Thanks to the contributions of donors like you, many exciting things have happened for the children of the Umoja community since our last Global Giving project update! MADRE staff members returned just last week from a delegation to the village and surrounding areas, and were happy to report that village life has been augmented in several ways through community use of the Umoja School.
MADRE is in regular contact with our partners in Umoja and has had positive feedback from both the project leader and the school’s primary teacher about the impact of the teacher training and the new materials we have been able to provide. School registration rates have risen from 50 to 80 children , children report feeling more comfortable in the newly painted and repaired building, and children’s math, reading, language, and writing skills are improving—thanks to the combination of new materials, an improved curriculum, and an additional teacher in the classroom.
Unintended benefits include the school’s use as an informal gathering place for women (outside of the formal evening classes held there in the evenings), which promotes women’s leadership and unity. A tremendously successful activity during our last delegation was a youth exchange between Latin American and US delegates and Kenyan teens: 22 girls and 12 boys participated, for a total of 34 young people involved. They discussed human rights, youth rights, education, and explored cultural differences and points of connection.
The school building itself has been painted and repaired. This activity, which included the installation of a generator, has brought electricity to the school (which allows evening classes to be held there) and brightened its interior and exterior, providing students with a clean, cheerful place to learn and play.
An additional trilingual teacher was hired last year, bringing the total number of teachers at the school to three, and lowering the student to teacher ratio from 50:1 to 27:1, guaranteeing more individual attention for each child. Trilingual teachers and materials are key, as they facilitate the students’ transition into classes taught in Samburu, Swahili, and English, enabling students to function in the two dominant Kenyan languages as well as their traditional language.
Shoes were purchased for the students in order to reduce the risk of injury and lower the chances of contracting diseases. MADRE hopes to also provide uniforms for students in the coming year; research shows that nearly a million Kenyan children avoid school because they cannot afford uniforms.
MADRE was able to purchase many school supplies thanks to donors like you, and sent pencils, notebooks, crayons, rulers, chalk, paint, markers, books, and chalkboards to this badly under-resourced school, which will improve children’s literacy, as well as develop their math, writing, language, and artistic skills.
The school continues to double as a facility for women’s evening classes, which improve women’s literacy, thus reducing rates of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Umoja and surrounding communities, and developing new women leaders.
MADRE also had the honor of funding the construction of a playground by the school, made of natural materials and designed with the native Samburu aesthetic in mind. The playground offers children a slide, swing, and several climbing areas. Feel free to browse through our updated photo gallery to see pictures of Umoja’s children enjoying their new playground.
The project benefits approximately 120 families in Umoja and surrounding villages: 80 have children attending the school and 40 attend women’s classes held at the school in the evenings. All are pastoralist Indigenous Samburu people who live in extreme poverty, on less than $1/day. Many do not read, write, or speak Kiswahili or English, the dominant languages in Kenya. As geographically isolated Samburu people, they face extreme discrimination and social exclusion in Kenyan society. However, with access to education made possible through donations to this project, the possibility of success is increasing exponentially for the families of this community, and will continue to multiply with each new generation.
MADRE staff and members recently returned from a delegation to Kenya, where they visited Umoja and other nearby villages. Umoja is an Indigenous Samburu community established and led by women who have declared their village a violence-against-women-free zone, and is the site of Hope for the Future, MADRE’s educational initiative for Indigenous pre-school children and their mothers. MADRE works in Umoja through the Indigenous Information Network (IIN), our sister organization in Kenya.
While visiting Umoja and other Indigenous Maasai communities near Nairobi, the delegation met with activists who promote women’s health and human rights and advocate for the environmental preservation and sustainable development of Indigneous Peoples' lands. MADRE staff and delegates returned invigorated and inspired by the work of MADRE's partners to promote Indigenous Peoples' rights and end sexual violence and HIV throughout their communities.
During the delegation, MADRE staff facilitated human rights trainings for women in the communities they visited, and welcomed many additional participants from the villages nearby. Delegates had a chance to participate in the workshops and hear directly from Samburu and Maasai women and youth about topics such as women's political participation, women's human rights, and HIV/AIDS. Young people—including students from the US and Latin America, and youth from Umoja and nearby communities—participated in an exchange during which they shared perspectives on issues such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and community involvement.
MADRE also offered early-childhood education trainings to teachers in three villages, including Umoja. MADRE brought the director of a local pre-school in New York as a Sisters Without Borders volunteer to conduct the workshops, where local teachers received training in early childhood development and pedagogical models to improve their skills as pre-school teachers. With the outstanding support of delegates, MADRE was also able to deliver donated school supplies, didactic materials, and toys to pre-schools in and nearby Umoja. Delegates were invited to help decorate Umoja's school with the new materials, which amplified the students’ excitement about the coming school year. MADRE hopes to continue working with the women of Umoja in the future, to bring high quality trilingual education to the Umoja School so that the residents of Umoja can become empowered and effective participants in the development of Kenya.
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