I am excited to share this update with you on our recent health and leadership camp for 150 sixth graders during our spring school recess. Now in its 6th year, the program has not only earned a solid reputation as an effective youth training among neighboring school leaders, but is highly sought after by the teens themselves. Nothing says success more than a teen clamoring to join an education activity!
Our “student” counselors arrived ahead of camp for a day of training to prepare for their important role on the front lines of our camps: helping campers navigate our campus, facilitating reflection time and spearheading games and events during downtime. Most of our counselors are current high school students who have graduated from our boarding school. Our counselors have personal experience in learning about health and leadership through our boarding school and participating in our camps. They take these young campers under their wings and create a supportive bond.
As usual, our camp sessions covered tough issues ranging from harassment and gender based violence to legal rights on child marriage and FGM. We know that girls armed with accurate information about their bodies and sexual health will be better prepared to make safe and informed decisions in the future. We ensure that our health education program presents information in a direct and straightforward way. Our campers benefit from small group and individual counseling sessions that provide them with a safe space to voice their feelings, questions and concerns. This open communication allows girls to seek help for some of the serious problems they are facing and helps us to gauge the greatest needs of adolescent girls in the community.
Of course, our Health and Leadership camp also included down time where girls had the opportunity to let loose and have fun with their peers. Soccer, races, games, storytelling and art projects were just some of the highlights.These camps are one of the most exciting, effective, and fun elements of our program that also delivers vital information at a time when adolescent girls are most likely to be married off or forced to undergo FGM.
Thank you for partnering with us on our Health and Leadership camps which enable us to spread messages of hope and share vital information at a critical time.
|Kakenya Ntaiya, PhD|
|Founder & President, Kakenya Center for Excellence|
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. Both our partnership with KEEP (the Katonah Education Exchange Program), which supports tuition for our sixth grade class, and a generous network of donors ensure that we are able to offer our girls opportunities for exploration outside the classroom as an integral component of our girls’ education.
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!
After lunch, 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 taken by breathtaking views of Lake Victoria and the nature trails that allow you to really 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 grateful for our partnership with KEEP, and the many donors, that help to make these hands on experiences possible for our girls.
|Kakenya Ntaiya, PhD|
|Founder & President, Kakenya Center for Excellence|
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!
Kakenya Ntaiya, PhD
Founder & President, Kakenya Center for Excellence
Since 2014, KCE has partnered with the Columbia Business School’s Pangea Project to develop measurement and evaluation tools for our boarding school program. I am pleased to share Robert Terrin’s blog from his visit to Enoosaen, Kenya. Robert was part of the third student team from Columbia University who worked on a monitoring and evaluation strategy to capture and analyze the impact of our boardingschool on vulnerable girls in Kenya. The Pangea team tested a written survey with girls at our boarding school and girls at a nearby publicschool to assess attitudes about girls, their potential and their dreams. I am happy to report that the preliminary results show we are making a difference in the lives of girls in our community. Please read Robert’s blog and share with your network.
Written by: Robert Terrin
When our team signed up for a project with the Kakenya Center for Excellence through the Pangea club at Columbia Business School, we were excited about this great project. We were tasked with measuring the effect the boarding school had on their students’ confidence, leadership and health awareness. Our team, even with many years of experience in problem solving and analysis, would face a difficult challenge: how to evaluate and quantify the impact that is easier to feel than measure.
Before graduate school, I worked with the White House Office of Social Innovation and the investors who created the Global Impact Investing Rating System, but I faced a new challenge in measuring, first hand, the impact at the community level. Aanchal Saxena’s detail-oriented mindset and engineering background, as well as familiarity with previous Pangea projects, helped prepare our systematic approach. Matthew Brownschidle’s quantitative background and strong analytical skills would prove invaluable in crunching the data. Finally, Mariana Perido, our fearless leader, applied her consulting background to orchestrate all of the communications and logistics. Together we were confident we could produce a valuable evaluation process and meaningful impact measurements.
Planning for success
During our visit to Enoosaen, we knew we only had three days to meet with community leaders, school administrators, teachers and most importantly, students. We were welcomed by Madam Gladys who manages the school. Moses Dapash, KCE’s talented program manager in Enoosaen, the local chief and the principal of the large public schoolnext door to KCE were important to our success.
We immediately determined that we needed to simplify our survey and evaluation strategy to focus on establishing an easy to use tool that would be feasible for the team on the ground on a widespread and regular basis. Before we arrived, we thought that a more complicated survey and lengthy one-on-one interviews were the right way to go.
To test our strategy, we visited a nearby public school to test our simpler survey. The children were excited and eager to help, which helped us gain key insights about Maasai culture and the thoughts and attitudes of 8 to 12-year-old girls. Based on what we learned, we simplified the questions that did not seem clear enough and asked more direct questions to assess the girls’ attitudes and confidence.
As we prepared for the survey with girls at KCE, we planned the way we would arrange the classrooms and introduce the survey to students; we focused on delivering clear instructions and ensuring impartial results.
