COVID-19  Kenya Project #47253

Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students

by American Friends of Gatoto, Inc.
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students
Help Gatoto School feed & educate Nairobi students

Thank you so much for your continued support of AFG’s crucial work in feeding and educating the children of Mukuru kwa Rueben!

Following Betty’s passing, Gatoto’s new leadership and management team swung into high gear.

Gatoto’s 1,000 students, and its teachers and staff are moving rapidly towards the end of the fall term with exams and report cards around the corner.  The promising news is that mass vaccinations are starting to reach Nairobi’s informal settlements; more than half of Gatoto’s 27 teachers have obtained vaccines.  

Anticipating a fourth wave of COVID-19, the Kenyan government is again enforcing restrictions which challenge teachers to figure out masking, classroom distancing, and limits on extra-curricular activities with resources stretched thin. Despite this, a sense of normalcy has begun to set in. Student government elections were held to choose new student leaders who will represent student voices to school leadership.  This is an inspiring exercise in the practice of civics and democracy even amongst Gatoto’s youngest learners. Moreover, the school’s flagship extracurricular activities - their impressive and prize-winning choir and elocution teams -  have been able to train outdoors but will compete only virtually in this year’s competitions.  Additionally, the extra space provided by the new classroom building, even though still under-furnished, is a godsend for the state requirements for smaller class sizes.   

Sadly, COVID-19 remains a considerable obstacle for the greater community because of its impact on the economy. Continued stagnation in the informal economies means parents are still out of jobs. Thanks to your help in funding our work,  AFG can provide hot meals that the school gives to all children starting at age 2.  The feeding program and other social supports to this community continues to be an essential lifeline for struggling families.

With continued gratitude,

Yassi and the AFG Team

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We invite you to join us for an online memorial for Betty Nyagoha this Friday, May 28th at 9:30am Eastern Time (2:30 pm Ireland Time, 4:30 pm Kenya Time) 

This event is organized by Irish and Kenyan friends of Gatoto.

Betty Nyagoha, Gatoto School’s Founder Teacher and Head was a force of nature that touched so many lives. We each mourn her, and remember the wonderful way she was in the world. Her care, passion for Gatoto, and vision for what education could do, organized us all - teachers, donors, volunteers, families and community to make a school that allowed thousands of children of Mukuru kwa Reuben thrive and live better lives.  

Zoom Details:


Meeting ID: 955 0151 5731

There is also a memorial board set up by some of Betty's Irish volunteers to capture more about Betty’s life. Photos, videos and stories can be found at:

Madame Betty, you embodied the school motto “Strive to Shine.”  We will carry on your legacy. 


Within days of Betty Nyagoha’s passing in March, the Management Team and the GIDP Board implemented a succession strategy, finding the support and skills needed from within the current GIDP staff.   This team will advance Betty’s vision for the school.

Joseph Oloo

Joseph Oloo took over as Manager of GIDP with immediate effect. Joseph has been with Gatoto from its beginning in 1994 and is a very able man. He is the institutional memory of Gatoto.

Gideon Ndambuki

Gideon Ndambuki, currently a Gatoto teacher, has become Joseph’s Deputy and will shadow him in all his work. Gideon comes from Mukuru. He attended Gatoto Primary School and he received Gatoto Sponsorship to Secondary School and was then sponsored through Teacher Training College. Gideon has several post -graduate management certificates and diplomas from the Amani Institute in Nairobi. Very importantly, he is passionate about the importance of education to the children of Gatoto and sees the school as a safe and nurturing haven for all.

Peter Omimi

The current Acting Head Teacher is Peter Omimi. Peter plans to retire in 18 months. Godfrey Kweya, a Gatoto alumnus and currently a teacher in the school will shadow Peter in all his work over the coming months.


Students in Kenya sit a final year Primary School Year Exam, called the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education. Entry to Secondary School depends on these results, and this year they were delayed because of COVID. Within days of Betty’s passing, 124 Gatoto students sat this exam which covered the 2020 academic (& calendar) year. Demanding enough to run such an examination in normal times but with Covid Protocols and Betty’s passing it became an onerous task. Rhoda, the school Social Worker, had to source psychological support for teachers, students and parents. “Madame Betty” had always been there to encourage, to give hope and to reinforce the school motto, “We Strive to Shine”. When Rhoda asked the students “What would Madame Betty say to you now?” they invariably replied that she would ask them to do their best and they did just that.

We are happy to give the good news that in spite of so many challenges, the just announced KCPE results have improved. The average KCPE score this year was 248.3 compared with 241 last year, which is reassuring, given all that has happened in the past year. 

