As our work for Education for All continues in Kenya and around the world, The Nobelity Project is celebrating ten years as a non-profit, a decade of telling inspiring stories and working to take inspired actions.
Mahiga Hope High and Mahiga Primary have been at the heart of our efforts since the beginning. And though we are a relatively small non-profit - with a U.S. staff of just two full time employees - we've managed to have relatively large impact through numerous partner projects around the world. With limited staffs and budgets, it's impossible for most nonprofits to work from scratch and have a large-scale impact. But by working with great community partners and by working to bridge existing gaps in education, there is a good chance of having an out-sized impact.
In Mahiga, the community partnership started with Mahiga Primary and extended soon after to establishing and building Mahiga Hope HIgh School. Both are public schools with local Boards of Governors, and operated under the auspices and with support funding from the region's Kieni West Education District. The work we've done and any other funding that have flowed from The Nobelity Project to Mahiga have come at the request of the schools, the headmasters and the Boards of Governors. By continually showing good results from the support, the school incentivizes our organization and our donors to want to do more.
Indentifying these critical "gaps" has been a learning experience that has served us well at many other education projects. Here's a starting principle: There is no education without clean water! Ten years ago, the first "gap" at Mahiga was clean water. The primary school kids were often sick from drinking contaminated water they had to bring to school, and we were asked to help the school build a purified water system. We considered a well and a pipeline, but decided to build a solar-power rainwater collection system, which continues to serve the school (and which has been expanded again and again as the campus has grown). Mahiga now has rainwater collection on six buildings with 100,000 liters of storage.
The primary school also had limited access to books and technology, so we also partnered on a library and computer lab, both of which opened kids minds to many new possibilities
A more literal gap soon became apparent. With no high school in the area, Mahiga kids either walked six miles each way to secondary or they didn't attend secondary at all. We closed the long gap between Secondaries by building Mahiga Hope High School. As the school population grew faster than the number of teachers, we've closed the gap by temporarily supporting additional staff at the school.
Dozens of students now graduate from Mahiga Hope High School each year - and from our other partner high schools in Kenya. Many complete high school with excellent grades, but lack funding for college or university. We're bridging those gaps by providing high education support to top scholars. Here's a link to a lovely thank you video from some of those Mahiga Grads who are sponsored in their higher education pursuits. These kids and others like them are the ultimate proof that briding the gaps really does work.
And ten years into telling inspiring stories and taking what we hope are inspired actions to bridge gaps, here's a short video look at what we've done - and what we still hope to do in the years to come. It's an inpiring piece built around an inpisiring song, "Love Cannot Be Broken" by Austin songwriter Bob Livingston.
Thanks to everyone who's been a part of the work. Together, we are truly closing the gaps and helping in our own ways to create a world where Education for All is a reality.
Things are going great at Mahiga Hope High School. Since Kenya is on an annual trimester schedule, the 2014 Senior class has already sat for the KCSE Exam - the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (a tough test akin to taking the SAT in the States). There is quite a lag in grading time, so we won't know for a while which students have scored high enough to qualify for a four-year University enrollment, but we're optimistic - as is Principal Jane Wainaina - that the school will have the most students yet who qualify for 2-year and 4-year college and university courses.
Big congrats to previous grads now in higher ed, including George Abrahams who many remember from our film Building Hope. George is now studying journalism at USIU/United States International University and was one of the top rookie's on the University's championship level basketball team. Way to go George!
These are big steps from seven years ago when we began building the first high school in this great community. Congrats to all the students past and present, and to the school's hard-working staff and board of governors. In early January, Turk will be at Mahiga to check on renovations of the last three dilapidated Mahiga Primary classrooms, and to help kick off the new year and meet a new class of incoming 9th graders.
Every student in every country is entitled to and should receive a full 12-year-education, and we love how Mahiga has helped lead the way for other new secondary schools we're working with in this area of the Aberdare Mountains. Just an hour's walk away, we've been working with the parents and staff at the even newer Laburra Secondary to finish the last classrooms and a new science lab. Two weeks ago, the Laburra students were able to take the chemistry, physics and biology sections of the KCSE at their own school instead of having to walk to Mahiga as they had done once before on an emergency testing basis). Congrats to Laburra Secondary and to our partners and friends at Simbara Secondary (jst a little further up the mountain) where anothe graduating class has now completed their 12th grade.
Mahiga and her neighboring schools are progressing in good ways, and the Kenyan government is making big progress in their march towards their ultimate goal of offering free Secondary education to all. Kenya now has 900,000 more students in Secondary than they did when we started building our first partner high school at Mahiga. That is an incredible accomplishment.
But Mahiga and other rural schools still have a deep need for funding of additional textbooks, and for the specialty teachers that often make the biggest difference in high school. Global Giving donor support for text books and teachers in the fields of arts, music and athletics and for librarians and computer instructors helps make a big differnce in the lives of hundreds of kids.
