Our kids are a special bunch ranging in age from 7 - 22 (these kids often get a late academic start). Though our children vary in academic ability, family support, and of course, personality, they unfortunately share is the burden of living under extreme poverty.
Though technically free, the Kenyan school system is full of supplemental costs, (exam fees, uniforms, textbooks, teacher bribes), that make it almost impossible for these children to attend school without outside help. Additional challenges include: poorly educated teachers, for-profit schools, a rigid system that punishes students for asking questions and the continued use of caning as a way to discipline. Though our kids want to learn they are challenged to succeed under these conditions.
Our children know that education offers them the opportunity to change their lives and they are eager to attend. Their days are long, but they don't complain. They attended school for 8 months out of the year, work with tutors in the evenings and during school breaks, and are always available to help other students.
Featured Student: Maureen
Maureen, 17, just began her second year of high school. Because she scored high on the high school entrance exam, Maureen is enrolled at a high quality secondary school. On top of her high marks, Maureen is known for her positive attitude and big smile.
Maureen's story, in her own words:
"Before i entered Kawangware Kids my life was very difficult. I was raised in a family of four (three sisters and one brother) with a single parent who was my mother. At that time my dad had abandoned us. My mother had no one to support her, all our relatives isolated us. We had no shelter, no food and we were sleeping in the streets. Although i was old enough to go to school i was not going because there was no school fees so i was roaming around the streets looking for those people with cars and begging them money. That’s how we got food through begging people money. I really thank my elder brother Brian who was working as a manual laborer to help us sustain our life, my mother was trying so hard so that she can get money. She did casual work doing laundry. The employer used to treat her badly and paid her Ksh 150 [USD $1.50].
Life started to change because we were able to learn. Still, we had no home. My mother asked for a place in her friend's house. Now we live in our own home. Life changed completely when we met Cheryl and other members. Now I am in school and working hard and promise to continue with the same spirit."