Starting with grade eight, we selected 20 students at a time to complete the brief survey. Luckily, the students had just started their school year a few weeks before we arrived in January, which meant that grade four girls’ attitudes, confidence and knowledge would provide good data that would track the change and impact as they are exposed to more and more learning, mentoring and leadership training through KCE.
My favorite part of administering the survey was demonstrating that it was not an exam by introducing ourselves and getting to know a bit about the girls. We talked about favorite animals (cows were the overwhelming winners!), what we liked to eat and even had jumping contests. As we worked with the younger grades, the effect KCE has had on the girls became increasingly evident, but we did our best to remain objective and wait to see what the data revealed.
After a long day of data collection, we were ready for a break and some fun! Mariana and Aanchal were a big hit with the girls who had all sorts of questions about life outside of Kenya and especially liked their hair which was different than theirs. Matt and I played jump rope but couldn’t compete with the nimble-footed girls who sang and jumped much better than we did. We ended the day with a game of volleyball. It was great to see that the Kakenya Center for Excellence not only enriches their students academically and emotionally, but physically as well.
We were sad to leave after such a short visit and just as we were getting to know the girls. Once we left, the data analysis phase began.
As we left Enoosaen, we knew we had a lot of work ahead to analyze the data. Matt, our Excel whiz, built a spreadsheet that automatically processed the data. What we found was astounding. We would like to leave you with these impressive findings:
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 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.
|Kakenya Ntaiya, PhD|
|Founder & President, Kakenya Center for Excellence|
What a wonderful year we have had here at the Kakenya Center for Excellence in Enoosaen, Kenya!
Generous support for vulnerable girls in our boarding school and education programs has forever changed the lives of our girls, their families and our community. I hope you will consider a gift today that will sustain the quality education, comprehensive support and girls empowerment strategies that transform their lives.
Your gift will change hearts and minds about harmful cultural practices, such as female genital mutilation and child marriage, and help Maasai girls envision and create new futures.
I am thrilled to announce that your gift will be matched by our Board of Directors between now and December 31st. Your gift will have twice the impact on the lives of our girls!
We will stretch your gift to provide all the needs of the nearly 200 girls enrolled in our boarding school, provide transformative health and leadership training to over 3,000 girls and boys in the Transmara district in Kenya and support our 95 graduates as they continue to excel in high school.
Your gift makes a difference! Each $60 gift buys a textbook for one girl. Every $360 gift sponsors annual tuition for a student at our boarding school. Your $793 gift pays a teacher’s salary for 3 months.Each $1,000 gift supports all boarding school costs for 1 girl for a year (uniforms, fresh meals, books, toiletries).
During this holiday season I would like to share with you two stories of girls that are soaring thanks to financial support from our donors.
THE STORIES THAT INSPIRE ME:
The story of Linet Moposhi’s inspiring meeting and conversation with President Barack Obama during his visit to Kenya shows the power of girls education. Her story and that conversation, which was covered inThe Washington Post and Kenya’s The Standard newspaper, touched many around the world. Linet, who is 16 years old and in the 10th grade, graduated from our primary boarding school and transitioned to our Network for Excellence program. She has become a role model for what can happen when girls are given an opportunity to dream. We received countless calls from all parts of Kenya from fathers who would like to bring their girls to our school. In Enoosaen, several elders shared their pride about their daughter speaking so well with the U.S President. Each one of them told me they can now see their daughters in higher places in Kenya and beyond.
CYNTHIA’ S STORY
Cynthia Lasoi, another student in our Network for Excellence, was always so shy and preferred being off by herself reading a book. This year in June, she had her moment with the Kenyan First Lady, Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta. Cynthia, who is 14 years old and in 9th grade scored the highest mark in our county last year on her national exam. As a result, she was invited along with 94 other students to Pupils Reward Scheme (PURES). This mentorship, motivation and reward program was established by Kenya’s First Lady, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, to encourage the brightest boys and girls in the district. Cynthia was one of the 51 boys and girls invited to spend a week at the State House in Nairobi. According to Cynthia this was an amazing opportunity for her. She got a chance to meet with the Kenyan First Lady, tour the State House and meet with other students from different parts of Kenya. She learned that working hard pays off and as she herself said “the opportunity made me work even harder to go further. I learnt from the first lady that people should not think just about themselves but mind about others as well.”
As you reflect on the good things that have happened this year, I hope you will stand with us to transform lives.
|Best wishes this holiday season,|
|Kakenya Ntaiya, PhD|
|Founder & President, Kakenya Center for Excellence|
P.S. Every donation makes a difference! Donate now and make twice the impact on our girls’ lives.
Last week, I joined together with parents, grandparents, siblings, community members and the entire KCE family to pray for and encourage our 40 eighth grade girls one last time before they sit for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Examinations, which will determine their high school. This important milestone means that our girls have completed their primary level education at KCE and have all avoided female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage.
