4 years ago, I embarked on a journey, a journey I wasn’t sure of, completely. But it was one journey that I had vowed to completely trust in God to see it to completion. Some of you might remember for about two years I used to volunteer as a teacher at a school in Kibera Slums and I blogged about my volunteer work in Kibera.
That was in 2012, 2013 and slightly in 2014. Then I landed a job at the Ministry of Devolution & Planning and life became hard. I had no time to do anything outside my job. So I stopped going to Kibera but to date, I still have very close ties with the Head teacher at my former school in Kibera.
My stint at Adventure Pride Centre in Kibera added to me a family member. In 2012, Christine Achieng’, emerged the top girl in her class and was called to join Ngara Girls High School in Nairobi. She used to be number one and I truly enjoyed reading her compositions & Inshas, some of which I would share with you on my blog.
But as fate would have it, Christine almost had her dreams shuttered when she expressed her worries of her family not being able to raise her school fees to see her in High School. My heart sunk. Here was a girl with a bright future and beyond any doubt, she was going to make her humble family very proud. After several conversations with Christine, I went back to school and had conversations with the Head teacher, Mr. Kennedy Ouma and yes, he did assure me that Christine was not in a position to go to High School.
I spent a few sleepless nights thinking of how to help her, before I realised, if something was going to be done, then I had to do it myself. So I made a resolve that I was going to support Christine throughout her High School education.
I had my own fears.
1. I had a student I was supporting already, though partially, so was I being too ambitious? To support one student fully and another one, partially? This wasn’t just any other school, this was Ngara Girls and the School fees were quite huge. I vividly remember her first term, that was quite expensive because I had to do all her form one shopping.
2. Four years was quite a long time. Yes, I was working and I had a salary but what if I lost my job along the way, how would she feel? Will I get another person to sponsor her education so that at any given moment her studies will not be disrupted?
These and many more fears crossed my mind even as I promised her that I was going to do everything to see her in school. I asked her to have her family help her with pocket money, so that I could only concentrate on getting her school fees. Her sister who did some casual jobs in Kibera agreed to my plan. (As I write this blog post, her sister Lily passed away last night in Kisumu after being sick for a while. May God rest her soul in eternal peace.)
So, having highlighted my fears, I looked for solutions as follows.
1. I went home to tell my parents about this younger sister I had found and that I had promised to support her throughout her High School. This was my reason for introducing her to my family. Just in case, I passed on before the four years of her school life, (life is short) then my family needed to pick her as their own and see that she completed school. I needed to keep my promise to the end.
2. One of my girlfriends in Norway, Solveig Omland, visits Kenya at least once a year. Therefore, she has a clue of the situation at the slums. I knew that during her visits to Kenya she would have a chance to meet Christine in person. So I asked her if she would be ready to support me in this course. And yes, Solveig has been with me the last four years, and we have met many occasions to discuss about the progress of this girl Christine Achieng’.
Having secured these two options, I knew I was going to make it. So I set my ground rules with Christine.
1. That she will come home every time schools were closed and bring her report form to me and together we could discuss her progress. She did that all the 11 terms of her High School.
2. That though, I will give her hard cash or even at times Mpesa her, she will pay her own school fees and bring back the payment slip when she came home during her mid-term. That too is something she did very diligently. This for me was a way, to introduce her to being able to take responsibility.
To me Christine was always an A student. And her end of term reports indicated the same. However, just like many students, in form three, she started dropping and many times I felt very let down. I would sit down with her and use the same words my parents used on me when I sent home not so good grades. ‘You have to pull your socks really hard. This is your future. You can be anyone you want to be, but that entirely depends on your hard work’. I remember my father would even add a line, ‘As your parents, we have done our bit by paying your school fees, mummy, if you don’t work, that is really up to you’. And these words sunk deep especially when I had given up on Maths and I felt quite frustrated knowing that there was nothing I could do to improve my Maths grades.
Anyway, these sessions worked pretty well and every time Christine came back home, there was an improvement and the constant reminder that she was an A material also did some magic. As I write, Christine cleared from Ngara Girls last year and secured herself a B- and not just any B- but one under CS Fred Matiang’s regime 😊😊I couldn’t be happier as a parent. Now I look forward to seeing her join University in the near future.
Last Saturday, together with some of my mentees, we went back to Adventure Pride Center, where Christine has been volunteering as a teacher since she completed her High School studies. Ours was purely an intention, to encourage the rest of the students, no matter what background, no matter what fears they have now, as long as they did their best, someone will pick them and support them. So we bought a cake and celebrated with her.
The headteacher at the school confirms that the school is in dare need of many things, including text books and writing books, biro pens, pencils, desks, volunteers to support in teaching the pupils, volunteers to support the feeding programme and maybe, even build a bigger school. As it is now, the school is hosted in a church hall, one hall that has been portioned to fit all the 8 classes 😒😒
So the teachers share corners, at any given moment, there are four teachers in the same room. But the thing I like most is the passion that the headteacher has. The determination to see the pupils get education regardless of their background and current limitations that the school faces. This is one headteacher that needs to be celebrated and rewarded among the unsung heroes in Kenya.
With this blog post, I hope and pray that someone will be touched to help do something to help the pupils at the Adventure Pride Center in Kibera. Someone will be touched to support at least one student through High School. In our own capacities we might not be able to do much, but trusting in God to bless us so that we can be a blessing to others, I am sure and I believe beyond doubt, we can all do something. All we need to do, is to aspire to live a life that is bigger than us.
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in fixing your own life that you forget about helping others. And while it’s important to put yourself first sometimes, it’s even more important to help others whenever you can.