Kakenya's Dream

The Kakenya Center for Excellence seeks to empower and motivate young girls through education to become agents of change and to break the cycle of destructive cultural practices in Maasai Kenya such as female genital cutting and early forced marriage. We believe in impacting one girl at a time, one community at a time, until all girls in Africa have the opportunities they need to thrive as individuals. These future women leaders will improve their communities, their nation, and the world.
Mar 24, 2016

KCE 8th graders excel on national exam, start HS

Dear Friends,

I am writing to share our celebration of our 8th graders’ national exam results and their send off to their first year of high school. The shining smiles of students and beaming faces of proud parents lit up our campus in February as we gathered together to celebrate the graduating class of 2015.

The celebration, which included a shared meal, dancing, and an award ceremony, celebrated the amazing progress and accomplishments of these young women over the past four years and their stellar performance on the National Exams. Our teachers provided encouragement and reassurance to the girls as they started high school. Our tribal elders reminded our girls to remember their community as they forge ahead.

The scores tell the story behind our celebration

There was indeed a great deal to celebrate for our 8th graders as they ended one chapter and began another. In Kenya, all 8th grade students take the Kenya Certificate for Primary Education (KCPE) that determines high school placement. Students spend a considerable amount of time throughout their primary education preparing for this rigorous test with the dream of scoring 300 or above, which guarantees admission into a Kenyan National secondary school.

I’m proud to announce that every single student from the class of 2015 scored above the national average. This amazing accomplishment cannot be overstated. Our girls have a set a new standard of excellence at our school.

  • Our top student scored 385 marks (out of 500).
  • More than a third of the students scored above 350, the score needed for placement in Kenya’s most selective high schools.
  • 92% of our students scored over 300 points, the score needed for placement in our national schools.
  • The class of 2015 scored an average of 11 points higher than the class of 2014.

 

High school placement is the next hurdle

After exam results were announced, the high school application and enrollment process began. While high school placement is stressful for all families, we know that it is an even bigger hurdle for families who are going through this process for the first time. KCE works hand in hand with all of our families to navigate the placement process.

This year, the shortage of high school slots, including a shortage of national schools, was especially challenging this year, related to government quotas, an overcrowded educational system, and insufficient funding.

Although our girls far outperformed their peers in the district, only 6 of our 40 students were initially placed in high performing national high schools. This was unacceptable. We mobilized to enroll all 40 graduates in National and County-level schools. I commend my team on the ground in Kenya for their leadership, determination and pure grit in visiting multiple schools each day and traveling long distances to make it happen.

This year’s high school enrollment process underscored the urgent and growing need for academically rigorous high schools in Kenya. We are even more committed to building a new high school in Enoosaen that will ensure our girls are able to remain in a high quality school and reach their full potential. By 2018, we plan to begin enrolling our first class of high school students at a new K-12 school near our current campus.

As the class of 2015 embarks on their new journey, we are confident that KCE has prepared them for the challenges that lie ahead. These young women are no longer limited by the boundaries facing so many other girls in Kenya and around the world.

Be on the lookout for these girls as they make changes in their own lives and our world!

Feb 24, 2016

Camps and Counselors with a Purpose

Our most recent Health and Leadership Camp in the Transmara District in Kenya filled 214 girls with anticipation and excitement as they arrived on campus for a week of both traditional camp activities and important learning experiences about their rights as girls.

In many ways, our Health and Leadership Camps, held in April and December, are similar to summer camps throughout the world. Hosted on our campus, our week-long holiday camps provide girls with a chance to come together to explore new ideas, make new friends and discover themselves at a critical time in their development. In Enoosaen, our camp is quite unique, providing girls not only with a fun holiday but with vital information about their sexual health, FGM, child marriage and its consequences, their legal rights and leadership skills.

During our December session, 25 alumnae from our KCE boarding school served as counselors at camp. These young women, now in grades 9-11 have a profound influence on the younger campers. Their self-assurance, knowledge and confidence are shining examples to younger campers of what can be achieved through working hard and continuing their education. I am forever grateful that our graduates return to take on these leadership roles at camp – inspiring the next generation of girls!

