KES trustee Nicky reports on her visit to Kenya with Founding Trustee Simon...
Meeting KES Students face-to-face...We make the trip to Kenya regularly to see the KES project in action and meet face-to-face with as many of our sponsored students as we can, and talk with teachers and school heads, as well as parents, aunties, grandmas and guardians. Simon and Chair John visited last year and this September Joseph and Lydia kindly hosted Simon and I and helped greatly with the school visits. Last time we both visited together was two years ago. At that point most of our KES students were about to change secondary schools from Bahati Division Academy, as it was going to close. The boys were moving to Sacred Heart and the girls to Vanessa Grant Girls School. So we were keen this time to visit them all in their new environment and make sure they are happy and thriving.
Simon and Nicky with KES Girls at Vanessa Grant
Due DiligenceKES is currently sponsoring 53 students at six schools. We managed to visit five schools and see 49 of the students. We do look out for any issues on our visits and this time there was one, which luckily we were able to help to resolve. All the students seemed fine, as far as we could tell, apart from one, Rachel, who is the only KES student at her national school. We had been concerned about her progress and so were pleased to see her and to understand the problem. We could tell from a walk around with Rachel and our discussion with her that the school was badly under-resourced. The teachers seemed demoralised. As a result of the visit, in consultation with her adoptive grandmother, we were able to make arrangements to offer Rachel a transfer to Vanessa Grant for her last 2 years of secondary. She will be welcomed at VGG and we are sure will find everything much better resourced and join old BDA friends.
Vanessa Grant Grounds
Update from Lydia Kiuna KES Welfare Officer!"We stayed with Rachel for two weeks whereby she had tuition in both Maths and Chemistry while also attending to her music lessons. This is as very helpful for her. She then went for her interview, at Vanessa Grant, on 28th November and passed! She was very excited together with the grandmother and really loved the school! She will be joining VGGS on 8th of January."
University successesMost KES boys are at Sacred Heart and most girls at Starehe or Vanessa Grant. These are all excellent schools. We were reassured at Sacred Heart to spend time with Doris, the school counsellor, who moved over from BDA, and Brian, the science teacher, who also transferred from BDA. They are both kind and thoughtful teachers. The results from Sacred Heart have been very good with 6 boys out of our 7 finishers last year winning a university place. At VGG, Nancy, the principal, gave us a generous amount of her time to talk about the school and the KES students and issues in Kenyan education.
Our Kenyan visits are always rewarding and fun, thanks in large part to Joseph and Lydia Kiuna. We always learn a lot from them about current issues in Kenya, and they often have news of former students who have progressed on to university.
State funded Secondary Education?Since the Kenyan government made state-funded secondary education available to all two years ago, some of the national schools have been overwhelmed by extra student numbers - accompanied by no extra funding. So, for example in Rachel’s school, she is now in a class of 57 students with the obvious detrimental effect on education. While it is great that all children are now able to access secondary education, clearly much more funding is needed to support that promise with qualified teachers.
Another issue which impinges on KES and the fortunes of our female students particularly is sex education. This is very restricted in Kenyan schools - as is information about contraception. Inevitably and regrettably Kenya suffers from a high number of teenage pregnancies, particularly in areas with the highest levels of poverty. Some of our KES students have fallen victim to this, whether at school or soon after leaving. What we try and do is to offer support and encouragement to girls to continue or return to education - one of our students who went through pregnancy and gave birth will shortly complete her school career. We hope she will continue on to university next year. Early pregnancy is not what we hope for for our students, but in that event the child will at least have an educated mother.
Starahe girls and Nicky
It was great to meet so many KES students and talk to them about their hopes and aspirations. We took photos and reported back to individual sponsors. After all this, we had a bit of a holiday at the coast too!