroom there., which has already had a huge impact on Naserian: "Free The Children is helping us understand the meaning and value of education. We're learning that education is power and helps to break the cycle of poverty." More importantly, Naserian is learning that girls too deserve an education and have just as much potential as boys.
In addition, Free The Children has provided school supplies to the community, easing some of the financial burden that weighs on parents.
Naserian is hopeful for the future: "Classrooms are being built and women are mobilized in groups. My family will have more economic power. All of this is a sign of real growth."