By mentoring younger people, we understand their generation and become better leaders
The KCE mentorship program started in 2013 with just 25 girls each connected to a university/college female student and has now grown to connect at least 100 girls from Kakenya’s Centre for Excellence based in Enoosaen to university/college students throughout institutions in Kenya. Modelled almost like the Global Give Back Circle mentorship program, the KCE program incorporates a series of workshops held with the girls thrice every year in April, August and December. All through the year, we strive to keep mentors engaged in the program by sharing regular updates of events or opportunities at the centre. To develop or update training content that best suit the needs of the girls at the centre, the KCE mentorship program closely follows new developments in the education sector in Kenya.
Sometime in April while watching one of my favourite early morning TV shows ‘AM Live’ a high school teacher called into the show to comment about the role of women in our societies. In his call, he referenced a certain literature set book that he teaches his high school students which drew my attention. Naturally, it would not cross my mind to know which literature books students are currently studying in our schools as I completed my high school education over 7 years ago. But with a KCE mentee who is currently in high school, it has become important for me to know some of the books they are examined on. Where possible I want to read a few of these books as an effort to understand what my mentee needs to prepare for. I am also able to understand the kind of academic guidance she may need. These are some of the cool things that mentorship makes us do! We get to read books that we may otherwise never bother to read – we want to be able connect with the young girls who look up us by reading the books they must read.
The joy of meeting mentees has been transforming to mentors. At times, we fail to connect with the needs of the girls we mentor until when we do actually meet them in person. This explains why every school break, the KCE mentorship program offers an opportunity to at least 3 mentors to visit the centre in Enoosaen and take the girls through life skills workshops.
In April 2016, we had 5 mentors visiting the centre and they were excited to meet the girls. Below are some of the experiences two mentors shared:
“Meeting Angeline for the second time was amazing. I realised then that I need to make more effort to meet her more often and to write more often as she has a lot of questions regarding careers, subjects and passing exams. It is definitely humbling for me to have a young girl look up to me for guidance. As much she learns from me, I learn from her on the challenges and opportunities facing today’s teenager. I do feel like I am doing my little thing.”
~ Sarah Muthoni, KCE mentor 2013 class
“Having visited the centre, I am not the same person I was. I was enlightened by the experience I had during my workshop days at the centre and my heart will always be held forever by Kakenya’s girls.
~ Mary Onyango, KCE Mentor 2016 class
Recently, I received a letter from my mentee. She imagined that she was in 2018 and had completed her high school studies, excelled and was waiting to enroll for aviation studies. Ever since I got connected to Sakileney, she has always told me that she would like to become a pilot. Having pursued Meteorology for my undergraduate studies, it was easy for me to exchange with an aspiring pilot because I happen to have studied aeronautical Meteorology as part of my course work and in my third year of University interned at an airport in Nairobi. But I have always felt that this is not adequate mentorship for her. Fortunately, one of my friends is currently pursuing piloting and reading Sakileney’s letter had me thinking of ways to engage her with a pilot during her long school break. Besides mentorship, interacting with the people in a career we aspire to pursue helps us to understand what we truly desire to pursue and cling onto these dreams.
By Wilkista Akinyi, Program Coordinator – The KCE Mentorship Program
EDUCATE ME, DONT CUT ME
Birth of a baby must be a blessed event
But hers was short of a curse
Daddy’s face didn’t shine, drums didn’t make noise
No shots were fired, no ceremony was held.
The newborn was me, I am a girl
In my culture, gender counts most
A girl is not welcomed, a boy jubilation
Rising cattle in the rangeland, family’s highest priority
They believe a girl has no hands for that.
Combating harm against the enemies, is family’s highest priority
They believe a girl has no hands for that
Reconciliation is the aftermath of clashes, family’s highest priority
They believe a girl has no head for that
At 5 I had to face the worst, it is always a dark age
A woman had to cut across my genitals
A midwife circumcised me, stitched me, infibulated me
Where I used to have a clit, I have a black scar now
Why inflict me with this pain, this real pain of primitive culture
The pain is so vivid to this day, two decades after it was done
Through education I saw light. I am enlightened and freshened
And my granddaughters, daughters have and won’t go through the cut
Mum and Dad, am I not a daughter?
Dear brother, am I not a sister?
Dear mankind, am I not a human being?
EDUCATE ME, DON’T CUT ME
A poem selected for the 2015 Day of the Girl Summit
By: Diana, Sylvia, Memusi, Evelyne , Felistus, Naomi & Joyline
Class 4,5,6,7 pupils, Kakenya Center for Excellence
And just like many of you, my mother was not standing there alone. By her side stood a cadre of family and friends who helped make my dream a reality. Many women in the village had joined forces to cajole, persuade and convince the elders to raise the necessary money for my journey. In a very real sense, I was departing not simply as Anna’s daughter, but a daughter of the village, with their hopes and dreams wrapped in mine.
In 2006, I returned to Enoosaen and met with my mother and a group of village women to seek their guidance on how I could best give back to the community that had supported me. “A girls boarding school” was the resounding response, and KCE was born.
KCE opened its doors in 2009 to the first class of 30 girls. Today it remains the only girls’ boarding school in the region now serving 183 girls in grades 4-8 and 55 graduates in high schools throughout the country. From the onset, my mother has ensured the success of this institution. She has rolled up her sleeves in the gardens, she has taken orphan students into her home over holiday breaks, she has raised funds for campus buildings and activities, and she has worked tirelessly on the issues of female genital mutilation and early marriage in the community.
