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Head of Program, Carol reflects on Transition Program

“I feel confident that these girls will go into the world and flourish,” Carol says, referring to Daraja’s first graduating class. Daraja’s first Transition Program will conclude at the end of this week, a five-month preparation program for Daraja graduates’ futures.

The first part of the program revolved around community service and life skills such as opening a bank account and obtaining an ID in Kenya. For the second part, transition participants worked in 6-week internships around Laikipia County. Some girls taught in local primary schools, while some worked with organizations such as Ol Pejeta Conservancy, The Red Cross, Mpala Research Centre, and many more. The third and final aspect of the program, entitled ‘The Next Steps’ allows girls to focus on themselves and what they want out of their future.

“At first I was very nervous,” says Carol, “no one had ever done a program like this before. I had nothing to compare my work to.”

“Because of the number of girls, I was able to make the program very individualized as they matured.” Carol says, referring to a class size of 25 participants. “First I learned that I needed to treat them all like adults, because that’s how they proved themselves right away.”

Carol also explained how many of the girls grew during the internships. “They realized the importance of becoming life-long learners, I think. Many of the teaching interns didn’t realize how much they’d love teaching until they tried it. And Faith, at the Red Cross, has gained a deeper understand of community issues. Tina, at Mpala, now wants to teach and create awareness about conversation among youth. All the girls excelled.”

The girls are now in their final stage of the program: ‘The Next Steps.’

“I am feeling a little sad,” says Carol, “I will miss them so much. They have shaped me, and I have shaped them. We have learned together.”

After the last stage of the program, girls will have a better understand of who they are and where they want their lives to go. “They are realizing that they are in control of their own future,” explains Carol, “it’s just so great. I feel confident that these girls will go into the world and flourish.

When asked about her favorite part of the program, Carol concludes, “My favorite part is that my heart never grew tired. I was physically exhausted and I experienced sleepless nights thinking about these girls, but my heart never grew tired. Not one single moment.”

Transition students embark on a Daraja Quest!

As part of the third portion of the Transition Program, transition students participated in an activity entitled Daraja Quest over the course of the weekend starting on August 9.

Mark Stefanski, a board member for Daraja, visited campus and collaborated with Carol, the head of the Transition Program for this activity.

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The objective of the Daraja Quest was to get the girls thinking about who they are in order to plan and set goals for their future. “The girls take a journey inward, in order to help guide the outward journey that they are facing,” explained Mark.

There were three phases to this quest: first was the preparation for separation. Each student prepared for the next phase by reflecting on how they feel in their life currently and recognizing their own merits and skills. One exercise during this portion was to find an object in nature that represents who a student is in this stage of her life. Faith chose an unripe fruit, and explained that the ripening is comparable to her life journey. She went on to describe she is the fruit of her family and the seeds inside symbolize the inspiration and knowledge that she has planted in her life during her time at Daraja.

The next phase of the quest was alone time. Each girl found a place that they enjoyed outdoors where they spent 3 hours alone, continuing this inward journey. Girls chose spots such as a bench under a tree, the football (soccer) field, among tall grasses near the classrooms on campus, and more. During these three hours, girls had time to focus on questions such as “Who am I?” and “Where do I want to go after Daraja?” and most notably, “What are my hopes and fears about graduating from Daraja Academy?”

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After three hours, girls completed the last phase of the quest, the return. The return phase was an opportunity for the girls to share their experience and insights from alone time. This was important to cultivate the community among our soon-to-be graduates as they are making their own personal journeys.

The Daraja Quest activity is important for girls to begin to prepare for their departure from Daraja. It provides ample time for girls to reflect on their personal identity, values, passions and interests.

“I’ve watched the girls begin to realize that they have the ability to make decisions for themselves. They have the power to create their future,” reflects Carol.

Next stop: Graduation Day!

Environmental Responsibility on Daraja’s campus

With environmental responsibility being an integral aspect of Daraja’s educational model, sustainability is incredibly important on campus! Daraja students are regularly learning and doing projects to improve environmental sustainability.

In July, two volunteers, Leigh and Amelia, did a water project on campus where they measured the amount of water that was being used daily, weekly, and monthly by students, volunteers, and staff on campus. They also surveyed the community about how much water they think they use. Collecting this data was important so that the Daraja community has an idea of how much more water can be conserved.

Although the girls consume more water than they had predicted, they had a lot of great ideas about how to conserve more. Some ideas were to wash clothes in groups to use less water, or to hold an awareness meeting a few times each term to keep conversations on the minds of students. Thanks to this water project, Daraja has established a new prefect position, the water prefect, who will be responsible for conservation and awareness of water use on campus.

