Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Salome, the Form 1 champion
On Sunday, May 19, every Daraja student gathered with teachers and staff to run 12 kilometers for Bay to Breakers. The run started at 4 p.m., so the girls were running at the same time as their partners in San Francisco, California. After some dancing, speeches, and stretching, the girls were off, and finished a few hours later, welcomed by an after party of ice cream, oranges, cold water, and music.
Joining the girls was world champion Kenyan runner Lineth Chepkurui, who has run Bay to Breakers in San Francisco for many years, and won numerous times! To learn more about her history with Bay to Breakers, and why she supports Daraja Academy, watch this video:
Ultimately, three Daraja students tied for first place on campus- Salome, a Form 1 (this was her first experience with Bay to Breakers), Joyce, Form 3, and Lisayo, Form 4. The girls had partners running for them around the world – not only in California, but also in Virginia, Austria, and Australia! We’re so grateful for everyone’s support, and the girls are grateful they got to play such an active role in funding their own education. Thank you!!! (To see more pictures from the day, check out this album.)
Friday, May 17th, 2013
They’re getting excited…on Sunday, at 4 p.m. Kenya time, on Daraja Academy’s campus, all 128 Daraja students will run approximately 12 kilometers at the same time that Daraja supporters are running the famed San Francisco Bay to Breakers in the U.S. In addition, teams supporting Daraja are running in Virginia, Austria, Australia, and Singapore!
“I feel happy because I know it is a privilege. We are not only the one receiving the privilege; there are people out there seeing the opportunity that we’ve gotten and they’re doing whatever they can so that they can make us have education. The first time we ran the girls were so excited because they knew we are the ones contributing to our own education, in addition to other people who contribute,” explained Irene N., Form 3. While the Forms 2, 3, 4, and Transition Program girls have all run Bay to Breakers in the past, the Form 1s, who are new this year, haven’t had the experience. Below, check out Leila, a Transitioner, explaining to two Form 1s, Mellab and Jackline, what Bay to Breakers is and why it’s so important!
Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
Naibor is a small town walking-distance from Daraja Academy. There’s not much there – the main road cuts right through a handful of small shops, churches, and restaurants. A secondary school opened in Naibor last March, but it is lacking.
The Naibor region
A few months ago, Daraja cofounder Jason Doherty was visiting Naibor Secondary School when teacher Richard Githaiga introduced himself. Richard loves teaching but recognizes the difficulty his school faces. Students from around the area – which is very rural – may walk three hours (ten kilometers) just to get to school. Unfortunately, in Kenya, secondary school is not free, and each student must pay a little less than $200 per year to attend. This money goes directly to paying teachers and buying what school supplies they can afford, but this fee is quite high for most families in the area, and Richard says this “is the most difficult part.”
Naibor Primary School
The school is waiting for government approval, at which point the Kenyan government should subsidize some of the school’s cost. If and when government money does come in, it should cover the cost of tuition, which exists to pay for meals, workers, a school cook, watchmen, and facilities. Right now, Naibor Secondary doesn’t actually have its own facilities, and is instead using those of Naibor Primary School.
Daraja is lucky to have its many amenities
When Jason met Richard, he offered to give him some old textbooks, which Richard happily accepted. Still, the school needs more than that – Richard explained that his students have never seen science equipment, like microscopes. They’re hoping government funds will supply some of these things, but it’s a slow process and could take a year or more to get government approval. “In the meantime they’re supposed to be learning but they don’t know how to do it,” explained Richard. “You’re showing them experiments in the book but you are not doing them.” In addition, the students are supposed to be learning English but with only three teachers there they don’t have the teaching capacity to teach English.
Daraja is located in the middle of the wilderness, near Naibor
The textbooks donated by Daraja will help – “Those books will do us a great deal.” Still, Naibor is a very poor area, and many of the students come from single mothers. Before Naibor Secondary started, some of the students had been out of school for three years, since there was no free secondary school in the area. Before, the only option for education would have been boarding school, which would be much too expensive for these families. Some of the freshmen at Naibor are already 18 years old, because they’ve been waiting so long to start their education. So far, Naibor has 26 students, only eight of whom are girls. The students are happy to be in school, but it’s reminders like these that show the importance of places like Daraja, where all students get to live and eat on campus, they all have access to adequate school supplies, and their families – all of which are low-or-no income – don’t have to worry about school fees. We hope Naibor Secondary School gets its government approval soon, and we hope to continue cultivating a relationship with them!
