“My name is Saumu Kalimbo. I am a form three student at Kiwandani Secondary School. I am very grateful; to the Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu project that has been paying my school fees since I joined form one through the bursaries that I have been receiving.I come from a very large family and with this comes a lot of financial constraints. I have ten siblings and I am the lastborn. Only one of my siblings, my brother, was able to complete high school. While the rest, particularly the girls, were not able to complete their primary education.My brother managed to complete his secondary education by getting help from well-wishers.
My mother died when I was very young, and my alcoholic father does not have a stable source of income.
My school fees struggle begun when I was in primary school. It was very disheartening to get sent home due to lack of fees while my classmates stayed in school continuing with the syllabus. This continued until the head teacher took notice of my plight. She then made my education her priority. The head teacher ensured I completed my primary education by personally paying my school fees.
Unfortunately, that was not the end of my school fees situation. I got called to join a good boarding school, but had to drop out after enrolling due an accumulated school fees balance. I tried to seek help from different avenues. I reached out to my siblings but were not able to assist. I got so frustrated I contemplated running away to Watamu town to look for any means possible to fend for myself.
Later I convinced my sister to accompany me to a nearby children’s home to look for support. It was there that I was referred to Kesho Kenya.
Kesho Kenya took me in. Through their Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu project they rerolled me back into school, something I was giving up hope in. Yes, I may lack a few basic things such as revision books, uniforms and remedial class tuition fees but the biggest burden is off my shoulders, and for this I am beyond grateful. The other things can always be acquired over time and I am fortunate to have understanding friends. They know my situation and they share where they can.
Once I complete my secondary school education, I want to be a lawyer. I believe that I have the necessary skills it takes to be one. I am articulate, I have the confidence to speak in front of a large crowd of people. I served as the head girl of this school for three years.
That was since I joined in form one up until form three, when they appointed another to give time to study for my Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE)
I want to encourage other children from needy and vulnerable backgrounds. Sometimes the road to success is very hard. As a girl child, education is our right just as it is for any other child. But we sometimes experience a lot of challenges. You don’t need to be married off in order to access an education like the rest. We need to work harder than most to achieve our dreams and change the narrative. Thanks to WWW I am more motivated, I have a bright future ahead of me, I will press harder to motivate other girls, I will be my older siblings’ role model.
To WWW I offer my sincere gratitude and I’d like to recommend you visit regularly, this really motivates me to worker harder and to prove to you that you did not make a mistake choosing to educate me.”
Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu Project (WWW) was incepted in 2017 with the aim of improving the learning and transition of girls through three pathways; Pathway 1 (PW1): Primary to Secondary Pathway 2 (PW2): Primary to Alternative Pathway (AP) Pathway 3 (PW3): Catch-up classes for re-entry to education. The project works with 55 primary schools, 4 VTCs, 11 Secondary Schools in Kilifi County. To date, 1555 girls have been supported through distribution of bursaries.
“Education alone is not enough to mould a responsible individual in society. Important virtues such as integrity are essential and should be instilled to students while in school through participation in clubs,” says Ali Juma, 22, a former member of the SHINE integrity club from Shariani Secondary School.
Speaking to SHINE’s advocacy officer Costa Kalanda, Ali continued to say, “When students are equipped with integrity and see the impact it has in schools and neighboring communities and how it strengthens the relationship between them and the school when they learn how to identify amicable solutions to problems and improve the learning outcome in general, they embrace it and become ambassadors for the same in society.”
I joined the integrity Club when it was introduced in our school in 2019. Thereafter, I was elected as the vice-chairperson. Despite being in form four, I actively participated in the club activities.
We implemented a waste management project in which we improvised buckets which we placed outside of classrooms so that students would no longer litter the compound and we made it our personal responsibility to take turns in emptying them. This instilled a sense of responsibility in us, by making us responsible for emptying the bin, and the other students, by making them ensure there was no littering this resulted in a conducive learning environment for everyone.
Figure 1; Youth who are members of the Pamoja Act group participating in group discussions and Figure 2; Group members holding a meeting.
After completing my studies, I witnessed the challenges that young people are facing in society, and with no proper guidance on how to counter them, they are sinking into depression and starting to abuse drug substances such as Khat and bhang, they are engaging in crimes to make ends meet. This prompted me to join a Community Based Organization that the local area chief who is also a family friend is in. He, together with the other CBO members who comprised of area chiefs, sub-chiefs, and village elders, agreed to let me in despite the age difference. They allowed me in so that I would gradually learn from them and be able to influence my peers on the right path. The group has a total of thirty members and is currently implementing a project that deals with the prevention of violence among children and another that will sensitize the community on gender-based violence.