Even better news and one that I know would bring a smile to Betty’s face, is that of the 124 students who sat the exam, girls took the top three positions. Girls often have more obstacles in their way, but girls outperformed boys by 10% in English, 6% in Maths and 3 % in Science this year. Education is making a difference and girls’ education makes even more of a difference.

Joseph Oloo
Joseph Oloo
Gideon Ndambuki
Gideon Ndambuki
Peter Omimi
Peter Omimi
Gatoto Classroom
Gatoto Classroom
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It is with profound sadness that AFG informs Gatoto’s many friends around the world that Betty Nyagoha, our beloved School Head and founding teacher, passed away suddenly after a recent COVID-19 diagnosis.  This is a great shock to us all. She was so central to the school, from its inception in 1994, that this loss is unimaginable. She was a remarkable and irreplaceable woman whose commitment to caring for the children of the Mukuru kwa Reuben slum neighborhood will forever inspire us. 

For 25 years, Betty was Gatoto. She worked to build a community that fed, educated, and gave thousands of children a chance out of poverty, and she was a mother to them all.

Betty was born in far western Kenya in 1969, the youngest of eleven siblings. She experienced hardships that helped form her great empathy for and kinship with younger children. As a student she excelled at drama, netball and basketball. Betty studied at Kilimambogo Teachers College, and later ran a thriving business selling maize and beans in Nairobi. 

In 1994, Betty teamed up with the village elders of the Mukuru kwa Reuben neighborhood to found Gatoto Community Primary School. She took a significant pay cut, with a starting salary at Gatoto of $10 a month. She found the going very tough in the first few years. The school’s nearly 400 initial students were crammed into a single church building, with children sitting on the floor in different corners. After Gatoto’s inaugural year, the school was ranked last in a divisional exam across the largest district in eastern Nairobi.

A few years later, the land where Gatoto now stands was acquired, and the school began its steady ascent. It now has contemporary classroom buildings, many dedicated and able teachers and staff, and an enviable reputation among slum schools. Its exam results are impressive. Many of Gatoto’s former students – supported by GIDP’s secondary and university scholarship programs - have continued their academic achievement and gone on to professional success. Gatoto regularly competes – and succeeds - in musical and other competitions at the national level. 

Betty’s perseverance and support from the international community built a high-performing elementary school educating and feeding 1,000 of Kenya’s poorest children in the heart of one of Nairobi’s largest slums – where the Government of Kenya does not provide educational opportunities for children. 

Thanks to the generosity of our GlobalGiving donors supporting our drive for PPE last summer, Gatoto had in large part avoided the ravages of the pandemic and had successfully reopened – partially last fall, and more completely this year.   It is such sad irony that Betty succumbed to the same affliction that she successfully prevented for her community.  We will find a way to share memories of Betty together. We will write again shortly with details of the interim leadership plans.

Finally, what Gatoto and its graduates have achieved is due to the vision of Betty Nyagoha. May she rest in peace and may we serve her legacy by continuing to help the children of Mukuru kwa Reuben.

Here’s an inspiring link to a video of Betty from two years ago on YouTube we wanted to share at:


The AFG Team

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Gatoto students enjoy a meal
Gatoto students enjoy a meal

Will you join us, today?

AFG Board will match your donations to double all gifts made through GlobalGiving. 

Donations received on Wednesday, December 2 will be matched by American Friends of Gatoto (AFG) Board  members dollar for dollar.  This is in addition to a smaller percent of matching funds made available by GlobalGiving on GivingTuesday. This is a great opportunity to make year-end donations. 

Thank you!

In this season of gratitude, we are extremely grateful to both our new and longer-term supporters. 2020 has been a tough year — it has been one of fear, food insecurity, and far too many dire circumstances in Nairobi, as in many places around the world. The effects of hunger and difficult lockdown conditions will take physical and mental health tolls particularly on our Gatoto students. The generous support of our wonderful donors helped AFG provide food, PPE, and additional support, allowing Gatoto’s families to escape many worst case scenarios.   

News from the school  

After seven months of closure, the Kenyan government permitted Gatoto Primary School to reopen its doors to 4th and 8th graders. Sadly, that still leaves the majority of our students at home. Most children in Mukuru have been confined with their families to 10’ x 10’ tin shacks for the entirety of the pandemic. This results in crowded conditions, often antithetical to learning. Additionally, it often is not safe to play outdoors either. For the returning students, Betty reports the great joy of returning students who finally have the freedom of space to run, play, feel safe, and know they will receive regular meals. Many pupils have talked about the tough time they and their families have been through, and how narrowly they have managed to escape harrowing pangs of hunger.  Despite some reopenings, jobs for parents are still scarce and the informal economy of Mukuru has yet to recover. 

