Daraja maintenance teams spent the last month building Daraja’s first-ever school store, and it officially opened last week! Transition Program students are running and operating the school store entirely on their own, and they are loving the experience so far. The aim of the Transition Program is to teach Daraja grads life skills before they officially leave Daraja and head off into the “real world.” The program teaches them (small) business skills, bookkeeping, money management, economics, customer service, marketing, and much more. It’s a unique opportunity in that, while the girls may have learned some of these skills in high school class, they now get to actually put those skills to the test.
The store being built
“I like bookkeeping,” explained Faith, “because it’s more real. I learned it in high school, and now I’m doing it practically so that’s the interesting bit about working here.” The Transition girls still have class each day, but they’ve devised a schedule whereby they’re divided into groups of six. Each group works in the shop for one full week – early in the morning and after lunch, leaving time for class in between.
Cate and Schola stock supplies
When asked how sales were, Leila exclaimed excitedly, “Good! We’re making a lot of profit!” (This profit gets channeled directly in to the Program, which makes it a more personal task for the students.) The girls think the store is doing so well in part because it is unique in this area, because it’s “self-service.” Between Nanyuki and Daraja (a distance of 25 km) there are a handful of small shops, but this is the only one where on-campus shoppers can actually walk in the store and select the items they want, as opposed to just making purchases at a window. “It’s more interesting compared to the rest of the stores around here,” said Faith.
Girls shop for merchandise in town
The girls were even in charge of stocking the store. First, they created a survey and then they went out into the local community and asked what people would want from a store. After analyzing their findings, the students headed to town last week where they studied similarly sized shops, learning about their products and prices. Then, they made their bulk purchases and returned to stock the store with a wide array of useful things, including rice and milk, juice and chewing gum, Daraja t-shirts and candy, and much more. It’s been an especially useful task for students who hope to leave Daraja and start their own small business, like Cate, who dreams of becoming an entrepreneur after leaving campus. Stay tuned for more updates from these young businesswomen!
Daraja Academy sits in the middle of the African savannah, and while this might sound a bit intimidating to some, its location “in the bush” is actually a great resource. The campus is beautiful, and in addition to the incredible wildlife, it’s also nice that Daraja is located so close to one of its long-term friends, the Mpala Research Center. Mpala is just down the road from Daraja, and sits on miles of beautiful, untouched land. It’s home to elephants, hippos, gazelles, and even lions.
Last Saturday the Form 4 biology students had an opportunity to go on a field trip to Mpala. They divided into groups and participated in a wide array of activities. One group practiced photography (specifically on hippos); another tracked gazelles; and a third learned about mongooses and how to trap them (for research purposes). They also went on game drives and got to check out different wild animals from the safety of safari vehicles. The girls (and Mpala staff!) had an amazing time; check out some of their cool photos below.
The girls found a tortoise
Learning how to trap a mongoose
Looking for gazelles
Prefects play an important role in leadership at Daraja, as does Daraja’s head girl. (Learn more here.) Daraja’s head girl this year is Esther, Form 3, and one of the 11 prefects is Jemima, Form 4, who is the leader of the shamba (garden). Earlier this month, Daraja teachers selected these two girls out of all their school leaders to send them to a local leadership conference, held in Nyahururu, a town a few hours away from campus. Esther thinks they were selected because teachers “saw that we have good leadership qualities and potential. If [Jemima and I] are taught leadership skills, we’ll be able to apply them.”
On Thursday, Esther and Jemima boarded a bus and headed off to Ndururumo Secondary School in Nyahururu, where they gathered with 140 other student leaders from around Laikipia District for this four-day conference. They spent the weekend learning a wide array of important skills. They heard honorable speakers, including an inspirational university student, the principal of the secondary school, and a Kenyan author, who is also a motivational speaker. These speakers taught students about the effects of peer pressure – both positive and negative – and explained to them qualities that good leaders have. These qualities, explained Esther, include honesty, the ability to take on challenges, courage, and being solution-oriented. She explained that if a student at Daraja has a problem, as a good leader, it is her job to brainstorm solutions. Then she should approach the administration with ideas for remedies to the situation.
At night, students gathered to discuss what they’d learned that day and brainstormed with one another. Esther and Jemima were excited to talk to other secondary school leaders about how their leadership system works. They liked the idea of a student council, because the student council representatives they met play a strong role in their school’s finance and budgeting.
