Taking children out of poverty through ‘Schools of Hope’.
by Super User

Mashimoni, Mathare School of Hope Commissioned

Date : Thursday, November 3 2016

Venue: Mashimoni, Mathare 

It is a school day. It is 5.30 pm and doors are opening at Mashimoni School of Hope in Mathare Constituency, Nairobi County. Already scores of excited children are streaming in running around, full of life. They are ready to settle and do their homework. Without this facility, things would be drastically different. In their homes finding space to do the homework is difficult.The single room they call home serve as the kitchen, the sitting-room and the bedroom.

The school of hope  bursts into life every school day 5.30 pm  - 8:30 pm. It provides safe study space for school going children ages 6 - 18 where they access to up-to-date text and revision books as well as a tutor to help them with their homework. 'The number of children is ever increasing and the existing facility getting too small' were the sentiments of Dr. Steve Ouma, the Executive Director of Pamoja Trust in April, 2015 when H.E the Swedish Ambassador to Kenya Mr. Johan Borgstam toured Sweden supported developments projects implemented through the support of Embassy of Sweden, Nairobi to the Civil Society Urban Development Platform (CSUDP).

Recognizing the demand for the service, while appreciating the importance of education in fighting poverty as it opens up opportunities for the individual in society enabling the individual to contribute to community and nation building, the Swedish Ambassador pledged support to expand the existing facility to ensure more children can realize their dream to lift themselves out of the cycle of poverty through education.

The Mashimoni School of Hope

Towering the surrounding shanties, the Mashimoni School of Hope beckons nearly 500 learner’s everyday. It is an improvement to the former tin-walled hall that could only host a maximum of 50 beneficiaries at a time. The Embassy of Sweden in Nairobi, through the Civil Society Urban Development Platform (CSUDP) in partnership with Pamoja Trust supported the expansion of the new Mashimoni School of Hope. When launching the new centre on November 3, 2016, the Swedish Ambassador to Kenya, H.E Johan Borgstam, emphasized that the foundation of a progressive society is built on the opportunities for wholesome development offered to children irrespective of their social and economic status. “It is very important to realise that freedom from poverty is also about being able to know your rights. But if you can’t read or speak up, how then can you know what your rights are? This is ultimately why we believe education is key to the children of Mashimoni. We therefore appreciate the strong partnerships with the government of Kenya and the civil society organizations through CSUDP,” said Mr. Borgstam. The area Sub County Administrator, Mr. Naphtali Kooja, has welcomed the development as one that would save local youth from criminal baits and transform them into productive community members. 

During schools days, adults take on basic health and hygiene lessons among other life skills at the facility. They leave the facility before 5:30pm to create room for school children who sign in for assignment and revisions. “The School of Hope creates a good foundation and reading culture for learners. Beneficiaries now have a good opportunity to strengthen their educational competencies, their life skills and to sharpen their inherent potentials that have not be harnessed through formal education,” said George Wasonga, the Chief Executive Officer of CSUDP. The two-storey centre is a modern facility equipped with Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development approved school text and revision books. It has two large study halls, a library, two computer rooms and washrooms. On site is a tutor who assists learners with homework, and professional’s volunteers to coach and mentor the children. 

The community-run facility has attracted volunteer supervisors who offer educational and extra-curricula support. They help to track and record beneficiaries’ academic performance. “We envisage an education that delivers freedom and opportunities and one that helps learners to discover themselves. We therefore hope that this becomes an interaction centre of building a new culture of belonging, a culture of inclusion where you also create a sort of sublimation of boundaries between the adults and their young ones,” said Dr. Steve Ouma, a Scholar and the Executive Director of Pamoja trust. 

Indeed the fruits are already falling right at the doorstep of the Centre. “I am happy to be part of this transformation. I am one of twenty adults who have been able to successfully complete secondary school education through the school of hope programme,” said Dennis Isenya who is now the Chairman of Mashimoni Settlement Executive Committee. Isenya is among over 200 learners who have benefited from the school of hope in the recent past. For Eunice Awuor a form-two student the new building as a safer, closer and convenient study centre. “It is our library; you can read text books and revise with a friend. It is only about five minutes away from my house so I can stay there till nine O’clock and safely walk home,” she says. The Centre provides an inter-phase that promotes both community autonomy and a space for nurturing education and extra-curricula talents for young school goers in Mathare and neighboring informal settlements. Beyond their study clubs, beneficiaries engage in rugby sports training and competition. 

There is more to the presence of the building in Mashimoni. It encourages shanty owners to aspire to build more permanent structures. “This is a seed toward security of tenure. This is a resistance against eviction. This is an affirmation that people who live here have a right to dignified life,” concluded Dr. Ouma. The community has lauded Mashimoni School of Hope as a space for dignity. “It is a space where our children can study and socialise. A space one can access a toilet and take a shower. It is a safe space for boys and girls and men and women to study and be mentored,” observed Mariana, a resident of Mashimoni. Besides, the facility’s washrooms are connected to a bio-digester that does not only sap in waste but also produce biogas for the local’s fuel needs. Stakeholders plan to upscale the services and hopefully make the Centre a space where learners can get at least one hot meal in a day. 

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