Most importantly, my mother’s presence at KCE has been the driving force behind the tremendous parent involvement on our campus. Parent participation at KCE is unique, and I am proud to share a few highlights with you:
As Mother’s Day draws near, I am reminded that mothers and grandmothers are often the keepers of rituals and traditions. They are the weavers that hold the fabric of our community together. The women in Enoosaen today have a critical role in changing the paradigm of girls’ education in our country. With determination and grace many women are now partnering with KCE to break the harmful traditions of female genital mutilation (FGM) and early forced marriage which keep girls out of school, while reinforcing the positive Maasai culture and heritage.
Founder & President
Kakenya Center for Excellence
Strengthening Foundations & Cultivating Community
The Kakenya Center for Excellence campus is located in Enoosaen, a Maasai village of about 10,000 people located 250 miles west of Nairobi. In 2009, on land donated by community elders, we built our two-story classroom that became the anchor for our first class of 32 students.
Today, with 183 girls enrolled at KCE, our campus has become a foundation in the community. We are not only changing the lives of the 183 girls that live on our campus, but are changing the social norms around educating girls in Enoosaen; and challenging our community members to reconsider harmful traditional practices such as FGM and early marriage that endanger the lives of their daughters.
Living on campus is a tremendous benefit to our girls, which I cannot begin to emphasize enough.
Our campus provides a safe space for girls to live and study. Living on campus gives the girls more hours to focus on schoolwork, greater access to teachers, and enables them to form lasting friendships with classmates. Perhaps most importantly, our girls have an overwhelming sense of pride about our school campus.
As our student enrollment and community involvement grows, we continue to dedicate energy and resources to our campus infrastructure. This month the dorm walls were freshly painted inside and out, new mattresses were purchased, a local carpenter built additional classroom chairs and tables, our teachers moved into new housing, and we broke ground on another academic building.
I’m proud to have new accommodations for teachers that provide every teacher with a private space on campus near our students.
On February 18th community leaders, parents, teachers and students held a groundbreaking ceremony on campus for the new classroom building which will house 3 classrooms and a library. We are excited about the new library, which will provide a dedicated space for our books and e-readers, and a quiet space for teachers and students.
The day also marked the official welcoming of the 2015 Grade Four students to KCE and the annual distribution of textbooks, supplies and uniforms. All our fourth and sixth grade girls received a complete set of school uniforms and athletic gear and more than 500 new textbooks were distributed to students! Our book and uniform distribution is unique and significant in Enoosaen, as many of our neighboring schools share only a handful of books amongst an entire class and the cost of uniforms and school fees often prohibit families from sending girls to school.
While the structural foundations of our building continue to grow and strengthen, we continue to nurture the personal foundation of all our girls at KCE as well. Leadership building, health education and preservation of culture are integrated into our curriculum at all levels.
Lastly, I was extremely honored this month to share our story with readers across the US in a cover story on child marriage in the winter issue of Ms. magazine. In addition, my interview with Eleanor Hall on The World Today brought our story to many listeners in Australia. I am so grateful to have these opportunities to raise awareness around the world on the issues many Maasai girls face in receiving an education in Kenya.
Founder & President
Kakenya Center for Excellence
Kakenya was honored to be interviewed for the article “Too Young to Marry” written by Gayle Lemmon in the Winter 2015 issue of Ms. magazine. Here is an excerpt to the article on the Ms. blog.
We Did It!
Well, actually, YOU did it! Thanks to all of your generous support and belief in our mission, we surpassed our goal of raising $100,000 last month in our matching campaign. We cannot say it enough: THANK YOU. From the bottom of our hearts, we are so grateful that you are making it possible for us to continue our work changing the life trajectory for young girls in Enoosaen.
At the beginning of the month, we welcomed 37 new 4th graders to our boarding school. We now have the largest student body that Kakenya Center for Excellence has ever seen, with 183 girls in grades 4-8. The steady growth we have seen since our doors opened in 2009 has filled our community with pride about its girls and the education they can receive at KCE.Thanks to your contributions, we can begin the year with confidence that we will be able to provide them with the support they need, from new uniforms and textbooks to healthy meals and classroom supplies.
In 2014, 29 girls completed their 8th grade year at our boarding school. We now have 55 graduates in high schools throughout the country. These graduates make up our Network for Excellence and are showing our community what girls can achieve when given the educational opportunities to thrive and succeed. These young women have refused FGM, refused to marry young, and refused to give up on their dreams for the future.
We are so excited about all that 2015 has in store for KCE’s girls, both at our boarding school and in our Network for Excellence. None of it would be possible without friends like you, who are enabling us to continue to provide bright futures to the girls of Kenya.
May your year be filled with joy!
Founder & President
Kakenya Center for Excellence
What It Means To Be A Girl In My Village…
Look at me, I say look at me,
You may think I went to school,
But I didn’t, the reason is because I am a girl.
This days both boys and girls are the big people in the society,
All because of education is a dream,
I only know how to write my name.
Sometimes I even write it wrongly,
Parents take your children to school,
For one day they will help you remember education is the key to life.
By: Koipano Kimeker & Felistus Gilai
4th graders, Kakenya Center for Excellence
Poem showcased at Girls Speak Out, United Nations
Day of the Girl, October 2014