Each day, campers met informally in small groups to reflect on the day and discuss important issues. A highlight for campers was to listen to our high school counselors share stories about the expectations and realities of high school. The informal setting for these dialogues allowed campers to ask some tough questions of our counselors and to connect to older peers that inspire them to dream and reach for their goals.

Our workshops during camp are straightforward and honest about challenges girls face. Through hands on activities the girls learn life skills that can help them progress safely and confidently through high school and into adulthood.  

Of course, camp is not all lectures and lessons! Story telling, the talent show, “quiz night” and movie night provide a chance for the girls to relax and have fun. This year a group of volunteer coaches from Tag Rugby Trust coached the girls during our athletic time. The girls loved learning this new sport!

At the end of the week, we held our annual graduation ceremony for girls that have attended both our April and December camps. This milestone event is always a highlight of the year at KCE, bringing together community stakeholders such as parents, teachers, elders, and local officials to celebrate the achievement of our girls.

The music, award ceremony, prayer service and luncheon attracted both local and national media coverage!

Our camps fill a critical need in Kenya. December can be a dangerous time for young girls in Kenya, as it is the time of year when female genital mutilation ceremonies occur throughout the region. Our graduation ceremony provides the community with an alternative rite of passage that celebrates the dreams and success of these young women while sending a message that FGM will no longer be tolerated and revered as the only option for girls. This year the girls chose a “theme” for the graduation ceremony “I know my rights, a girl is an equal child”.

We first started the Health and Leadership Training program in 2011 to address the needs of thousands of girls in our district who need this vital training to learn about their rights and inspire their hope for the future. Our Health & Leadership Camps now reach 3,000 adolescents each year through our weekend trainings and week-long camps.   The growth of this program is a true testament to the need for accurate and reliable information on sexual health and legal rights for our youth. It is also a testament to the constant support we receive from supporters like you. Thank you!

Jan 21, 2016

KCE Welcomes Faith and New 4th graders to school!

Happy New Year!

Last week our campus was abuzz with excitement as our school and our students welcomed 40 “little sisters” to the fourth grade class at the Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE)  in Enoosaen, Kenya. Amongst the new students was a 10 year-old girl named Faith whose story remains in my heart. 

I met Faith during our enrollment day in December. Our campus was filled with scores of fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles and grandmothers hoping to enroll their children at KCE for the 2016 school year.  Girls and their families - more than 230 girls came to apply that day - were busy with the exams, paperwork and interviews necessary for acceptance to our program.

Faith, however, was all alone.  No mother, father, aunt, uncle or grandmother had accompanied her that day.

Although Faith had successfully navigated much of the day, she began to cry as her interview approached when each girl and her family would talk about why she should enroll as an incoming 4th grader.  As I listened to Faith, I was inspired by her grit and determination to seek an education for herself.  

Faith’s parents had denied her permission to interview at KCE. Her father was very sick in the hospital, and her mother was working at a neighboring farm to provide food for the family.  Determined to interview at KCE and get into school, Faith took an egg from her mother and sold it to purchase the pencil needed to take the KCE entrance exam.

Faith said: “I want to join this school, Kakenya. Please.”  I comforted Faith, and assured her that she would attend KCE in January. Faith is exactly the reason I started this school – to help the girls in the most desperate situations go to school and dream bigger.

The next day, as I was walking to school, Faith came running towards me with a big smile on her face. She hugged me and stayed there a while – she did not want to let go!  Faith had brought her mother to meet me.  As we walked, her mother spoke.  “Kakenya”, she said, “I do not have anything to send this girl to your school. I know Faith will need a mattress, a blanket, a uniform, food, books and much more.  I cannot provide that.” I assured her that KCE would provide everything Faith needs to be successful.  “All I need is for you to bring Faith to school on opening day,” I replied.

Last week, Faith and her mother arrived at school empty handed, but with hearts filled with promise and hope. Everything Faith needed was waiting here for her.  

While Faith’s personal journey to join KCE is unique, her dream for an education is not.  I continue to meet girls who are determined to seek an education at all costs.  I am grateful that we are here to support, challenge and provide for these girls as they dream big!

Your financial support makes our school and our comprehensive approach possible. Thank you to all of you who have invested in Faith’s dream and the hopes of all our girls.

Gratefully,

 

Kakenya

 
   

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