Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A slum in Nairobi, Kenya offers free schooling

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.
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?” Kennedy confided.  In 2004, Kennedy Odede started a grassroots movement that later became Shining Hope for Communities, a community-run organization in Kibera.

A teacher at the Kibera school for girls teaching students in Nairobi, Kenya, March 19, 2013 (J. Craig/VOA)
Jessica Odede, Shining Hope for Communities co-founder and chief operating officer, decided  with Kennedy that the school would need to provide value for everyone, regardless of whether they had a daughter enrolled or not.

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.

In my humble opinion, America should follow the model for the Kibera School for Girls here in the states and educate the children in low-income high risk communities to reduce crime and violence in those areas. Tuition can be paid by a family member working at the school for 5 or 6 weeks out of the academic year. This a marvelous plan to achieve success not only at the community level but at the national level as well. The unfortunate thing is that America is too concerned about corporate greed, closing schools in low-income areas and the dumbing down of kids and teenagers of all social and economic levels. There is the glorification of violence, non-marital sex, guns, mafia, drugs and gang life bombarding kids and teenagers every second in all media playing non-stop and not just on the TV.

Sources: Associated Press, Voice of America 

Other related stories: Kenyan President-elect promises to improve people's lives

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