“Conservation is completely dependent on education,” Amelia says, “the more people around the world learn about their water source, their consumption rates are guaranteed to go down.”

Last Sunday, August 4th, Daraja students learned about composting. With a food compost system running smoothly in the campus shamba (farm), the girls learned about a new composting technique to create nitrogen-rich soil. The project was spearheaded by co-founder, Jason and visiting board member, Mark. Students spent the afternoon building the compost pile, and we will see some new soil in the coming months thanks to this project!

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During the day, solar panels generate electricity for the Internet connection and outlets in the Biology Lab and Administrative Office. Volunteers on campus have also donated solar lamps to be charged by day and used by night.

Daraja is committed to teaching and exemplifying environmental stewardship. “These methods that we’re teaching can be used at home, too,” Jason explained to the girls, “they can be very helpful in your communities.”

Daraja’s Pathways Program

At the end of each term, students and staff gather together at a closing meeting the night before students depart from campus for their breaks. Housekeeping items such as cleaning and packing and transportation are addressed in this meeting, in addition to the announcement of end of term scores.

The top ten girls in each form, in terms of scores, are announced, and then the top five most improved girls. This term, Franca (F2) ranked high in her form’s most improved list. Franca improved her scores by 126 marks, an incredible feat, many thanks to Daraja’s Pathways Program.

The Pathways Program is designed to keep Daraja students on track with their top academic performances. Any time a student holds a C- or below, they remain on campus for one third of the expected break in order to work closely with teachers, get more individualized help, and be in a quiet, focused study environment.

“I am really proud of my work this term,” reflected Franca, “The Pathways Program last break helped me focus on my studies even more.”

The program after term two will only run four days long, since the break is less than two weeks, and there are only ten girls in the program after term two scores.

“I am going to take this time to work really hard,” said Mary N (F3), who is currently participating in the program, “I want my marks to improve.”

All Daraja girls are exceptionally great academic performers, and the Pathways Program is a way to foster their performances.

“We want to help you all stay on your path to a brighter future,” Jason, co-founder, explained at the closing meeting, “this is a great opportunity for you.”

Daraja learns Self Defense

During the month of July, all Daraja girls took a four-week self defense workshop. This workshop was not only a crucial study break for the students, but also armed them with knowledge about how to defend themselves physically and why it is important.

Enjoy this (less than) 2 minute video of girls practicing and speaking out about self defense!

 

Daraja Hosts Community Event in Nanyuki

On Friday, August 2nd, Daraja Academy hosted a community event at The Lily Pond Arts Centre in Nanyuki, Kenya. Daraja administrators, teachers and 4 students from each form, including transition students were in attendance along with community members from Laikipia County.

There were employees of the County government in attendance, representatives from Kenya Women Finance Trust, Mpala Research Centre, and even the Laikipia Minister of Education.

Ruth and Mercy (F1) greeted guests at the door with informational brochures before they entered the event to converse and learn about Daraja with students and staff.

After mingling, guests sat down to watch the two Daraja Films, Girls of Daraja and School of my Dreams. This was followed by a short question and answer period where community members learned more about the school.

Sammy, an Environmental Educational Officer from the Laikipia Wildlife Forum expressed his sincere gratitude for the school. “I am amazed at what is happening at this school and I am looking forward to working with these girls in the world.”

“You will very soon see the fruits of your labor, I appreciate what you are doing,” said James, a community member.

Wilson, a business owner in Nanyuki, shared some wisdom, “If you want to be happy for a few years, plant trees. If you want to be happy for a lifetime, plant people. These girls are your plants, you will be so blessed.”

The event was one of immense success and outpouring support. The Minister of Education wrapped up the night:

“Daraja is more than just a school, it is a great idea that has been given flesh. This is just the beginning, and we are very happy to celebrate with you. Each of these girls looks like an individual, but they are all communities within themselves. This is a social investment, Daraja is creating a new generation which will transform our country.”

“Daraja means bridge,” started Principal Victoria, “and we are Daraja.”

Daraja Students Finish Term 2

As July comes to a close, Daraja students are sitting for their end of term exams. Campus is quiet with lots of studying, but girls have spent time looking back on term two during their breaks.

“Bay to Breakers is my favorite part about term two,” Hannah (F2) recounted. Daraja girls ran for Bay to Breakers in Kenya, while supporters ran in San Francisco, California.

Prize Giving Day was also a great accomplishment for term two, where Daraja took home awards for our first graduating class’ performance in the KCSE testing! Trophies were awarded for best performance in the Kiswahili subject, “Highest Percentage of University Intake,” “Best School Overall,” and “Best Private School.”