Friday, May 10th, 2013
BIG, BIG, NEWS
From the Founders of Daraja
After four years of hard work, the pioneer class of Daraja Academy students sat down and took the 2012 K.C.S.E. (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education) examinations, and the results are in!!!
What is the K.C.S.E.?
Though high schools in Kenya do receive report cards at the end of each of term, the real measuring stick is a rigorous three-week national examination taken at the completion of year four. Students are given written tests in subjects ranging from Swahili, English, Business Studies, Math, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, History, Geography and Religious Studies; there is also a practical lab component for the science exams.
So much rides on the results of these exams that stress levels run very high. A few points may determine whether a person attends a four-year university of a polytechnic training school, or if the student will be eligible for government loans.
How did others predict Daraja Academy would do on the K.C.S.E.?
Surprisingly, though just about everybody supported the concept of Daraja Academy providing scholarships to Kenyan girls of need, some felt that we were doing the students a bit of a disservice once they arrived at campus.
They felt that we were wasting valuable study time by teaching W.I.S.H. (Women of Integrity, Strength and Hope) Class, a four-year leadership and empowerment course, and incorporating Project Based Learning into the curriculum. Some felt that the amount of planning required in order to create a quality, multi-subject project might actually serve as a distraction the students.
What were the results?
In its first attempt at the menacing K.C.S.E. Daraja Academy announced its presence to the nation of Kenya!
The school ranked 92nd out of 1,233 private secondary schools. Five of the district’s top ten girls’ scores belonged to Daraja students. Betty and Faith both received a mean score of A- and were ranked 1st and 2nd respectively in Laikipia East District. By nailing down the highest girl’s score in the district, Betty was honored with the Equity Bank Scholarship, a full scholarship through university. Though the score needed to attend university has not been released by Ministry of Education yet, it appears that at least two-thirds of the girls will be eligible to attend a four-year university, and approximately a dozen will be able to get government loans.
What do these results tell us?
The results show us that Daraja Academy is working. They show that when given an opportunity to succeed, the ladies who sat for the 2012 K.C.S.E at Daraja did just that. They were successful in spite of the incredible stress and nerves associated with this huge test and proved that courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.
Perhaps the biggest gift the pioneer class of Daraja Academy was able to give the school and subsequent classes of girls is the high standard which they set. They truly proved themselves to be scholars, sisters, and women of integrity, strength and hope.
I say to you 25 girls, ASANTE SANA (thank you very much) – you refused to let this world move on without you and we are so proud of you,
Jason and Jennilyn Doherty
Founders of Daraja Academy
Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
There’s only one former Form 4 who isn’t attending the Transition Program – Betty, who took the KCSE in November and scored highest of any girl in Daraja’s district (Laikipia East). As a result, she was offered a job by local Equity Bank, and not only is she paid for her work, the bank is also paying for her entire university education.
Betty (on the left) with classmate Hadijah
Equity Bank is the fastest-growing bank in Kenya, as a result of their effort to aid small-scale, low-income clients. They have branches in some of the most remote villages in Kenya, and in an effort to “equalize” Kenya’s lower and upper classes, they strenuously promote education in efforts like these. There are 47 districts in Kenya, and the highest KCSE-scoring boy and girl from each district were awarded the same scholarship Betty got, meaning she’s one of only 94 youngsters afforded this particular opportunity! Other banks and institutions offer similar such scholarships, too.
Betty will work at Equity Bank in Nanyuki part-time until she begins university. Following a week-long training in Nairobi with those 93 other peers, she’s been doing work that teaches her valuable employability skills, while she waits for an acceptance letter from whichever university she’ll attend in September. Then, she’ll stop work and focus solely on her studies, but will have the opportunity to work at the bank again over school holidays. In exchange, the bank pays her tuition, which, even though hers is subsidized by the government as a result of her high KCSE score, is still the cost of two or three month’s income of a middle-class Kenyan. Plus, all her living expenses will be covered – housing, food, transport, etc. Betty isn’t expected to go into banking, either – though at one point during her high school career she dreamed of being an accountant, now she’s not so sure. She’s just excited to begin her university studies and see what classes most pique her interest, and she’ll figure it out from there
Monday, April 29th, 2013
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!