You Don’t Have to be Rich to go to Secondary School in Kenya: Hard work, Community Support, and Academic Mentorship Provide New Opportunities for Girls in Viwandani and Korogocho

February 9, 2016

Nairobi, Kenya, February 5, 2016 – On 4-5 February, the African Population and Health Research Center helped 139 girls in Nairobi slums open the door to a better future. These young women, from Viwandani and Korogocho, have earned a modest stipend to help them enter secondary school and Form One thanks to their hard work in achieving more than 250 marks on their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams.

“I am overjoyed to see the smiles on the faces of these young girls today,” said Dr Benta Abuya, a research scientist who led the Improving Learning Outcomes and Transition to Secondary School project for APHRC for the past three years, at a ceremony in Viwandani on 4 February. A second event will be held today, 5 February, in Korogocho at the Chiefs Camp in partnership with Miss Koch Kenya.

“These smiles are the result of hard work and demonstrates that secondary school is not just for the elite,” added Dr. Abuya. “We provided support to these girls and their families; the rest was up to them and their success is well-earned.”

More than 1,000 young women from these compromised environments participated in the three-year study that aimed to demonstrate that after-school support, mentoring and engagement with families could result in positive learning outcomes including improved marks in English and mathematics.

The urban slum environment is fraught with challenges and pitfalls, and no one is as vulnerable to these challenges as girls and adolescents. From temptations of drugs and alcohol to a burden of household chores and fear of sexual violence, girls are confronted daily with opportunities and responsibilities that make schooling and homework a lesser priority. By providing girls with coaching, academic support and mentoring, APHRC’s intervention demonstrated that a hand up can be more rewarding than a handout.

“The exciting thing about this research is that it showed that despite the multiple challenges of living in a slum environment, dreams can still flourish and access to education can still be a reality,” said Dr Abuya. “It also showed that families want to provide as much support as they can to their daughters – they just need to have the tools to do so.”

“This project is a golden opportunity for our people and I am so proud of the girls who have made it here today,” said Jack Mbiso, sub-county commissioner for Makadara, during the Viwandani celebration. “I challenge all of you to make use of this opportunity to get a better education. I hope you will come out of secondary schools better people, get a better life for yourself, and uplift the living standards of your families and neighbors in this community.”

Mentoring and coaching for the 1,000 girls enrolled in the study was provided by two community-based partners: U-Tena in Viwandani and Miss Koch in Korogocho. These two groups were instrumental in supporting the girls and their families, helping to form lasting relationships that the girls will rely on as they enter the next chapter of their academic lives.

A second phase of the intervention study is planned to begin in April 2016, and due to the success of the past program, will be extended to enroll boys aged 12 years in the same communities. It is hoped that the enhancements included in the intervention, including mentoring in life skills and support for families with counseling discussions, will be more widely adopted to give even more young people from Nairobi’s slums the chance of further education.

“With support and encouragement from their families and communities, these girls have opened themselves to new opportunities,” said Dr. Abuya. “We owe it to all girls, and boys, to help them find such opportunities for themselves and hope that the development of public school curriculums in Kenya will incorporate some of the lessons learned from our approach.”

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APHRC has developed a series of still images and audio testimonies for media houses interested in pursuing this story. For more information, please contact Daniel Adero, dadero@aphrc.org or +254 720778155.

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