Support girls' primary education in Maasai Kenya

 
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Naanyu
Naanyu

We started the year by welcoming 30 amazing young girls to our family, bringing our total enrollment to 124 girls. These girls' lives will forever be transformed because of your kindnesses and support. Twenty years ago, I was just like the girls at our school, and I can tell you personally that when the door of promise swings open it brings with it strength, hope, and fearlessness with the knowledge that anything is possible!

Naanyu, a fourth grader at KCE, is one of these girls.  After losing her mother when she was only four years old to domestic violence, her father abandoned her and her five siblings, leaving them destitute and homeless, with no one to care for them and no hope for an education.  Naanyu's uncles and grandmother took the children in, struggling to provide for their needs.  Last December, Naanyu's grandmother brought her to KCE on enrollment day to seek support for her education. Because of the kindness of so many, we were able to open our arms and accept Naanyu as a student.  KCE absorbed all her educational expenses, including school supplies, meals, health care, uniform, and toiletries.  Today, Naanyu is an eager student, excelling in her classes.  She loves mathematics and science and works hard at her studies. She says, "At KCE, I am learning about my rights and health. I want to be a doctor so that I can care for the sick and vulnerable and orphans like me. I know that if I can continue at KCE, my life will not be the same."

As we look forward to the coming year and get ready for our incoming class of 30 girls, we do so with great excitement and enthusiasm in the knowledge that, though we have much to accomplish, we do so from a foundation built strong by your generosity and by the innate potential of all young girls to make a difference in the world. Your gift helps us deliver on our mission by ensuring that our girls are equipped to learn -- with school uniforms, desks, beds, learning materials, and the nurturing attention that will help transform them into smiling and hopeful young women who are well prepared to shape a better world. 

From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you for all you have helped us accomplish for the girls at our school and the community of Enoosaen. On behalf of these girls and of all of those we touch through the Kakenya Center for Excellence, I extend my deepest gratitude. I hope that you will continue to help transform the future for these girls into one of hope and possibility.

Warmest wishes for the holiday season and a joyous new year.

Kakenya and the Girls Sharing a Meal
Kakenya and the Girls Sharing a Meal

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It is hard to believe, but we have begun the last term of the year at the Kakenya Center for Excellence.  The girls are happy to be back together, and are ready and eager to learn!  The teachers and staff are thrilled to have the classrooms filled once again with energetic, smiling faces.Many of our students have overcome great obstacles to pursue an education at the Kakenya Center for Excellence and truly appreciate and understand the real gift of KCE in their lives. “Anna’s” story below provides a glimpse into how the Kakenya Center for Excellence is empowering our students and strengthening our community.  It is a reminder how communities can change, one girl at a time.

Anna, now a 7th grader at KCE, was born in the village of Sikawa, an hour long journey from the KCE campus in Enoosaen.  She is the second youngest of five children --- four girls

 and a boy.  Anna’s parents divorced bitterly when she was very young.  For many years, Anna and her siblings endured hostility and cruelty from their father. Both of Anna’s older sisters were forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), a Maasai tradition that marks a girl’s passage to womanhood and early marriage. Encouraged by her mother and siblings, Anna applied and was accepted to the Kakenya Center for Excellence. With Anna’s tuition, uniform, and school materials fully funded by KCE, Anna has begun a new chapter in her life.  Anna will be spared from undergoing FGM because her mother wants her daughter to pursue a new path through education.

Since beginning at KCE, Anna has blossomed.  “I learn about self-esteem, confidence, and about FGM… I learn about FGM and the effects … I feel empowered.”  When asked about her relationship with her father, Anna starts to cry.  She is saddened by the rift in her family and the suffering of her older sisters.  She cries, too, when asked about how the Kakenya Center of Excellence has impacted her life --- but these are tears of joy.  Anna is keenly aware that her mother is not able to pay for her education, and she is deeply appreciative of this opportunity.  Anna now dreams of becoming a policewoman and supporting her community. “Education can help me learn more things and to help many people in my country.” 

The transformation that has occurred in Anna’s life would not be possible without the support we receive from our generous friends.  On behalf of Anna, and all the girls we serve, thank you!

