Memories take me back to some very good friends in primary school who I wish to talk about. While I was in primary class 8, my best friend was Claris Wanjiru*. She was a determined girl coming from a family where the father was irresponsible leaving all responsibilities to the mother. When we did the primary school exams she passed well enough to get admission to a secondary school, but that was not to be. She never stepped into a secondary school. 20 years later, I have no idea where she is but recently I met her mother. She informed me that Claris is living in very poor conditions, having married twice and separated barely able to make ends meet. I asked for her telephone number so I could seek her out, she had none.
My friend Benadine Wambui was among the older girls in class having repeated classes. I liked that she was mature and humble. However, she had low esteem issues, having to school with much younger girls. It did not help that teachers made fun of her & humiliated her. One day she simply did not come to class, and that was her last day in school. She dropped out and got married immediately. She must have been about 15 or 16 yrs.
These are just among the many girls I saw drop out of primary school during my 8 years of schooling. I was lucky to have been brought up in a family that greatly value education. Despite being a humble family, we all got education up to college level and it did not matter if you were a girl or a boy. However this is not the case for many girls in the community. One of my neighbours for example openly ‘informed’ my dad that he was wasting money on girls who would “eventually get married and move away”. The girls in his family barely got educated most of them not even getting halfway through primary school. They got married before 15 years of age or got children. Despite having a significant level of poverty, the main challenge is not poverty but rather attitude. Where families do not believe in educating girls, they drop out and eventually it becomes a cycle.
When a girl grows up in a family where barely anyone accessed education, they lack mentors and never feel inspired to pursue education. The last born of my neighbour’s family for example was supported to go up to secondary school. I can assume that by then the family had seen the value of education. However, she performed very poorly and was often involved in negative peer behaviors like alcoholism. In contrast I got up to university level education, and by the time I was at university I could count on one finger the number of girls, who were my class mates who had college degrees. I have been very passionate about making a difference. I would look back to my former primary school and realize that hardly any girls were getting into secondary school.
My dream was to inspire the pupils, girls and boys to realize they can make it. I had weird recurrent dreams where I would find myself stuck and unable to climb stairs in my former primary school. Eventually I decided to give it a try accompanied by my sister I went to the school, and met the head teacher, and that was the beginning of the ‘Dare to Dream mentors’ program. I engaged a few friends and we started going back to the school every 1-2 months to inspire the pupils. The pupils found it unbelievable when I told them that I schooled in the same school and managed to go a national school (the highest category). We discuss different aspects of life skills and academics.
This has greatly inspired the pupils and three years later, we have realized a great improvement in their performance. Eventually this led to another aspect which I had tried to avoid, school fees. We were faced with one challenge last year when one pupil had passed very well but could not access education. We started some support and this year I mobilized a few professionals to form a welfare group to pay fees for a few needy students. We now have 2 girls and one boy who would not have had hopes of getting secondary school education. I am very excited about this initiative and I know that the efforts may seem small but will impact one a few girls, who will impact families, who will impact community, Kenya and the whole world! It’s my mission and I give monetary, time and other resources for this. I just realized the other day that the scary dreams stopped!Girls Transform the World 2013