Although funds have been a challenge, we still go out of our way to carry out our duties. Our duties include referring cases of child abuse to the respective offices for them to be assisted and sensitizing the of the community on various important issues such as advising victims of HIV/AIDS who have been stigmatized or neglected to accept their status and take their medication. We do this by going door to door. This has worked well for our cause because the community gets a platform in the comfort of their homes to discuss with us the different challenges they face and offer support where we can.
Figure 3; Mwangaza CBO, which Ali is a member of, distributing items to the community.
During one of our home visits, I came across Amina (not her real name) who was so depressed after she was diagnosed with the HIV/AIDS virus. She had been stigmatized by her family and the neighborhood she lived in. I talked to her about accepting her status and seeking treatment, and I also advised her that everything would be fine as that was not the end of life. She got motivated and visited Vipingo Health Centre where she sought treatment.
Figure 4: Ali, during a home visit to sensitize community members against violence against children and gender-based violence
Other than being an active member of the CBO, I have formed a safe space for the youth through a group named Pamoja Act. Here we get to discuss issues affecting the youth and we propose solutions. Given that majority of young people are idle after completing school. Not out of choice but because of lack of funds they are not able to enroll in tertiary institutions.
We started performing short skits to keep ourselves entertained and attract members. So far, we have performed three educational videos to raise awareness in communities about issues such as stigmatization of HIV/AIDS victims, drug abuse, and the importance of Mijikenda culture.
Despite the unavailability of funds we have managed to have 25 young committed members. We meet every Saturday where we sometimes do voluntary cleanups of the marketplaces.
The ability to identify problems and propose solutions with integrity has also enabled me to be an entrepreneur. I believe successful businesses are ones that identify a gap or problem and find solutions for it. I currently work at a cyber-shop where I offer mentorship to one boy just to ensure he is not idle. He assists me in the cyber; he gets money for airtime and is able to meet his basic needs
Figure 5: Youth group member leading the rest in discussing issues
that are affecting the youth.
I also sell women’s shoes. The money from this business has enabled me to pay for computer classes and driving school.
I mentor the club members and motivate them to reach for their goals regardless of the obstacles they face. I want all of them to realize their dreams, and in doing so, I will have accomplished my purpose.
I want to influence as many young people as I can, by reaching out to them in their different areas and advising them. I’d like to run for the Member of County Assembly position in the future.
Other members of the club have are still carrying the legacy high long after school. I know one who is currently in university and volunteers at a children’s home during the holidays.
With the many problems our country, Kenya, is currently facing, the majority of which are caused by lack of integrity would be abolished if we all were members of integrity clubs and we carried this virtue with us after school. Problems such as looting of government funds by leaders, misappropriation of funds/office, and nepotism cases would all be a thing of the past.
I strongly advocate for the establishment of integrity clubs in all schools and in working on ways to pass on the skills to parents during parent meetings, seeing how that knowledge has been impactful in my life.
Figure 6 :Ali mentoring and advising other youths to stop abusing drugs and focus on achieving their dreams and goals
The Students Acting for Honesty, Integrity and Equality in Education Project has been implemented by Kesho Kenya and KWEA over a period of three and a half years. The two organizations have used the Community Integrity Building model with the aim of getting students to act with; and demand integrity through constructive and collaborative approaches. 107 schools were reached resulting in 4294 students being members of the Integrity Clubs with 513 students assuming leadership positions as the project managed to reach 57160 indirect beneficiaries from both Kwale and Kilifi counties. Additionally, a total of 61 youth groups were established to target students during the COVID -19 break bringing to the core the potential of community based interventions in scaling up the initiative. 548 beneficiaries who could have been at the risk of exclusion are not left out as the project dealt with the associated Gender Equality and Social Inclusion.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be raised in a Charitable Children’s Institution (CCI)? We spoke with Mary, who spent 14 years in a CCI, about her good, bad, and sometimes traumatic experiences, as well as how they affect her current life as a young woman.
Why were you taken to the Charitable Children’s Institution?
I was born in Kitui town but grew up in a CCI in the coastal region. I was brought up there since I was two years old and forced to leave when I was sixteen. My father died after suffering a stroke and my mother’s death followed soon thereafter. My three siblings and I were left in the care of my grandmother, a drunkard and she couldn’t take care of us. Our eldest sibling who was fifteen years got married and the rest of us were sent to the CCI.
What was your experience like living in the CCI? What did you like?
We lived together as one large family interacting with people of different ethnic backgrounds spoke the same language and got somewhere to call home.
Also, we concentrated entirely on our studies because the institution was very strict and there was that competitiveness among each other to do better to get rewarded at the end of the term. In addition, the staff would check our homework daily.
What were negative experiences?