98% return rate

We are excited to announce that 98% of our 4th and 8th graders were able to return to Gatoto. This is both a testimony to how AFG’s support keeps quarantining families safe, and how much these kids want to be at this school.  The stability and the safety found within the gates of Gatoto is a rare luxury for the kids of Mukuru kwa Reuben, a place too often insensitive to the needs of children and other disadvantaged groups in society. We hope that the younger children, who are more vulnerable to long term health effects of hunger, fare as well upon their return.


Within a week of returning, anxious students had to sit the all-important KCPE exams and assessment tests that will determine so much about their future, despite having been away from formal learning environments for nearly seven months. During quarantine, Gatoto focused limited funds on home-study textbooks for these students, since test results are so important. The students are being asked to do the herculean task of performing well academically after grappling with so much community stress and food insecurity.

Return Logistics

Gatoto’s crowded classes have historically had 60-70 students per classroom, with many students lined up at long desks. On reopening, grades 4 and 8 were divided into classes of 30 pupils in order to meet the government-mandated standards of social distancing. The school does not have enough furniture for every student to have their own desk. Pupils and staff remain masked and every classroom has hand washing stations. While many traditional school activities are on hold, children still receive physical education lessons and get to play soccer at the end of the school day.  Besides learning and feeding, Gatoto has always been there to let children have the joy and safety to just be children.

Call to Action!

Please join the global movement of generosity on #GivingTuesday and support a Gatoto student. Your generosity means the world to them and will be matched by both the AFG board and GlobalGiving!

Want to see the latest photos and receive updates?

Like us on Facebook: American Friends of Gatoto

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Subscribe to our e-newsletter on our website:

Thank you for giving today!

With warm wishes,

Yassi Tamdji and the AFG Team

Socially-distanced students continue to learn
Socially-distanced students continue to learn
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Gatoto School being cleaned for returning students
Gatoto School being cleaned for returning students

Dear Donor,

We hope that you are doing well and keeping safe and healthy during these challenging and unpredictable times. 

Thanks to your overwhelming generosity, the almost $12,000 raised during our June Accelerator has been a lifeline to the Gatoto community during the COVID crisis, and the job loss/hunger crises that followed. More than 100 donors made our first test of crowdfunding a success and helped keep Betty’s Gatoto families safe at this critical time. Your donations let Gatoto teachers and volunteers distribute facemasks and hand soap to the Gatoto community to stop the spread of the virus. With Gatoto school closed, so many children suffered from the loss of our twice a day feeding program.  Your donations subsequently funded food and M-Pesa distributions keeping children fed when job loss in the informal economy made hunger a widespread problem. The money we initially targeted for 200 at-risk families eventually had to be split by double, then triple, that number. 

Some good news! COVID rates have remained low in Nairobi because of the strict but painful quarantine. And the government has started investing in infrastructure like drinkable water, sanitation, healthcare, drainage for flooding, roads and electricity where there was little before. One day, this will make the lives of children safer and more dignified in places like Mukuru Kwa Ruben.  While schools have been closed, Gatoto continued to pay teachers to keep up distance-learning, by mobile, radio or distributing textbooks to the many kids without access to electronics or electricity.  

And more good news! After an expected January reopen date, the Kenyan government is pushing up the partial reopening of schools to this week.  Schedules will initially be staggered to allow smaller class size and will start with just students in grades 4 and 8, to prioritize students facing national testing. Teachers are returning to school to clean classrooms and plan for meeting the state safety protocols of social distancing, sanitation, and smaller class sizes. Additional masks will need to be bought to meet the state mandate of three per child.  Most importantly, Gatato is looking to find a way to invite students in other grades back to the campus to obtain hot meals. Staff even converted some school grounds to garden beds during the quarantine to provide access to more greens.

We appeal for your continuing support, especially to fund our food programs which help so many, but like the school, get no government assistance.  Many of us are preoccupied with getting past the US election, but we hope that people remember the possibilities to make a giant difference outside their country, especially as we move towards the traditional year-end giving season.   We are preparing to organize more fundraising to coincide with Giving Tuesday, which is December 1 this year.  We always appreciate current gifts, but if you are thinking of making a year-end contribution or encouraging your friends to do so, Giving Tuesday will be a great time to help. 

Asante sana/ Thank you very much!

With hope and gratitude,

Yassi Tamdji and the AFG Team

Staff uses school grounds to grow food
Staff uses school grounds to grow food


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Organization Information

American Friends of Gatoto, Inc.

Location: University Park, MD - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Yassi Tamdji
University Park, MD United States
$12,365 raised of $16,000 goal
107 donations
$3,635 to go
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Pay Bill: 891300
Account: GG47253

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