Tag Archives: Girl Education

Jovia: Girl Meets Garden

It is 3 AM and somehow your body commands itself to waken. Groggily, you crawl off of your cot, stumble out of your hut, and walk into the darkness. You splash your face with water and brush your teeth in a nearby basin. Throwing on your school uniform, still dusty from yesterday as you had no time to wash it, you then slide your feet into your shoes, grab your unfinished school materials, and hopefully eat a piece of white bread or a banana before heading on your way...

Your feet hit the dirt path. The hour is so early that darkness covers the land, blanketing it in an eerily quiet state.  Besides the chirping of crickets, a slight breeze whipping through the tall grasses, and a random rustle from unknown creatures in nearby bushes, all you can hear is the sound of red dirt (you know it’s red from the many times you’ve walked it) crunching beneath your shoes. It feels like you were just here.

Half-awake, you silently walk the all-too-familiar 4.5 mile path. As if in a dream-like state, every pothole and tree stump memorized, you place one foot in front of the other. If only you were dreaming. Every day you must make this journey – 4.5 miles to school, 4.5 miles back home..

You muster enough energy to get through your lessons – even though by the time it is lunch, you have already been awake for almost half of a day. Eager to engage in your classes and excel among your schoolmates, you often find that your mind is foggy and overwhelmed by the work you know you will not have time to complete.

The school day ends and you head off down the same path from which you came – no time to stay and linger with friends, work on your studies, or play sports. You have 4.5 miles to walk and you must get home in time to assist your mother with the cleaning, cooking, and care-taking of your three younger siblings. Arriving home at 7 pm  you do your chores without complaint and collapse into bed. Exhausted from the day, you try to stay awake to catch up on school work, but you are tired, and you have to wake up and do it all again in less than six hours.

This is Jovia’s story.Jovia.

Like many other Maasai children, who live long distances from one another and from their schools, Jovia found she had little to no time to do her schoolwork, let alone get a full night’s rest. She was constantly falling behind – not because she was lazy, not because she didn’t try, not because she wasn’t smart enough, but because she literally didn’t have time.

By the age of 13, Jovia’s aunt noticed that she was clearly struggling. Her aunt recommended to Jovia’s mother that she attend a boarding school in Siyapei, Kenya. Siyapei Primary School offers scholarships to at-risk, vulnerable girls – Jovia’s aunt knew she would qualify.

Jovia was accepted to the school and in only one year her academics have significantly improved, “When I came here, I was not an average person, but nowadays I score highly because I get time to read and I have my own free time.” Because she no longer spends the hours she is not in school walking and taking care of her family, Jovia has been able to focus on her studies. She has also had the time and freedom to be a teenage girl – to play with her friends, read what she wants, explore new places, and learn skills of her choosing.

Siyapei Primary School's gorgeous facilities.

Siyapei Primary School’s gorgeous facilities.

One of these skills is gardening.

World Concern partners with Siyapei Primary School to run a kitchen garden (also known as a shamba) for the students. The garden serves to improve the student’s nutritional health as well as educate them about growing and cultivating a variety of fruits and vegetables.

gardengarden

Jovia is one of the 36 students who are members of Siyapei’s 4K Club – a popular club that is in charge of the care and keeping of the shamba. The members meet once a week to participate in the gardening of kale, cabbage, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, and melons.

According to Jovia, “We are the ones who have been taught how to maintain the garden.”

The patron of the school’s 4K Club, mentioned that “prior to the garden, the student’s diet was unbalanced – consisting of only maize and beans.” Many of the students were so accustomed to an unbalanced diet that the vegetables initially upset their stomachs. Now the students eat green vegetables every day; they are healthy and enjoy the variety. Speaking of the other students, Jovia said, “When they eat sokuma (kale) and cabbages, they are well.”

The Patron of Siyapei's 4K Club.

The Patron of Siyapei’s 4K Club.

In fact, the garden is proving to be so successful that the students are able grow more than enough produce to feed themselves. They sell the extra in the local market and use the money to retain the shamba and buy supplies for the girls (soap, towels, etc.). Siyapei’s teachers believe that the students will “know enough about gardening to create their own once they return home.”

Garden greenhouse.

Garden greenhouse.

Jovia seems to agree – “I like watering the plants…the vegetables…and digging…In the future I’d like to own a big farm. Then I’ll plant vegetables and wheat for my family members. I will sell them. And some I’ll take to the orphan children and children’s homes.”

Jovia showing off her gardening skills.

Jovia showing off her gardening skills.

Jovia still has one more year at Siyapei Primary. We hope and pray that she will have the support and drive to continue excelling in her education and spread her gardening skills along the way.