If you made a mistake for instance extended your playing time unknowingly, you would face the music one would be asked to cut firewood for a whole month and carry it using a wheelbarrow, if the time elapsed without having completed the punishment you would be added another tough task to perform.
Furthermore, a parent has unconditional love for their children, so if they make mistakes, there is room to punish and forgive, whereas in the CCI, if you make a mistake, you are issued three warning letters, sent to the reforms section, then sent out of the institution and into the streets. We were expected to be perfect there, which is not the case in children.
Some staff had their relatives living in the CCI so when it came to resolving an issue that had arisen in the institution they treated the matter unjustly to favor their own.
Did the children in your CCI have all they needed?
We sometimes went without basic necessities like clothes or shoes because the institution only provided them once a year since it waited until there was enough to go around. We were only given food while in the institution, but if we left to go to school, we remained hungry for the rest of the day despite only having a cup of porridge in the morning. We were also expected not to borrow from anyone the lunch that we did not have but stay hungry the entire day. However, that changed once the institution was under new management.
Due to limited resources available in the institution once one completed primary education we were all sent to the same nearby secondary school despite having scored good marks in the national exams. This demoralized most of us from working hard because no matter the marks you scored the choice of a secondary school was the same.
What was the most traumatic moments you had?
A member of the institution’s management was interested in having an affair with me. He’d follow me around the home and inappropriately touch me. Because such relationships were discouraged, I took the initiative and reported the case to other staff. It was later discovered that I was not the only girl who had raised such a concern. However, since the accused person was in management the issue was discarded and the staff that was on my side were either fired or demoted. My fate and that of the other girls’ stay at the institution was ended. This meant that even our education sponsorship was terminated. I fought back and was able to contact the director, who agreed to pay my school fees even though I would not be staying at the institution. However, for the others, that was the end of it.
You were in a Christian-sponsored institution…
Yes. We were forced to accept it regardless of their other religious beliefs once accepted. Even though I was born into an Islamic family, I was forced to become a Christian. Some were even coerced into changing their names to Christian ones.
Were you able to keep in touch with the rest of your family during the 14 years in a CCI?
My eldest sibling who got married only came to visit us twice ever since we went to the CCI because the institution is very far away from our upcountry home. Some of my relatives I have, I only know them by their names but can’t recognize them even if I saw them pass by on the road. I have an aunt also who lives nearby but she never visited us completely only her children came to visit one time during my entire stay.
Was it difficult for you to reintegrate back to the community after leaving the CCI?
Yes, it was difficult for me to make new friends because, unlike there, where everything was similar, outside children come from different homes and have different behaviors. On the other hand, in the CCI everything was given to us, and now I had to learn to fend for myself outside. To meet some of my needs, I worked as a waiter after school. I went to stay with my aunt and am still living with her, but even calling her by that name is still difficult because I don’t consider her a relative. in the beginning, she was a total stranger to me.
What are your plans?
After completing my education I did not enter any higher institution of learning. However, I worked as a waiter in numerous hotels until the Corona pandemic struck and most hotels were shut down. I paid someone on an individual basis to teach me how to mend torn clothing. I’d be grateful if I could find someone who would sponsor me in pursuing that career. At the moment, I started my own business venture of selling clothes which we call Madera.
Why have you decided to join the care leavers group at Kesho Kenya?
I joined the group, which is comprised of children who were raised in CCIs, to raise awareness about how important it is for communities to stop raising children in these institutions, as I was raised in one. Through the development of support groups, we have gained psychosocial help by engaging and sharing our experiences.
What advice would you give to struggling families from your own experience?
As an individual who was raised in the CCI, I can only emphasize the importance of the family bond. It was difficult for me to see that those that were supposed to be the most important people in my life had abandoned me. I could see that their families were doing just fine. So I would be if we shared the little resources that we had even if it meant having only a cup of porridge the entire day or just Ugali and Omena to eat – but we are together with the rest of the family and other siblings. Therefore, if it is possible, help should be provided to keep children at their homes and in their community.
Changing the Way We Care is an initiative that advocates for care reforms and embraces family-based care in order to promote safe, nurturing family care for children. So far, the project has worked with seven CCIs and reached out to 76 families in order to reintegrate 69 children back into their homes. Beneficiaries also received Income Generating Activity startup capital to help them start their own businesses and sustain themselves.
March 8th is International Women’s Day. We choose to recognize Aisha, a 43-year old student of our Adult Literacy Class for being hardworking, outstanding, and relentless. Aisha who spoke to us says she was denied an opportunity to go to school at a tender age due to sibling rivalry. Despite these circumstances, she has risen above the obstacles and is now getting an education. Below she tells her heartwarming story.
“For me joining the Adult literacy Class was a dream come true. I had wanted to join the class for a very long time but my plea was faced with endless obstacles. I dropped out of school in class four when I was just eleven years old. With the help of my sister, I sought Mama Zena who helped me with the enrollment process and I joined class early last year.”
