Life skills training has continued to be a great way of empowering young leaders and helping them discovertheir potential and unleash the greatness within them.
As part of life skills training, Financial Literacy is a great need for our scholars. Having come from very needy backgrounds, most of them find some work to do during school holidays to raise their pocket money. Ashioya Catherine, one of our scholars had earned quite an amount: for her pocket money last term (which began in May, 2013). Due to the many needs around her and her family, she spent her earnings and what was left was not enough for pocket money. If someone had taken her through some sessions of financial management, she would have made some savings in the bank or elsewhere. Many other scholars have gone through the same and it is then saw the great need for financial literacy training.
Having heard more stories similar to Catherine’s; we incorporated financial management training in our August,2013 Annual retreat. In this retreat, Florence, a youth financial management trainer with a bank in Kenya engaged our scholars in the process of making a budget: she spoke on the importance of students having budgets for their pocket money and in conclusion urged them to cultivate a saving culture and open bank accounts for their savings. She offered to assist them in opening bank accounts.
This retreat in August, 2013 was jointly held with one of our partner Organizations - Carolina for Kibera. We also held sessions on Self Awareness. We had a renowned motivational speaker form Kenya give his life story. He had been a beneficiary of a scholarship elsewhere since his grand-mother wasn’t able to raise his school fees. He was in and out of school for indiscipline but he later realized that ‘opportunity is a bird that never perches’- Claude McDonald. He then took life more seriously and emerged one of the best performing students at their school. This gave the students a chance to realize that scholarships are opportunities that should be their bridge to a successful life.
A person who understands who they really are and knows his/her self-worth has focus in life since is able to setgoals and objectives. “Every moment of their lives is an opportunity to pursue greatness”.
Session 2: career
Through a facilitator from one of the colleges in Kenya - Zetech College, our students were equipped on how to make the right choices in course selection after identifying their career of interest. These choices would give them competitive advantage over their peers in the job market after graduation.
From the sessions above we look forward to seeing a generation that sets clear goals, makes the right career choices and can manage their finances well which is a key to prosperity.
Peggy Shihemi, is a form three student at Dandora secondary school in Embakasi Constituency Nairobi. Early in 2013, she was sent home from school, for school fees arrears She was out of school for 2 months and her parents were beside themselves with anguish. This year, Peggy became one of the 20 lucky applicants to get full scholarship for the remaining year of her high school education. Her mother, cannot thank you enough.
Chrispinus Ndubi is just a young man, unmarried, and already a guardian; an uncle to Michael Ochieng; a form two student at St. Matthew secondary school in Nairobi. When Ndubi's sister passed away she left 4 children, Michael being one of them. Ndubi took them in and vowed to ensure that they get an education. He was struggling, especially since he is what is known as a hustler as - someone who does odd jobs to make a living. Your donations have enabled Michael be awarded a full scholarship, and Ndubi is now focusing his energy on the remaining 3 children. He is eternally grateful.
Lillian Mboya lost her husband, the sole breadwinner, leaving her with her daughter Edith Mboya, and a son, both in high school; and a baby. She had no one to turn to for help, having also lost her own siblings. Every timeshe thinks about the support that she got from donors through GEF, tears well up in her eyes. GEF after all, gave her hope, by giving her daughter Edith a chance to finish high school. Edith is a final year candidate at Nyakach Girls High school and doing very well in her academics.
Naomi Mikal is a special student. Orphaned at 2 years, she had a troubled past. She grew up working as a house girl, and going to school. Her life was destined for ruin – at least until Beldine Achieng a neighbor in their village decided to take her in and support her. When Naomi got a GEF scholarship, Beldine was overjoyed, especially since she had lost her job, and was struggling to bring up her own children, as well as Naomi. Naomi is also a final year candidate at St. Mary’s Lwak High school in Kisumu.
Africa Hope Centre is a children’s home in Kayole in Embakasi Nairobi. The home has on average about 40 children, ranging from kindergarten to high school goers. Every year, the home has about 10-15 children completing primary education. Their challenge – ensuring these kids transition to high school. So when GEF offered one of their children, Andrew Maina, a scholarship, there was untold joy at the home. Andrew is in form one, at Kitui high school in Eastern province of Kenya.