Proudly displaying her artwork
Proudly displaying her artwork

We are now in the middle of the second academic term at Kakenya Center for Excellence.  This is the time when music and drama competitions take place, and our girls are performing in music festivals with students from other schools. There are several different categories for the competitions, including poetry, folk dance, choral chanting, and singing games.  Each school is expected to present at least one category.  As with athletics, the initial competitions are at a local level.  The schools that perform best move on to district-level festivals, followed by regional and then county.  The best two performances from each category qualify to go on to the next level. 

The girls from Kakenya Center love to sing, dance, and perform.  In their first competition, the KCE girls recited a poem by Maya Angelou entitled “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me.”  They did very well and qualified for the district-wide competition in Kilgoris. Many parents and people from around the community came to watch the performances, which included traditional Maasai dances and dances from other tribes, including Kalenjin, Kipsigis, and Luo.     

Our 6th grade students have also recently been working on a special art project with our Advocacy Project Peace Fellow.  The theme is Identity: Documenting Maasai Culture through Art, and the girls have completed a number of small art pieces that together will comprise the final project.  So far, they have each written a short autobiography about specific memories, obstacles they have faced in their lives, their dreams, their thoughts on FGM/early-marriage, and when they learned specific Maasai traditions.

Each girl’s story is deeply moving and shows how much their education at KCE has impacted their lives.  One girl, Damaris, wrote about how she was being pressured by her parents to undergo FGM, but through health and leadership camps at KCE and the friends she had at school, she had learned how to say “no”.  In the end, her parents respected her educated response.  She wrote, “I told my mother that F.G.M. is not good.  She told me I would be circumcised.  I told her that girls “say no to F.G.M.” - they taught us in camp.”  The girls are drawing their stories into boxes and shapes and will be painting self-portraits, as well.

These kinds of activities enrich our program and our girls’ academic lives, and we are so grateful for the supporters who partner with us to allow them to continue.  Thank you for believing in our mission to empower young Maasai girls to follow their dreams and to see the potential within themselves.  Together, we are changing the lives of future leaders in Africa.

Autobiography in pictures
Autobiography in pictures
Class 6 hard at work on their projects
Class 6 hard at work on their projects
Performance of a traditional Maasai dance
Performance of a traditional Maasai dance

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grade 4 girls in computer class
grade 4 girls in computer class

Kakenya Center for Excellence has been filled with activity throughout the current academic term.  We now have 124 students enrolled in grades 4 through 7, and the girls continue to grow into confident young women, excelling academically, socially, and physically. Over the past few months, the exciting events at Kakenya Center have included spelling bees, athletic competitions, and computer classes. 

Spelling Bees: Each class of girls at KCE participated in grade-level spelling bees over the past week, one grade level per day.  On the same four days that KCE held spelling bees, the local public primary school also organized competitions, with support from Kakenya Center.  At both schools, all participants received pencils and the top three were given larger prizes: a backpack, a notebook, and a storybook.  The top ten finishers from each grade level at KCE will compete with their counterparts at Enoosaen Primary School this week.  The first place prize will be an Oxford dictionary!  The girls love these competitions and spend weeks preparing by studying lists of words. 

Volleyball Champions:  Spring is the season for athletic competitions in Transmara District.  Kakenya Center’s volleyball team has had lots of success this year, winning the Transmara West District Championship last week.  They competed against over 100 other girls to achieve this impressive accomplishment.  Next, they will go to the County Championship to represent the entire district against girls from the surrounding area.  We are so proud of them and thrilled at their confidence in their physical abilities.

Computer Classes:  Unlike other primary schools in the area, KCE is fortunate to have a computer lab on our campus.  This allows our girls to learn important IT skills that will be crucial for them to succeed in secondary school and beyond.  Though we run into many challenges with keeping the computers healthy and properly functioning, the girls have been able to learn to type, practicing how to use both hands, compose letters, and write stories.  It has also allowed the girls to become familiar with the internet and the kinds of resources it provides.

We are now looking forward to our next health and leadership holiday camp, which will take place from April 23-28 during the academic break.  The camps give us an opportunity to invite girls who attend other schools in the area to come to our campus and join our own students for a week of training, laughter, and new friends.  Topics for the camp will include self-esteem, health and hygiene, sexually transmitted infections, children’s rights, and volunteership.  The girls are excited for another fun-filled holiday camp.