Why she went back to school
“I want to get an education that will enable me to get a well-paying job. I have been doing casual jobs from a tender age whose pay was meager. I was also insulted and disrespected at the workplace. Besides, such kind of work generally makes you a slave always depending on others with nothing of your own.”
First day of class
“On my first day of class, I came in just like a young girl who has her first day in school. I was shy and a bit nervous. I joined the other young women in the class. With time I adapted and was comfortable learning.”
“I desire to get educated because I was denied this opportunity when I was young. Even when the government ordered schools to be closed in March, I would come to the Kesho Kenya resource center to read by myself because even if I stay at home there is nothing am gaining. This is what wakes me up every morning to attend class without giving up. My sister also supports me at home with school work. She encourages me to keep studying to achieve my goals. I sometimes fall sick, and I have stomach ulcers. But all this does not prevent me from continuing my studies.”
Plans for the future
“I want to complete my primary school and proceed to secondary. I could even imagine proceeding up to the university level if I get the financial assistance. Thereafter, I want to empower other women to access education in my community.”
Inspirational message to other women
“I urge other women don’t wait, Seek if you want something, just like I sought for education. Be courageous because being afraid won’t help you. In addition, seek an education because, without it, life is very difficult. I wasn’t even able to load airtime on my own. Getting to a place was hectic because I couldn’t read. Thus, am very grateful to Kesho Kenya for giving me a second chance at life through education.”
Able to read and write in English
Santa, her instructor describes her as a bright, hardworking, and vibrant individual. “Amina is now able to read and write in English. Her determination to get herself a well-paying job has been her drive. Most of my students have goals that they want to accomplish.”
The Adult Literacy Class began in 2015. To date, a total of 174 learners have enrolled for class of which 12 have registered to sit for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE ). Intake runs throughout the year. A class session begins from 9 am until 11 am. A professional instructor who is paid by the national government conduct the lessons. The tutoring is free of charge.
Meet 24 year old Celestine, a beneficiary of the Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu IGA Start-up KIT. Here is how the IGA kit has impacted her life;
Her business has been booming since its inception in November .She sold out the materials she had and restocked ‘I have very many customers and my mentor advised me to bring lesos and sell to them so as to get additional income since they sell very quickly’’. ”The stock you see I brought in last week and now only few pieces are remaining.”
Difficulties to make ends meet
Before becoming a beneficiary of the IGA Start-up KIT, Celestine’s life looked very different. She is the lastborn in a family of 5. After completing her tailoring course at Gahaleni polytechnic, she stayed for 2 years at home since she did not have funds to start her own tailoring enterprise. She sought
for a casual job at a nearby shop which brought in very little income. She did this so that she could make ends meet and save up some money. Things changed when Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu (WWW) came in and gifted her with a sewing and over lock machine, and fabrics to start boost her business. “I am very grateful to the WWW project because when we started I never imagined I would get here , it has always been my plan to call the project team so that we can celebrate my milestones together.”
As last born daughter supporting the family
Celestine has managed to construct her parents a brick house out of the savings she got from her business. ‘I have invested like Ksh 20,000 to buy sand, cement and metal for the house. My father does the construction.’ Her parents are farmers and the father who spoke to us says, ‘’am very grateful for what my daughter has done. I don’t have a job and same for my wife. Our last born daughter really supports us as a family’’
Mentorship and future goals
Every business has its own challenges and Celestine’s is no exception ‘At times customers are very impatient, so when their clothes are not done on the agreed timelines, it brings chaos. An example was over the Christmas holiday when there was a lot of business. In order to solve this I ask my customers to bring in their orders early so that I can sew them in good time before the Christmas rush.’’
‘’My role model is my sister who teaches me how to sew men’s clothes, and after I have learnt I will get my own place. She has also started to mentor other girls in her home area. ”I have a girl who asked me to teach her how to sew. This was after I stitched a dress for her and she was impressed.'”
Celestine also sews masks and sells to students of the nearby primary schools at either Kshs30, 40 or 50.To those that can’t afford she gives them freely. ‘’Because I was helped, I help too….’’
Celestine’s plans for the future is to go to Malindi, buy another sewing machine and employ somebody to work there. She is already saving up for that course.
She advises other young girls to emulate her and join TVETs to get expertise…
In 2020, our Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu project supported 16 TVET beneficiaries with Income Generating Activity (IGA) start-up kits. This was in a bid to kick start individual businesses that would generate income. The kits included fabrics, sewing & overlock machines for tailors and blow dry, dryers and other essentials for hair dressers. To assess their progress, we visited four beneficiaries with established tailoring businesses.