Ten years have gone by since the horrific 2007/08 post-election violence in Kenya that shook the entire world. Many families were affected and most especially women and children who were displaced from their homes and became vulnerable to all forms of abuse and discrimination. It is estimated that more than a million people lost their property and source of income but also their loved ones due to violence. Although ethnic and political divides were the major causes of this violence, Kenyans have not yet learned their lessons as this was again displayed in the 2017 general elections.
It has taken years for many affected families to rebuild their lives after being internally displaced. Although the government tried to compensate some of the displaced families, children and young people were totally forgotten especially those who were separated from their families during violence but more so those who had lost hope of schooling due to changes in status and environment. Vision Africa was among the first organizations that played a key role in the emergency care support but also resettling some of the families who had camped in Kibera slums. Families got the opportunity to start all over again in their new environment with our support and some children were enrolled in a school that was sponsored by the Lutheran Church. The school was repaired and refurbished by Vision Africa after it was torched during the clashes. Many children from the school were placed on our sponsorship programme until the school changed management several years later.
Fast forward… all the children who remained under Vision Africa sponsorship programme after leaving the Lutheran School are still in school though some delayed schooling as the families tried to find footing in their new environment. The organization has continued to support these families to meet education costs for their children and this has made them become more like part of our Vision Africa family than beneficiaries. This is because the majority of these children come from single mothers who are struggling to make ends meet hence they entrust us with their children’s welfare as we seek to invest in their future through education.
The beginning of 2018 saw 4 girls from these families join secondary school through our support and contributions from their families. The girls were in private primary schools so most of them received their calling letters from both the government and private schools depending on their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams performance. I was personally overwhelmed to see how their parents worked hard to ensure that their children were admitted to school. All these women are doing menial jobs with very low wages but since they value education, they ensured that their daughters (or granddaughters) have everything needed for high school admission.
Billian’s grandmother is one strong and dedicated woman who has raised her grandchild with good moral values. Before the 2007/08 post-election violence, Billian and her family lived in Kibera slums. Her grandmother had a big business and rental houses in the area but it all went up to the flames in the blink of an eye. The business was looted before being torched and all they had while running for their lives was just the clothes they wore. The loss of property and business was so traumatic to the family that they have not been able to fully recover. Billian and her grandmother are living in the slums of Kawangware and she works as a nanny to cater for their basic needs. Vision Africa has been supporting Billian through her education since 2008 even though she had to repeat classes as the family resettled elsewhere. After sitting for her final end of primary exams, Billian did not score the marks that she aspired to but promised us that she would work hard when she went to high school. True to her words, when she brought her first term report card when the schools went for recess, she had an A- grade. Apart from that, she was elected to be the school captain and Christian Union leader!
Billian’s grandmother is full of gratitude for sponsorship support and this is what she said “I thank you so much for the support they have given to my grandchild because many young girls of her age are already married or are young mothers because they did not get the opportunity to advance to high school due to poverty. That is why I am happy because Vision Africa has given my grandchild the best gift in life.”
There is need to educate all children in Kenya. Although the government introduced free primary and secondary education, that promise has not been fully implemented as parents still pay for development projects, feeding programme and remedial classes for their children. This prevents many children from poor backgrounds from having the opportunity to enjoy the free education. I would urge our stakeholders and new donors to invest in education. As the Late Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Let us all come together and change this world by equipping and empowering children and young people through education!
Post by Sherry Waweru, Impact Assessment Officer