See Jovia’s story here!:

(I apologize if this video appears a bit wavy… minor technical difficulties in the uploading process…)

 

 

 

 

 

Christine // Scholarships, Fortitude, and Lions

Riding in the backseat of a Land Cruiser over what seemed to be endless miles of untouched, uninhabited, and ‘this-is-how-God-intended-it-to-be’ land, I couldn’t stop wondering – “How fortunate am I that I get to experience places like this?!..How many other ex-pats have driven through this bush/over this river/through these trees/(you get the picture)?!…How in heavens does Moses (our driver at the time) have any clue where he is going!?” There were many points throughout the journey that there was not even a set of tire tracks in the dirt to serve as our guide.

The Mara. Wide open spaces.

The Mara. Wide open spaces.

Bumpy ride evidence. (I spy...)

Bumpy ride evidence. (I spy…)

Sky.

Sky.

After a couple of hours of bumping along through the outskirts of the Maasai Mara (located in Narok, Kenya, the main hotspot for Kenyan Safaris), gazing at zebras and talking with my colleagues (more like silently participating) about Kenyan politics, the car came to a stop. We were there –  a quaint little compound a midst countless miles of uninhabited land. The Maasai people, who make up the majority of the population of larger Narok, are known for their inhabitants of large pieces of property. This is a convenience considering they are pastoralists and an inconvenience in terms of access to resources. The Maasai often live so far apart that no matter where a school or water source are located, the commute is often a great distance. Because of this, as well as other important cultural reasons, many people do not have the time or finances to complete a Primary (Elementary) or Secondary (High School) education. The arid environment and wild animals are also considerable factors (side note: there are lion researchers currently living on the family compound we visited. Every morning and evening, they pile into their Land Cruiser and go lion tracking!).

Jumping out of the car, I am immediately surrounded by swarms of flies (let’s be honest, this was my third day wearing the same dusty, sweaty skirt…). I quickly noticed that most everyone was covered in flies. I awed at their patience as they casually brushed the flies out of their nose, mouth, and ears every few seconds. When you are pastoralists, particularly in certain seasons, swarms of flies are inevitable.

Quiet, but sprite, 18-year-old Christine hopped out of the car to greet her family. She had journeyed with us from Narok town, where she is studying Computer, to show us her home and assist with translations. After greeting her parents, Great-Grandmother (rumor has is that she is 120, or 80, no one knows for certain…), and younger brother, Christine ran into the tin-roof house to change into her old secondary school uniform.

Sporting the alma mater attire.

Sporting her Alma mater’s attire.

Christine and her 80-120-year-old Great-Grandma.

Christine and her 80 to 120-year-old Great-Grandma.

Unlike most girls her age, Christine is proud to be one of the few in her community to complete her education. For her first three years of secondary school “I [She] was the only girl in my class. It was difficult.” According to Christine, most girls her age are either married off young (some as young as ten-years-old ) or cannot afford to pay school fees. When finances are tight, parents tend to pay for their sons rather than daughters. Because she did not marry young, Christine found it hard to relate to many of her friends. She, and her family, were ridiculed by others for their decision to pursue education – but this has yet to weaken Christine’s strong will.Christine

From a young age, Christine’s father reminded his children that they must “work hard in school so that you [they] can be important people in the community.” Though neither he nor his wife received an education, they understood the importance of educating their children. Having produced a family of seven, both parents struggle to generate enough income to pay for school fees. Even with land, livestock, and a duka (a small items shop), school fees were still too much. Yet, according to Christine’s mother, “I was not afraid because God was there.”

Christine's beautiful mother.

Christine’s beautiful mother.

Christine's father in their duka.

Christine’s father in their duka.

The family.

The family.

Working in the duka. Coke, anyone?

Working in the duka. Coke, anyone?

Because Christine’s family had built relationships with World Concern’s Narok staff, World Concern saw their situation and reached out to help four of their children apply for and receive a scholarships. As told by her mother, “it was through God that WC came and gave us scholarships.”

Both Christine and her older sister have now completed their secondary educations (her sister is currently in University). Christine, the second born in her family, has always admired her sister, “She was number one every year since she was in school. And now she is doing law.” The girls have even been able to bring home what they’ve learned to assist their parents with their duka and livestock business finances.

Christine is now a role model for many girls in her community. When I asked if other girls look up to her, a small grin shyly spread across her face and she quietly responded, “The few girls in the area who are not married off are working hard so they can reach the level I’ve reached. “ She then played with her blonde and black braids for a moment, paused, and said, “I tell them to work hard because life is so hard.”Christine and her braidsAfter completing Computer, Christine will wait for the results from her secondary exams and then apply to university. “I want to become a dentist so that I can come back to the village and help others. One day I want to start a school to educate more girls.” Christine’s role-model future is just taking off. 

Because of your support and generosity, World Concern is working to empowering girls and boys around the world to take hold of their futures. Through One Village Transformed, World Concern is equipping families to pay for their children’s school fees.

The softly spoken stories of those such as Christine are often the most powerful. They are stories of hard work, humility, resilience, gratitude, and service to others. I’m humbled and encouraged to strive to live that story for myself.