Next up is the national Bomas conference, which is a Kenya cultural theater. Two students will be selected from every county across the country and will attend this important national conference in Nairobi, where they’ll have the opportunity to present issues from their county to national leaders, including the Minister of Education. Esther or Jemima might be one of the students selected to represent Laikipia District, so stay tuned!
Recently, Daraja girls had the opportunity to sign up for a social entrepreneurship class held for two months each Sunday. A total of 19 girls enrolled in the class, called the “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” seminar. The class is being taught by a new volunteer, Trevor, who recently spent several months in Uganda creating a coffee cooperative.
Trevor came to Daraja because he believes that linking entrepreneurship and girls’ education is a key to international development. He loves working with Daraja students, who are currently working in small teams to participate in his Innovation Challenge—taking an ordinary object, a 30-egg tray made of recycled pulp, and looking at it in an extraordinary way. Ideas range from sustainable beaded jewelry to soundproofing and insulation. The participants are also drafting business plans and will be pitching their innovation proposals to the other girls on campus. The students will then be voting on their favorite use of the recycled egg tray.
Trevor is delighted to work with the girls and is eager to follow their achievements and progress. “I’m honored to serve students who are so driven and keen to learn. I admire their bandwidth—the girls of Daraja are extremely resourceful and pensive. Plus, it’s always nice being greeted with their hugs each day. Their intellect and compassion have made my work here unmatched in value—it feels very rewarding to be a member of the Daraja family.” The girls are thrilled to be taking his class, too. Alice A., a Form 4, signed up for his class in order “to be able to find ways in which I can set up a business and be able to run it smoothly, and learn to face any risk that comes across.” “I like this class because it opens one’s mind to different opportunities in business,” she explained.
There’s a lot to be excited about on the Daraja campus. The new Transition Program started this week, and all graduates returned (except Betty, who was awarded a scholarship and began a job!). Based on her incredible performance and win at the last competition, Lisayo has been practicing running in preparation for the national competition later this month. Daraja will soon have a school store, which is almost completed, and the girls are getting excited for Bay to Breakers! And, there’s more . . .
Older girls continued showing Form 1s around campus (here, Lilian T., F2, and Asuza, F2, show Sylvia around)
The school held a fire assembly, where students and staff learned about the safety precautions they have to take if there is an emergency at school
Girls studied for their Term 1 final exams, which start Friday and last all of next week
On Monday, April 1, 2013, Daraja officially started its first-ever Transition Program. Former Form 4s – who completed their secondary school education at the end of November – began filtering back to Daraja over the weekend, after a four-month break from school. Most students around Kenya who completed their end-of-high-school exams in the fall will be at home until this September, when they may begin college or university. The Daraja girls are having a new and different experience.
For three weeks last November, these 25 girls sat for the KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education) exams, a series of grueling tests that could be compared to the SATs in the U.S. but are, in fact, much more intense in that their scores essentially determine a high school student’s future. (For more information, click here.) Then, they headed back to their respective homes across the country, where they returned to their families and waited until the 1st of March when the scores of the exams were finally released.
While other secondary school graduates wait and wonder if they will be accepted to university or receive a scholarship, Daraja girls will be participating in a five-month program that intends to acclimate them to the “real world.” They will learn a diverse set of skills, including:
- Personal Finance — Budgeting, opening checking or M-pesa accounts, understanding and
- Business Skills – Developing a business plan and learning the basics of running a business through a campus enterprise
- Career Exploration and Choice — Exploring potential job potential and career paths
- Community Leadership — How to interact with one’s communities and access community resources
- Citizenship Responsibilities — Having a voice in one’s democracy, accessing important administrative offices
- Integrity/Ethics Lessons — Ethically conduct oneself personally and professionally
- Home Economics — Acquiring skills for greater material self-reliance, including developing a personal budget, and being responsible for shopping, cooking, and repairing personal items
These five months will also help them discover their greatest interests and strengths, whether they plan to run a small business or head off to university. Regardless of what they do, they will all have a stronger foundation for determining their direction upon graduation on August 23rd.
The Transition girls are thrilled to be back, reunited with one another and their younger peers. The former Volunteer Office on campus has been transformed into their new home. They have new uniforms, different class schedules, and earlier meal times than the rest of the girls. They’re young adults now, and being treated as such. We’re so grateful to have them back!