With just the Form 4s left on campus this week, campus life was split between studying, reviews, and gearing up for Bay to Breakers!
Form 4s Mercy & Pauline
Although Forms 1-3 left campus 2 weeks ago, the Form 4s stayed on campus for more examinations and tuition. “We stay on campus longer than the other forms for tuition. That is a time when we prepare for the K.C.S.E. (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education),” Mercy, Form 4 said. “We also had more examinations to take. Chemistry was the most difficult for me, but because I studied so hard for it, I know I did well.”
*What is the K.C.S.E.? Why is it so important? Stay tuned next week for a breakdown of the biggest test the girls will likely ever take, and how you can get involved!
Monicah, #1 in her class!
“Remember, you are Form 4s”
Last night, the Form 4s gathered in the Dining Hall with the faculty. The new Bay to Breakers board hung proudly in the background as some of the teachers took turns making announcements and saying goodbye. As leaders of the school, the Form 4s were reminded that upon their return, the rest of the school will look to them for guidance, focus and energy. The top 10 highest achievers (by grades) were announced, with Monicah coming in first place! “Remember,” Teacher Victoria said, “You are Form 4s. You are W.I.S.H. girls (Women of Integrity, Strength & Hope). When you go back to your homes, back to your villages, display what a Daraja girl looks like.”
Teacher Victoria & Maureen hug as the rest of the Form 4s wave goodbye to Daraja
This morning, the girls finally saw their turn to say goodbye for now to Daraja, wish each other safe travels, and head home to spend time with loved ones. Although the campus will be without students, the enthusiasm for Bay to Breakers will only continue to build, as the campus works on B2B activities for the students’ arrivals!
GET INVOLVED! Do you have a Race for Daraja team set up? The #1 team on the leadership board on May 6th will be announced at the school’s Monday Assembly when the girls return! You inspire the girls just as they inspire you! Two events. One Cause. One family!
Florence, the Farm Prefect, runs the Daraja Farm like she would the small farm in her village. Before she leaves Daraja, she is intent on reaching her goal of helping the campus become fully sustainable.
Florence, elected Farm Prefect
The girls of Daraja strive for perfection in every area of academics, but they don’t stop there. “By the time I leave Daraja, I want to be able to say that I helped Daraja become a fully sustainable campus,” Florence, Form 4 and Farm Prefect said. Daraja’s farm has become quite impressive over a short period of time. Boasting of everything from bananas to mangos to tomatoes to potatoes, the amount of food that the students and faculty at Daraja eat from the farm has proliferated. “The more food we are able to eat that comes from Daraja, means more money is saved from food we did not have to buy,” Florence said. “This is important because every bit of money we can save from one area is more money we can use in another area that might really need it.”
Florence doesn’t care for the farm herself. 15 Daraja girls spread out over each class help her care for the farm by pruning, weeding, digging, watering and harvesting. The students help care for sweet potatoes, corn, peas, beans, kale, cabbage and more.
Florence campaigned become at the Farm Prefect. After lobbying for votes and making a speech in front of the school, she was elected to a position she felt like she needed to hold. “I knew I could make a difference with something at Daraja that was really important. Being able to be fully-sustainable, that is something that is really important for the future of this school.”
On behalf of the Daraja organization, we want to give a huge thanks to those of you supporting the Race for Daraja! The funding and awareness that you are raising through this event is vital in keeping this school going strong!
The Daraja Academy seniors are currently on campus studying for the KCSE, a test each high school student must take at the end of their secondary school career. The younger students, however, have been home for a few weeks now. One of Daraja’s very own interns, Ashley Nicole Johnson, reflects on her visit to Form 3 student Irene’s home.
“Daraja means bridge, and I am Daraja.”