These sentiments and more were shared during a parents and guardians meeting, held on Friday 10th,at the GEF Kenya office in Tena estate. 30 parents/guardians attended the meeting, whose purpose was tosensitize them on supporting both their children as well as GEF to ensure their children successfully completed high school. The Young Leaders Program will help these children have a destiny filled with success. Each parent/guardianis now certain in their minds that their child’s dream will come to pass, thanks to the mentorship and skills building they receive through this program.
Jostine is a new GEF scholar. In late March this year, after 2 visits to her school, we learnt that she had been missing in school; she was sick, or so the Principal told us. Another young girl, Edna, also one of our scholars and a final year student went missing from her school. We eventually found them, and both are back in school, but their stories are sad, touching and keep reminding us that just paying school fees is not enough.
The above scenario is what makes the mentorship component in GEF Kenya's Young Leaders program so critical. Some of the backgrounds our scholars come from are so bad, that just enabling them to access secondary education is not enough. For Jostine for example, her home environment is not one of the best. She cannot study well at home. Living in a tiny 'mabati' (Iron sheet) house in Kayole slums of Soweto, everything happening in the neighborhood can be heard as if it is right inside their shack. She cannot concentrate on her school work. To add to her troubles, her father is a loud drunk who makes life at home rather difficult. In her own words, she shared that her home situation is so bad that she cannot concentrate in class, and felt it is all useless; hence dropping out and pretending to be 'sick'. I spoke to her for one hour, counseling her, listening to her, encouraging her, and developing a 'sister-shoulder-to-lean-on' relationship. She agreed to go back to school. We called her Principal from our office and reported that she would be in class the following week. Jostine is an intelligent girl; in the last semester of school in 2012, Jostine scored a mean grade of B+.
Clearly, there is a great need amongst our girls for a listening ear, a mentor, someone to keep urging them on. In our monthly forums, we let them play, joke around, have lots of fun, as we teach them important aspects of life. We're also trying out a 'buddy' system. In our February monthly meeting, we paired up the scholars. The main task being each scholar keeps tabs on his or her buddy; sort of being your brother's keeper. Hopefully this will help the kids share their issues; or if the scholar having a problem for some reason cannot open up, the buddy can seek help on his/her behalf.
In March, we got the scholars together again, this time we had invited campus students from the African Nazarene University (ANU). They had a fun-filled learning afternoon, talking about mentorship and developing mentor-mentee relationships. We split the scholars into 7 groups, each group with 2 mentors from ANU, and gave them half an hour to interact in small group discussions. Time flew, and we had to do several calls to come back to plenary; the thirst for a listening ear evident. Some shared their fears, others shared their dreams, and yet others shared their difficulties at home and in school. The mentors were patient, and attempted to respond and provide some help in each situation. Being in a group also encouraged fellow scholars to provide possible solutions to one another's concerns.
Having more comprehensive forums especially with the girls is critical, and GEF Kenya has risen to the challenge. We are equipping our girls with personal adjustment skills that will enable them remain level headed despite the harsh lives they live in. Their mothers want them to be better, live better lives; and GEF Kenya wants the same and even more for our girls. At the end of the year, we will have all final year girls completing high school!
Watch this space!
After four years of secondary education, and going through the Young Leaders Program, it was time to congratulate 19 scholars, as they commenced life as young adults. Completing high school in Eastlands, Nairobi is a great feat; there are many hurdles that these kids go through, poverty being a key challenge they try to overcome. Many youth turn to crime (Eastlands is a crime hub in Nairobi) to make ends meet and support their families. Seeing them complete school is not only exciting, but sheds a light of hope, to those who come behind them.
So how did we appreciate them? By awarding them certificates on a special Saturday, with their parents present! At GEF Kenya, we strive to ensure that our scholars are appreciated; to encourage them and confirm our continued support, to enable them become great leaders in their community.
