Last week, our girls returned from their August break to find their classrooms and dormitories illuminated by solar energy, thanks to our partnership with We Share Solar! We continue to support girl’s primary education in Maasai Kenya through strategic partnerships aimed at improving the quality of education we provide. Each We Share Solar Suitcase includes high-efficiency LED lighting, a universal cell phone charger and outlets for 12V DC devices. This new source of clean, stable and renewable electricity will ensure our girls can study and feel safe at any hour of the day.
This exciting new addition to campus comes just in time for our eighth grade girls to start preparing for the national exam in November. Students, teachers and staff alike are all working hard to ensure our girls have the knowledge they need to perform well and continue achieving their dreams. Our holistic education model continues to produce some the highest test scores in the nation; last year, our average test score was 340, compared to the national average of 180. Eighth-grader and class president Naanyu says she is studying hard so that she may get into a top high school and eventually become a doctor. “Kakenya built a school for the community,” she says, “I want to be a doctor and build a hospital for my community too.”
At KCE, improving women and girls’ access to resources, like power and knowledge, so that they may achieve their dreams and improve their communities is at the center of our mission. Thanks to our partners, like We Share Solar, and the essential support of donors like you around the world, we are bringing these essential tools to the girls who need it most.
KCE is committed to providing our girls with opportunities for exploration outside of the classroom as an integral component of their education. Each academic year, every class of girls takes a field trip outside of the village to visit another part of Kenya. This is a way to enhance their classroom learning in subjects like social studies and science by giving them tangible experiences to bring their learning to life.
Early one morning this spring, 37 sixth graders and 10 staff, teachers and parents embarked on our annual 6th grade field trip from rural Enoosaen to the port city of Kisumu. Located in the greater Lake Victoria basin, Kisumu is a 4-hour bus ride from Enoosaen through the fertile Kano and Ahero plains. Believed to be one of the oldest settlements and trading ports in Kenya, the city of Kisumu is now the third largest city in Kenya. Kisumu is a central hub with bustling city life and a striking range of scenery, exotic wildlife and beautiful beaches.
The day was filled with many “firsts” for our girls as they explored the largest city in the Nyanza region of Kenya.The first stop of the day was the Kisumu airport. Our girls watched passenger planes take off and land and witnessed the work of air traffic controllers as they managed air traffic operations. At the adjoining weather station, the girls learned about the functions of weather instruments and the science of meteorology. The opportunity to see airplanes up close rather than from a great distance was fun for the girls. We definitely now have some budding pilots in our 6th grade class!
The next stop, Lwang’Ni beach and the shores of Lake Victoria, was perhaps the most popular stop of the day. Coming from the pastoral village of Enoosaen, experiencing such a large body of water was an eye opener! At Lwang’Ni beach, the girls loved watching the famous fishermen arriving with fresh caught fish. The highlight of the visit was a motor-boat ride where the girls enjoyed the lake breeze. The visit to the larger port provided our girls with the opportunity to see the commercial docks. We were lucky enough to witness a Tanzanian ship coming to dock. The dockmaster was kind and knowledgeable and took the girls through the functions of the docks and the various vessels. The girls were even treated to a rare tour inside a private passenger ship to get the real feel of travelling by water on a large ship!
Later on, the girls experienced the Maasai lions, African leopards and Sitantunga antelopes at Kisumu Impala Sanctuary. The sanctuary is a real gem — and our girls were in awe of the breathtaking views of Lake Victoria and the nature trails that allow you to immerse yourself in the natural habitat. The sanctuary staff demonstrated their appreciation for wildlife and instilled the importance of conservation efforts with our girls.The last visit of the day was to the Kisumu Museum where the focus was on the history of the Luo people, their homesteads and traditional artifacts.
Our annual field trips open our students to new perspectives, expanding their awareness of their larger community, and letting them connect the dots between the classroom and real life experiences.We are so grateful, as always, for individuals like you that help to make these hands-on experiences possible for our girls!
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.
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!
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.
On October 12, 2015, Kakenya Center for Excellence celebrated the International Day of the Girl (IDG) with many others around the globe. This year’s theme for IDG2015 - The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030 - recognized the importance of investing in adolescent girls’ empowerment and rights today and in the future. During the last 15 years, the global community has made significant progress in improving the lives of girls during early childhood, but there has been insufficient investment in addressing the challenges girls face when they enter adolescence. These challenges include obtaining quality secondary and higher education, avoiding child marriage, receiving information and services related to puberty and reproductive health, and protecting themselves against unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease and gender-based violence.
Kakenya Center for Excellence is part of the solution for girls. We tackle challenges facing girls of all ages with our comprehensive boarding school program for girls in the 4th-8th grade, our health and leadership education camps that have impacted thousands of additional girls from many schools, and our Network for Excellence that supports girls who have graduated from our school while they are in high school. Our approach is an important part of the gradual change in attitudes and the growing support for girls’ education in our village.
During our International Day of the Girl celebration, more than 450 girls from five regional schools joined us in a 5K march through the village, bringing their voices and energy throughout the Transmara. Businesses came to a standstill as the girls shouted messages such as, “Unite to end violence against women! Education for all! End child marriage! Educate me, don’t cut me!” The luncheon that followed on KCE’s campus gathered community leaders, parents, teachers, and students together for speeches, presentations and traditional dancing, which was a clear demonstration of strong participation from our greater community.
In addition to the festivities in Kenya, our girls’ voices were heard around the world at the United Nations celebration! We are delighted to share with you a poem written by four KCE students which was showcased at the 2015 Day of the Girl Summit in New York.
We are so proud that our students are using their voices to celebrate their own achievements, to advocate for the rights of all girls, and to increase awareness about the inequalities that girls face simply because they are girls.
Thank you for supporting our girls’ dreams and for supporting KCE’s direct services and our role in the broader community advocating for girls!
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