Ireen's sister, Purity, in front of her family's home
It took me some time to figure out how that applied to me personally. I feel a part of Daraja by living in this amazing place with these incredible girls. I am inspired daily by their perseverance, their drive, their will to succeed and what seems like an effortless ability to be present and happy in each moment at Daraja. When I first got to Daraja as an intern, I read through each girls’ application to gain perspective about who the Daraja girls were, but it wasn’t until a home visit with a Form 3 that personal experience could fill in the blanks of my research.
6 hours, 3 matatu rides, and a 4.5 mile walk at night in the rain down a muddy, dirt path, and I found myself in the company of Irene, Leah (another Daraja intern), and Irene’s family. 12 of us squeezed into a small, one room banda that served as kitchen, living room, dining room, and bedroom. We presented the family with flour and rice as a thank you for welcoming us into their home, which they literally did with open arms, despite our soaking wet and muddy arrival. Mama Irene, as we called her, prepared ugali and cabbage in the corner of the banda as Irene told Leah and I about her Daraja story.
Irene & her sister, Purity, show me how they fetch water for their family
“I finished class 8 and I wanted very much to continue to secondary school,” Irene said. “But I have eight siblings, and our family does not make enough with our crops to pay for secondary school fees.” Irene’s brother heard a rumor that a new school, albeit very far away, was looking for girls with high marks from primary school. Determined to help her daughter continue school, Mama Irene sought out more information through anyone she could that might have more information about Daraja. After inquiries and a long, first time journey to Nanyuki, Irene was given an interview, and accepted into the Daraja Academy.
“I am thankful for Daraja every day,” Mama Irene said as she stuck more kindling under the fire for the food to cook. Mama Irene looked at us, smiled, and waved her arm toward the small window as she said, “Irene will finish school, and she will come back home and help change this village, these roads, our family. Everything will be better because of Daraja.”
Irene showed us her primary school, took us around her village, and introduced us to her father, her uncle, sisters, nieces, nephews, and neighbors, none of whom had more than an 8thgrade education. We followed her 15 minutes away from her banda to the local watering hole to fetch water for her family, as is a regular chore for her when home.
Irene's sister, Doreen, and niece, Gloria
“If I had not been accepted into Daraja,” Irene said as she pulled water up from deep underground. “I would be here. I would be helping raise children, helping with the crops, unable to go to secondary school to finish my education. I am very thankful to be a Daraja girl. Very thankful.”
As we prepared to depart back to Daraja, each member of Irene’s family held me in a tight embrace, thanking me for being a part of her education, a part of her future. I thanked them in return, for letting us be a part of Irene’s life, for sharing their beautiful daughter with us and the greater Daraja family.
When I said good-bye to Irene, I hugged her extra tight. I told her to study hard during break, enjoy the time with her family, and to be vigilant about her safety until her return to Daraja. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude to have been able to meet her family and walk several miles in her shoes for perspective. In that moment, I knew exactly what it meant to be Daraja. It meant being a part of Irene’s transition from a girl to a young woman, filling in for pivotal roles such as her sister, her mother, her mentor and friend when her family is so far away. It meant being a part of shaping the young women at Daraja that families and communities are counting on to return home and create positive change. Daraja is the bridge between hope and reality for the future leaders of Kenya, and I am Daraja. We are Daraja.
With Irene's family
My future is brighter than my past: Daraja’s newest students learn that their unrelenting faith in their future gained them admittance into Daraja Academy
Last week, the Form 1s filed into the lounge, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder around the wooden conference-like tables. After a couple minutes of whispering and giggling amongst themselves, their attentions focused in on Teacher Victoria, who stood at the head of the table, smiling right back at them.
“What does it mean to have hope?” she asked the Form 1s.
At first, no one responded. One-by-one, hands around the table shot up.
“Hope is a longing for something in your heart, like a successful life,” Asuza said.
“Hope,” Bilha added, “is the trust in something, that something can and will happen.”
After further discussion about hope and how strong, independent young women need to maintain it, the girls said in unison, “My future is brighter than my past, and I have the ability to have others see the same.”
