A Grandmother’s Guidance

 

When 62-year-old Olgirima received the news that her granddaughter, Neema, had passed the enrollment interview and would be admitted into the fourth grade class at KCE in 2017, she says she was over the moon.

“I did not go to school, but having lived this long, I have come to know that education is important because you gain knowledge that can make life better,” she says.

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Like many Maasai women, Olgirima underwent FGM when she was 14 years old in preparation to be married to a man older than her father. “I was his fourth wife, and we had six children together, four girls and two boys,” she explains. Her daughters followed the same path as Olgirima, undergoing FGM and child marriage. Tragically, two of her daughters died from complications in childbirth. “Among them was my first-born child, Neema’s mother.” Olgirima is now the sole guardian of Neema and her 12-year-old brother. “After the death of their mother, their father left to start a new family, so I stepped in as their guardian,” she explains.

Thanks to Kakenya’s Dream, Olgirima says, her perspective has shifted. Now, she does everything she can to ensure that her grandchildren receive a great education and have a chance at a better life. “I have 6 grandchildren, and all of them attend school. None of my granddaughters will undergo FGM or be married off. They must all have an education and a better life than I did,” she says.

Olgirima has stood by her promise. 11-year-old Neema is in the fifth grade now, and Olgirima says she has seen significant growth and change in her granddaughter since she began attending KCE. “Neema didn’t use to express her emotions very much. Now, she is a much happier, more social girl. Neema has learned to play volleyball and football, and she enjoys it so much! She loves her boarding school.”

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Olgirima explains that Neema didn’t like the local day school she used to attend. It was far away, and because it was a day school rather than a boarding school, she had to walk 4 kilometers there and back every day. The school was also limited in supplies and resources, so Neema either had to share a desk with three other students or sit on the ground. Olgirima is elated to see how much happier Neema is at KCE.

When Neema is home during the holidays and breaks from school, she enjoys helping her grandmother with her English. “Since she knows I didn’t go to school, she likes for me to read out loud in English using the charts we have on the walls in the house for my other younger grandchildren. We laugh whenever I don’t pronounce something correctly, and Neema makes me repeat it until I get it right. She says she wants me to learn too, so she always shares with me everything she learns and experiences at school. There’s always something new!” Olgirima exclaims.

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Olgirima already has big dreams for Neema. “I want her to complete her education up to the university level and become successful in whatever career she desires. Right now, she says she wants to be a lawyer. I don’t know what that means, but I hear it is a very good career! Once she has achieved this, she then can decide to marry a man she loves and start a family of her own.”

As a guardian who values education and supports her grandchildren, Olgirima is helping us transform the community's view of girls' education, and she is helping to raise an incredible young woman. These are the transformations we strive for at Kakenya’s Dream. Olgirima says she is grateful that Kakenya’s Dream works with parents and other community members like her to show them the importance of ensuring all children, girls in particular, receive an education. “No child should have to face the same struggles as their parents or grandparents. All children, whether boy or girl, should be educated and receive a chance at a brighter future.”

 
Zoe Colgin