The highlights above provide only a few snapshots of what your support allows us to do.  We are so grateful for the individuals who believe in our mission of empowering young girls to reach their full potential and to pursue their dreams.  Thank you so much for partnering with us to change the lives of Maasai girls in Kenya!

KCE volleyball player jumping to score a point
KCE volleyball player jumping to score a point
spelling bee contestant
spelling bee contestant

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Students working together in the computer lab
Students working together in the computer lab

Over the past several months, many new and exciting developments have taken place at the Kakenya Center for Excellence.  Currently our school has 123 students in grades 4 through 7.  The new term has begun and the girls continue to make great progress as students and leaders.  They are as excited as we are about the programs we have implemented in 2011 at our school in Enoosaen, Kenya.  A few of these are highlighted below:

Health and Leadership Camps: Beginning in April 2011, Kakenya Center for Excellence expanded leadership opportunities to all girls in the community through special summer and holiday camps.  In these camps, regularly enrolled students act as peer educators and role models for the girls that are not enrolled at the school. Kakenya Center for Excellence girls are required to follow up with their peer mentee during the school holidays.  The camps’ creative activities foster personal empowerment and leadership skills, catered to twelve- to fifteen-year-old girls.  The camps in 2011 were able to reach 130 girls from around the community. Our goal in 2012 is to reach 200 girls.

Field Trips: Most Kakenya Center for Excellence students had never left the village before they enrolled at our school. With this in mind, we began a program of field trips in conjunction with our academic curriculum in social and environmental studies. In April, the students at Kakenya Center were able to go on their first field trip ever.  The girls in grades 4 and 5 traveled to Rusinga Island for a day, and the girls in grade 6 went on an overnight adventure to Lake Nakuru National Park and the surrounding area.  These trips help the girls see beyond their own community, broadening their horizons and giving them opportunities they had never had before.  The students had a wonderful time and are looking forward to their next field trip in 2012. 

Spelling Bee: In August, we held our first school-wide Spelling Bee.  The girls studied lists of 100 English words for a month in preparation for the competition.  The Spelling Bee took place on a Sunday afternoon.  All the girls who took part in the competition received ribbons of participation and the top ten finishers won bigger prizes.  This was a fun way to motivate our girls to excel academically. 

Technology: Facilitated by a donation from Hewlett-Packard earlier this year, our campus is now equipped with a computer lab.  Our students and staff are taking part in IT classes, learning typing and computer skills.  We plan to open a computer lab for the community, as well, allowing many people their first opportunity to access the Internet and use online resources. Our goal is to prepare the girls for their computer science courses in high school. Usually, this course is offered to boys and not girls because of the cultural assumption that girls do not perform well in science courses.

Quilting and Beading Projects: The art of beading represents a non-destructive Maasai cultural tradition, and our aim is to preserve this positive practice by educating our girls about the Maasai history of beading.  It also provides a therapeutic and creative outlet for girls who may not have other ways to express themselves, and it raises awareness about the oppression of women in our society through images. In order to document the historical oppression of women, the project was done in partnership with the Rehema Widows Group.  The women from this community group and our girls depicted scenes of their lives and experiences to share with one another. The girls in fourth and fifth grade are starting their art project by making beaded bracelets, another Maasai tradition. 

The girls at Kakenya Center are so grateful for the opportunities that are available to them because of all of your generous support!  Thank you for joining us on our journey as we seek to end the cycle of destructive cultural practices and allow Maasai girls to pursue their dreams and reach their full potential.  We hope you will continue to change the lives of these beautiful girls with us as we enter a new academic year!

Group activity at a health and leadership camp
Group activity at a health and leadership camp
Girls from grades 4 and 5 on their trip to Rusinga
Girls from grades 4 and 5 on their trip to Rusinga
Top Spelling Bee finishers showing off prizes
Top Spelling Bee finishers showing off prizes
A student working on her quilt panel
A student working on her quilt panel

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Organization

Kakenya's Dream

Washington, DC, United States
http://www.kakenyasdream.org

Project Leader

Jennica Sehorn

Washington, DC United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Support girls' primary education in Maasai Kenya