The Form 1s discussed what set them apart from typical girls their age, and discovered a similarity they all shared: determination to make their hopes come true. “Some girls, when asked what they would do if not admitted to Daraja, said they would get married, or stay at home,” Teacher Victoria said. She looked around the room. Attentive faces met her eyes. “Raise your hand if you said the same thing.”
Silence filled the room. No one raised her hand. “Raise your hand if when asked what you would do if you did not get admitted to Daraja, you said you would try again,” Teacher Victoria said. Several hands went up. “Raise your hand if you said you would start a small business to raise money to go to Daraja,” she said. More hands went up. “Raise your hand if you said in your interview that you would never give up hope so that you could continue your education,” Teacher Victoria said. Every hand shot up.
“It is a process,” Teacher Victoria taught the Form 1s. “You become better every day. Stronger.”
When asked what the lesson about hope meant to her, Yvonne spoke about faith and the ability to make her hopes become her reality. “Today, we realized that the hope we need to make us strong women is already inside of us. We need to focus on working hard and making specific goals to complete in order to make them possible.”
Malawi recently elected Joyce Banda as President, making her the first woman in her country, and only the second female in all of Africa, to hold that office. When asked about the significance of President Banda’s election to office, here is what the Daraja girls had to say:
Ireen (Form 1): “I want to become an attorney one day. It is important to me to defend the wrongly accused of injustices that occur very often in this country. Hearing the news that an activist, a women’s activist, has been elected to President, warms my heart because it means that as a woman, I can do anything I want to do. I believed it before, but I really believe it now.”
Betty (Form 4): “This is very good news! I am very proud to be a woman, and with the education that I am receiving at Daraja, I will be in a position where I can also one day be the first woman to do something. I think it is very important that girls can receive an education, and with that education, we can make sure that other girls can get an education. I say thank you to Joyce Banda for working hard for women’s rights, and for setting a positive example for girls in all of Africa.”
Molly (Form 2): “The gender gap is a problem in Kenya, and many people discriminate based on if you are a man or if you are a woman. When women succeed, like Joyce Banda becoming Malawi’s first president, it is a success for all women. Girls need to know about when women advance. Girls need an education, and the chance to be able to help other girls that will come after them who may not have opportunities that other girls around the world may have.”
End of Term Wrap Up: Field Trips, Clubs, Athletics & More!
The end of Term 1 is upon us. Daraja is in transition today, as Forms 1-3 depart from campus and journey to their respective destinations. “At 8 o’clock in the morning, a matatu leaves Daraja and we go to Nanyuki,” Shamsia, Form 3 said. “From there, travel all day and through the night by matatu, bus, and finally a sand truck to Marsabit. I will not reach my destination until late Saturday.”
- Both Netball teams pray together after district championship game
The girls of Daraja have a lot to reflect on during the break (click the links to look back with them!). For the first time since opening, the Daraja Academy has a full campus, with all four forms enrolled. The Science and Conservation club stayed active with a field trip to Mpala Research Center and participating in a Science Congress. The Form 2s facilitated Daraja’s first business symposium, and the Media club created Daraja’s first school magazine, The Golden Mirror. Daraja’s first school debate, hosted by the newly established Debate club, was live tweeted so Daraja supporters on Twitter could follow along! And Daraja’s athletes outraced the competition, advancing to Provincials in several categories and placing 2nd in all of Laikapia County in Netball.
For the Form 4s, break has not yet begun. With an extended stay on campus, the senior students are still hard at work studying for their upcoming K.C.P.E. exams. The campus will still be very much alive with activity and reports, so stay tuned to our blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts to stay in the loop!
The girls, with volunteer Stephanie, raising awareness about relevant issues to young women
Yvonne, Form 1, writes in her journal for her Women of Integrity, Strength & Hope class
Form 3s dance & sing at Monday Flag
Sargeant-at-arms Fatuma told the girls to settle down after a funny point of objection was made at the Debate