“I always like term two because we always have many visitors,” reflected Dianah (F2), referring to a high presence of volunteers on campus during the June and July months. Volunteers and visitors uphold a major aspect of Daraja’s educational model, cross-cultural education. These visitors hold workshops and foster strong global relationships that Daraja students cherish.

Daraja attended music festivals and sports tournaments during the course of term two, taking home big titles. The football (soccer) team came out as champions at the local provincial games and participated in the regional tournament against some of the best teams in the country.

After excelling through the district and county levels in a government organized music festival, many Daraja students, including Yvonne (F2), Rosalia (F4), and Claris (F3) excelled at the regional level. All seven of Daraja’s participants ranked among the top ten positions at the regional competition.

We are so proud of our sports and music students for their performances! As students wrap up the term, they look forward to spending two weeks at home with their families over break. “Seeing my family will help me prepare for Term 3,” explained Irene (F3).

Form 4’s learn about Social Justice in WISH Class

This term, form 4’s WISH (Women of Integrity, Strength, and Hope class) curriculum revolved around Social Justice.

Comprised of lessons about power, society, and social change, Form 4’s took useful tools about justice and action away from the term.

Passionate to set out and start creating positive social change now, Form 4’s reflected on the term.

“The lesson about power was my favorite,” explained Lilian, referring to a lesson where students learned about the different types of power, how it is used, and the potential for social change within positions of power in society.

Shamsia and Alice N. cited the lesson on tools for social change as their favorite. During this lesson, girls chose an aspect of society such as education or local government and identified problems in that sector such as corruption. From there, girls broke into groups and identified tools that could be used to create social change.

“I loved learning that media could be used for good, to expose bad things like corruption,” remembered Mercy.

Learning about social change is integral in creating what Daraja calls “women of WISH.” Recently, The Guardian shed some light on the need for women’s empowerment to go along with girls’ education. Daraja’s WISH class, which is once a week for all students, does just that!

To read The Guardian’s article, click here: goo.gl/FDvSdZ

Form 4’s are excited not only to change their world after graduation, but to start right away!

Daraja’s Got Talent

On Saturday, July 20th, Daraja girls competed in a Talent Show to take a quick break from their end of term exam studying. Twenty-four acts took the stage and performed skits, sang songs, recited poems, or entertained with dance.

Impressed by the girls’ stellar confidence, volunteers, Transition Program students, and even some administrators watched the girls take the stage. Some acts were comedic, and some just for fun, but many acts boasted the passion that Daraja students have for their education and their cultures.

The “Turkana Dancers” won for the category of best group. Wrapped in blue, they sung and danced in unison, representing the Turkana ethnic group from Northern Kenya. Rosalia performed a poem about women’s empowerment. Some lines from the poem are:

“A girl has eyes, to see beyond the village.

A girl has ability, to carry more than firewood.

A girl has energy, to fetch more than water.

Educate a girl, educate the whole family.

Mathematics is not too poisonous to us.

English is not too foreign to us.

Arts are not too strange to us.

Sciences are not too scary to us.

Educate a girl, educate the whole family.”

“The poem says that women are not too weak to be educated, we are strong,” explained Rosalia.

Other winners included Alice A. and Elizabeth for the Crowd Pleaser category, a dance act by Purity for Best Solo, Bilha and Alice’s poem for Most Creative, and Salome’s dance and comedy act for Most Confident.

Daraja celebrates Malala Day

On October 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai, a young activist for girls’ education, survived an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen, in her home country of Pakistan. Her wounds were felt worldwide, including by Daraja students and staff.

Check out what happened last year, when Daraja students were asked what steps they could take to let Malala know she is not alone. The final result of this brainstorming? Take a look.

Since last October, Daraja students have been thinking of, praying for, and asking about Malala, her health, and her fight for women’s rights.

On July 12th, 2013, Malala not only celebrated her 16th birthday, but she also delivered an address to the United Nations, about the importance of global access to education.

Daraja students, in hopes to show their support from afar, signed a poster for Malala, wishing her a happy birthday and expressing messages of support.

“Thank you a lot for supporting girls education. You are amazing! Be blessed,” Jesica, Form 3.

“I am so glad to know your story, we really love you,” Winrose, Form 1.

“Thank you for taking such an amazing action for education. I treasure you a lot,” Juliet, Form 2.

During Malala’s speech on July 12, she declared that her birthday, Malala Day, is not a holiday for her, but a holiday for every woman, boy and girl who have raised their voices to fight for their rights. Malala, and the hundreds of young education activists standing with her during her address, called on all women and girls to use their voice, and to stand up to fight for education. They called on governments to ensure education for each child. They called on all communities to embrace tolerance and reject prejudice.

Malala closed her talk with this quote, “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.”

We couldn’t agree more.