The graduation ceremony was held on Saturday 24th November, at the GEF Kenya office in Tena Estate, Nairobi. We were amazed – 19 parents turned up; an awesome number, considering their busy schedules. This was a great opportunity for them to interact with their children in a different forum – away from home.
Our scholars’ parents participated in the ceremony through entertainment: music; and giving enriching speeches. Said one parent: “Life after secondary school becomes even harder. GEF Kenya, through supportive donors, hasenabled you get this far. You can go further. Dig in your heels, roll up your sleeves and get ready to expand your horizon. The sky is the limit!”
24 scholars also turned up for this event, which we used to also close the year in style. To motivate the scholars and graduates, we invited a young man, 30 year old Lawrence, who gave a motivational speech about his life – how he rose from a poverty stricken family, and now lives in his own rented apartment. He encouraged those graduating to allow no hurdles to come between them and the future they want. After all, he had gone through great lengths,like working in odd jobs, to raise funds to get a college degree. He is now a consultant HIV&AIDS trainer.
To build public speaking skills of the scholars, we gave them an opportunity to also address their colleagues as well as parents. Reuben, one of the former four graduates gave the closing remarks. He firstly greatly appreciated GEF Kenya for supporting their education. Said he, “Without GEF Kenya stepping in, most of us are not sure we would be here today.” He urged his colleagues not to sit at home day in day out since, ‘an idle mind is the devils workshop’. He also challenged his colleagues to be good role models to those still in school and set a model example for them to follow.
The day ended with an appreciation to our very own Suzanne Thomson, who was moving on to a different assignment. Suzanne has been an awesome interim leader to GEF Kenya, and oversaw her(GEF’s) transition and change in management. She helped establish much needed systems in the organization. We truly appreciate her, and wish her the best in her endeavors.
We wish all our 2012 graduates all the best in their lives, and thanks to all our supporters for making secondary education a possibility to these youth!
Community is a word that seems to get thrown around and attached to other words to make certain things seem more worthwhile or grounded (think community action, community service, community organizer); and yet, the word by itself is important. No one can survive on this planet without a community: it’s where we celebrate our joys, recover after losses, find opportunities, share resources… it’s in this communal space that we can find avenues for individual and social change.
At Global Education Fund Kenya we’ve been spending time building the community with our students. For instance, it’s funny how small things build bonds between people, like the way GEF alumni call each other GEFA (as in “jeff-a”) members or how a hilarious handshake that was made up at one of the schools last year has turned into the official GEF handshake. On top of this, the students have been meeting at the GEF Kenya office once a month for ongoing discussions about gender, sexual and reproductive health. It’s also an opportunity to share with and support one another, talk about school/life and, of course, practice the official handshake.
Recently, we embarked on a full day of community building with the students. Escaping from the dusty Eastlands, the students spent the day at a beautifully green and lush retreat centre in Karen. In the morning they had a discussion about community: What’s the point? How do we nurture it? How do we use it? How do we maintain and grow it? The conversation was facilitated by the ever so hilarious and yet poignant George, a youth facilitator from the Eastlands area, who also participates in the monthly discussions. While my Kiswahili is bad and my Sheng nonexistant, I nonetheless followed along and laughed in unison with the students as George would illustrate particularly funny points being made in the conversation.
After the conversation, the students participated in community building activities such as a putting together mock businesses and the guiding their blindfolded friends across a field where they were to place glasses of water in specific buckets. This activity ended up being more than community building and communication, as it quickly turned into a comedy routine with students yelling out directions to their blindfolded friends, then rolling on the ground in exasperation and laughter at the outcome. It was a great day.
I once had a rather serious dinner conversation with a group of people about community. We all were asked to write down a list of communities we felt we belonged to and from there the conversation erupted. There wasn’t really a conclusion to this dinner talk but a general thinking that without community life would be rather dull and difficult. For the students that GEF supports, a strong, positive and supportive community is the way for them to build confidence and assertiveness in their academics and as teenagers figuring themselves out.
By expanding the community, as GEF continues to do, this is the way for students to access new opportunities, new experiences and more areas from where to learn.
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