That makes me feel great. I hope it does the same for you!
(Check out the letter below from Miriam - one of the top Mahiga Scholars who was rewarded last year with a new bicycle!)
The Nobelity Project team had a long tour through our Kenya school projects in June and July. Executive Director Christy Pipkin and her co-founder Turk Pipkin were joined by board members Joey Martin and Dan King. We had great visits at every school, but as usual, Mahiga Hope High School - where all of our Kenyan education work began - was a highlight.
Mahiga Secondary is adjacent to Mahiga Primary and Preschool, so we of course took the full tour - from the preschool and playground to a camping demonstration by the schools' boy and girl scouts (international youth scounting was born in this area), then on to the ten primary classrooms and library. After years of working at Mahiga, we've finally approved the renovations of the last three primary classrooms that were still in a somewhat sub-standard condition. These were old stone classrooms - much better than the wooden classrooms which we've all replaced, but these three were in need of new doors, windows and plaster, and all of that work is now under way.
On the secondary side, we visited the sewing and chemisty classes, a few classrooms, then moved to the RainWater Court for a schoolwide assembly and performances by the school's award-winning dance and music troops. Last year's top scoring boy and girl also received the new laptops which will be a big help as they move on to college. Christy and I received a lot of thank you's for all the amazing work that's been accomplished here - for the great new facilities, and for playing a part in creating an ambitious and prideful school that is changing the lives of hundreds of great kids. Sometimes the thank you's are directed personally to us, or to The Nobelity Project in general, but we never forget that the thanks from these students, this faculty and the community are for everyone who's played a part in our being friends and partners with Mahiga Hope High School - a place where hope lives in every student.
So thanks to one and all. Onward and upward. Education for All.
Turk Pipkin, The Nobelity Project, www.nobelity.org
- If you'd like a dvd of our award-winning film Building Hope - the Story of Mahiga Hope High School - send us a note on FB or through our website. We'll be happy to get one to you.
Among the joys of working with a great community partner are the reports that come in with good news – big and small - that often seems to follow so directly on previous work with the school.
As for the big news – principal Jane Wairimu reports that Mahiga is now in the top ten high schools in the district. Kenyan Secondary schools are divided into two main categories... private (PV) and public (PB). The Public Day schools are categorized with boarding and without. Among 18 Public Secondaries without boarding facilities, Mahiga Hope High School is now rated #2. This is fantastic news and we want to congratulate all the staff and students on first place results in Mathematics, English and Geography, and second place in Business and Biology.
“On behalf of all the Mahiga Hope Family, I most sincerely thank all of you for the continued support you have given us,” Jane Wairimu reports. ”We promise to move Mahiga to greater heights and we are proud to be associated with you.
One of our long-term goals with the community is to build teacher housing and girls and boys dorms that will further elevate the level of education in this growing rural location.
On the small news side – when we were working with the community to complete the high school, we built a kitchen with high-efficiency wood stoves that are now serving healthy meals for nearly 700 kids from preschool to grade 12. We also built a new dining hall but didn’t have funds for dining tables and chairs, so it was a delight to also receive these pics of the new dining hall furniture the school managed to purchase this year.
Christy and I and a team of Nobelity Project Board Members and supporters will be visiting Mahiga and a dozen other partner schools in Kenya in a few weeks. Please check with us here, on facebook and at nobelity.org for reports.
When I arrived at Mahiga Hope High School in January, I was blown away by all the amazing changes at the school. The classrooms were filled with hundreds of students, the new greenhouse was filled with 1000s of tomatoes, and staff and students were filled with hope.
We never had a budget for landscaping at the school - sounds like a small issue but during the rainy season that meant lots of mud being tracked into all those beautiful stone classrooms. The students solved that problem by building sidewalks and planting flowers. And there amid the roses, was a hand lettered sign that seemed to sum up their can-do attitude, "From Zero to Hero". I'd have never thought of these kids as zeros, but one of the boys told me he'd always thought he had "zero chance of going to high school." At least until Mahiga Hope.
As all the final touches come together at the high school, we've partnered with the school on an incentive to motivate kids to study harder and aim higher. Our Bicycles for Scholars program rewards the top-scoring girl and boy student in 9th, 10th and 11 grades with a new bicycle. These are great bikes purchased from World Bicycle Relief (who assembles them in Kenya). And yes, after the bike reward competiton was announced, scores went up! Presenting the bikes at a school-wide ceremony was a real delight. And when our graduating seniors final scores are announced soon, the top graduating boy and girl will receive new laptops, just what they need for a future college career.
As Mahiga Hope High School grows, we are planning with the commnity and the Board of Governors on future improvements which we all hope will ultimately include teacher housing and a girls and boys dorm, both essentials for a remote school in a rural area.
Thanks for your support. You've created a lot of hope, and helped bring a lot of kids from zero chance of attending high school to dreams of college and beyond.
Education is the way.
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