As we prayed together, I saw a group of girls that was very different than they were when they enrolled in the Kakenya Center for Excellence in 2011. Now our girls are full of hope, determination and confidence that they will tackle the exams with all the knowledge they have gained at KCE. I am thankful to our dedicated staff, teachers, parents, mentors and facilitators who took time to walk with the girls through this journey — and to every donor large and small who believed in the work we do.
With your support, KCE continually provides a safe space for girls in our community to learn and grow. Over the last five years, we have employed every technique possible to prepare these students to excel on this exam. So much has happened since they arrived on our campus! Some did not know how to write their names, others were very timid; many did not have any hope that they could reach their dreams. Today their stories are very different.
Kenya Certificate of Primary Examinations are key to determining which high school the girls will attend. In Kenya, as in many parts of the world, this exam defines the future of a student. I wish it was different, but for now I ask all of you to remember our girls over the next three days as they chart their future!
To our girls, we send the very best wishes and love!
|Kakenya Ntaiya, PhD|
|Founder & President, Kakenya Center for Excellence|
On October 11, 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!
Communications Associate, Kakenya Center for Excellence
On September 22, 2015, a ceremony was held to open new classrooms at the Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE), a project funded in collaboration with the Social Initiative.
A day earlier, the government had ordered the closure of all public and private schools in Kenya following the teachers’ strike that began on September 1, 2015. This was the eighth teachers’ strike in 7 years between 2009 – 2015.
Effectively, over 10 million primary and over 2 million secondary school students respectively missed a month of school time. Among them are; 937,467 primary and 525,802 secondary school students who will be sitting for their final, national exams scheduled to start in mid-October to mid-November 2015. They will have to make up for lost time once their striking teachers are ordered back to work.
Sadly, the shortage of teachers nationally is now at 100,000. According to a World Bank report, only 55 per cent of 100 teachers available in public primary schools are in class teaching even though they report to work. This worsens the impact on students who will need to recover lost learning and study time.
At KCE, we recognize the fact that education not only changes the quality of life, but also alters the destiny of a country. We have successfully kept 237 students in school (183 in Primary and 54 in high school) and reached out to over 2,500 others in 35 primary schools with inspiring sessions on Health, Leadership and basic rights.
Despite the efforts of the government and Civil Society, primary school enrolment, especially of girls, remains low in regions of Kenya where the majority of the people are nomadic pastoralists. Cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriages are some of the factors that affect school attendance for girls.
Join us this fall as we finalize the development of an ambitious expansion plan that will see KCE sustainably increase access to schooling and learning opportunities for an additional 560 students over 3 years (2016 – 2018).
The expansion model will seek to enhance the connection between schools and communities, provide real-world learning experiences such as service learning and make school more relevant and engaging.
I hope you all had a wonderful summer.
I’m pleased to announce that our second classroom building has been completed! Thanks to the support of Social Initiative, our three new classrooms and library will enable our students to have the dedicated space needed to study and excel in an environment conducive to learning.
As more and more families begin to witness the success of their daughters at KCE, the demand for our services grows. In 2014, with the needs of our community in mind, we purchased land and began visioning a concept for a new K-12 private school.
This summer we were fortunate to have some of our design team visit KCE and the new site. The architects are committed to involving our students, staff and community in the design of our second school.
I hope you enjoy architect David Dewane’s first impressions and insights of KCE in his blog below and I look forward to sharing with you more information about this new and exciting endeavor as we move ahead.
LESSONS FROM ENOOSAEN
By David Dewane
In August of this year, I found myself standing next to Kakenya in the portico of the newly constructed KCE classroom building. From our viewpoint, the whole campus was alive with activity. The workmen were putting the final touches on the building and dismantling the scaffolding. A group of teachers sat on a bench with some students, taking tea and chatting in the shade of a young acacia tree. Across the rest of the yard, numerous groups of girls had formed for a variety of purposes, some to play, others fetch water, wash dishes, or just relax. There was also a universal display of the most prominent attribute the girls express: a strong and abiding affection for one another.
“I’m glad you are here,” Kakenya said. “It is important that you get acclimated.”
As a member of the team focussed on design of the new campus, I was in Enoosaen to listen and learn, document the existing campus, and visit the new site. The first observation was the girls themselves. They are simply incredible. From the first they are warm and welcoming, curious and thoughtful, humorous and engaging. As a group they seem to glow, and as individuals they are humble and friendly, each possessing an agile intellect. These girls face enormous challenges and bear them with grace. A genuine appreciation for their teachers is clear, and their love for one another is that of a second family.
This is critically important information. When thinking about the new campus, it is important to step back and ask what role should the building play? What scenes could it create? What does it trigger? How can it advance KCE’s existing strengths? As a foreigner, there is an unavoidable dilemma that always accompanies working abroad: should the project be a western import (like an iPhone or a Mercedes), or should it strive to be as locally rooted as possible? If our starting point for this project is a scheme that continually reinforces a sense of community, than it seems we are fortunate enough to be rooted in a universal value.