Monday, April 15th, 2013
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!
Thursday, April 11th, 2013
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.
Saturday, April 6th, 2013
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
Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
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!
Friday, March 29th, 2013
Last Saturday, March 23, 18 Daraja girls spent the day in the nearby town of Nanyuki, where they participated in the local Science Congress. The day before, these nine teams (of two girls each) practiced, by presenting the presentations they’d spent the last few months working on to all Daraja students and staff. The goal of the Science Congress – a competitive local science fair – is “to develop a passion of research in young scientists,” and to “encourage young scientists to appreciate their environment as they offer solutions to contemporary problems in society.” Each team chose a topic that they were interested in exploring; then, they created their own experiments to test the topics and gain a conclusion.
Here’s a look at just a few of girls’ projects:
- Pascalina and Mary K. – Asked what the purpose of greenhouses is, in terms of growing crops, and determined that greenhouses serve to increase the yield and quality of crops.
- Esther and Molly – Wondered if it would be possible to make chemical free shoe polish because popular shoe polishes sold in stores contain too many chemicals. They determined that it would be possible, but that the outcome of the polished shoes would not have the same desired effect as the chemical shoe polish would.
- Ann and Ann – Observed that hedgehogs have spines that protect them, and wondered if similar spines could be created to protect airplanes in case of crashes.
- Irene N. and Naomi – Saw that cancer is very prominent in Kenya and that inexpensive hair shampoo has lots of chemicals. They wondered if creating a chemical-free shampoo would be just as effective and determined that it would be possible, but the shampoo they made contained raw eggs and so it would not preserve longer than a few days. In addition, they surmised that if someone were allergic to eggs they would not be able to use this homemade shampoo.
At the local Science Congress, twenty high schools gathered to compete, and Daraja came in 3rd place! Seven of our nine teams are advancing to the next round (including Teddy and Lilian, Mesret and Charity, Alice and Rosalia, Molly and Esther, Florence and Moreen, Pascalina and Mary, and Naomi and Irene). The next leg of the competition will be at the county level in Iguamiti on May 11. Stay tuned for updates on the projects and results!
Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
On Friday, March 22, Daraja welcomed its newest and fifth freshman class (called Form 1s in Kenya). This is possibly Daraja’s most diverse class yet. Here are some facts about these 26 new students:
- They range in age from 13 to 19
- Some come from regions not yet represented by any of Daraja’s students, including Baringo, Narok, Kiambu, and Sololo
- They represent at least nine or ten different tribes
- Half are from single parents, and five are orphaned
Midmorning on Friday, the new students began arriving, carrying the few luggage they had and (some were) accompanied by family or guardians. Seasoned Forms 2-4s ran eagerly to the gate and greeted the new girls with big hugs and smiles. Teachers took attendance; then, the girls met their “families” – the Form 1s are the younger sisters, Form 2s are the older sisters, Form 3s are the aunties, and Form 4s are the “shoshos” (grandmothers). Therefore, every new Daraja has a group of three seasoned Daraja girls who welcome her into their community and show her the ropes.
As the Form 1s toured campus with their big sisters, the aunties (Form 3s) gave campus tours to Form 1s’ families. Then, Form 1s and their families/guardians gathered with Daraja staff to learn about school. After the meeting, the new girls said bye to their families, who left, some tearful but all happy. They then enjoyed a weekend of “getting-to-know-you” activities; on Saturday, for example, the whole school gathered to play improv games, watch movies, and dance. Then, on Sunday, the older girls took the new girls on a walk nearby campus and the group could be heard singing songs of worship as they perused the land.
Purity, a 14-year-old Form 1 from Kiambu, is reserved but polite. Three days after her arrival she says she’s happy to be here. “I like Daraja very much,” she
Playing improv games
said. Her favorite part so far? Meeting her big sister, auntie, and shosho, and walking down to the river with the older Daraja girls on Sunday. It’s hard to say who’s more grateful for their arrival – the new students themselves, or Daraja’s staff and family abroad. Welcome to campus, girls!