News / Africa

Kenyan Slum School Offers Free Education for Girls

A teacher at the Kibera School for Girls teaches students about shapes in Nairobi, Kenya, March 19, 2013. (J. Craig/VOA)
A teacher at the Kibera School for Girls teaches students about shapes in Nairobi, Kenya, March 19, 2013. (J. Craig/VOA)
Jill Craig
Founded in 2009, the Kibera School for Girls offers free tuition, uniforms, books, and meals to qualifying girls in the Nairobi slum of Kibera, where a good education is difficult to find.  The school is the first to offer free education for girls in the area and it garners support from the surrounding community by providing residents with much-needed services.

In Kibera,  Kenya’s largest slum, residents struggle to afford food, shelter, clean water, proper sanitation and decent schools.  Girls face the additional challenges of gender-based discrimination and violence.  When money for school fees is scarce, parents and guardians usually withdraw their daughters from school before their sons.

The Kibera School for Girls, which offers classes from pre-kindergarten through the fourth grade, aims to help the community understand the value of educating girls.  At this school, parents do not pay fees, but a family member must work at the school five weeks a year, as a way of supporting the child’s education.  Students are selected based on the two criteria of academic potential and greatest financial need.

A student raises her hand to ask a question during class at the Kibera School for Girls in Nairobi, Kenya, March 19, 2013.(J. Craig/VOA)A student raises her hand to ask a question during class at the Kibera School for Girls in Nairobi, Kenya, March 19, 2013.(J. Craig/VOA)
x
A student raises her hand to ask a question during class at the Kibera School for Girls in Nairobi, Kenya, March 19, 2013.(J. Craig/VOA)
A student raises her hand to ask a question during class at the Kibera School for Girls in Nairobi, Kenya, March 19, 2013.(J. Craig/VOA)
Joyce Achieng, 10, is one of these students.  She says that girls need more opportunities, especially in Kibera where she has seen much suffering.

“It is important because when they do not go to school they will not achieve their goals and their dreams will not come true.  They will not be what they want to be in the future,” she said.

Headmistress Anne Atieno Olwande believes that girls like Joyce will have a better chance of overcoming the crippling effects of poverty by getting a quality education.

“It’s one of my passions, to make them realize that you didn’t choose, you didn’t sign to be born where you were born but you can choose to go where you want to be in the future,” she explained.

Motivation

Helping women and girls carve out better lives for themselves is precisely why Kennedy Odede co-founded the school almost four years ago.

“Growing up in Kibera, we used to go to school [and] you’d find more boys than girls.  And that’s something that I really hated, you know?” Odede confided.

In 2004, Odede started a grassroots movement that later became Shining Hope for Communities, a community-run organization in Kibera.  With the 20 cents he’d earned from a factory job, he purchased a soccer ball.  Through sport, he encouraged young people to discuss issues facing them in the slums.  

But Odede felt he could do more, especially for girls, whom he felt were at an even greater disadvantage in Kibera.

“So I started seeing communities through the lens of my mom, and of my sister.  And I wanted everyone in the community to have a better life,” Odede explained.
 
But he knew that a tuition-free school for girls could be a target of jealousy and even strife in the slums.

Value for everyone

So he and Jessica Posner Odede, Shining Hope for Communities co-founder and chief operating officer, decided the school would need to provide value for everyone, regardless of whether they had a daughter enrolled.

Today, Kibera residents can stop by Shining Hope to get subsidized clean water or to use a sanitary toilet.  If they want to learn computer skills, they can sign up for training.  When they’re sick, they can visit the medical clinic.  Women suffering from domestic violence can come here for advice and assistance.

Posner Odede says that these services give buy-in to residents who might otherwise oppose the school and girls’ education in general.

“So our model is putting a girls’ school at the center of services that the entire community wants and needs," Odede explained.  "And what we’ve seen is by doing this, we get everyone invested in and excited about the project of girls education.”

According to the World Bank, more educated women tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, earn higher incomes, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education for their own children.

A 2008 report from Plan International, a children's rights group, says not educating girls takes billions of potential dollars from the economies of low and middle income countries every year.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs