FGM Rescue

I came back this morning from the heart of Gusiiland in western Kenya where I had gone on an urgent mission to rescue a grade two girl from imminent circumcision.

I was talking to her mum Wednesday morning when she casually mentioned both her kids (a boy and a girl) have traveled upcountry with their grandmother for circumcision. The moment she mentioned this alarm bells rang in my head – because I know female circumcision is very prevalent among the Kisii and due to government crackdown on the practice it is done on very young girls.

In 2010 I was involved in an anti-FGM campaign in Maasailand led by Lanoi Parmuat. Drawing from experience and knowledge i gained during this campaign i was able to convince the mum that having her girl undergo the practice was a very bad idea. So a plan for the rescue was hatched. We would to her rural home and tell the grandma that the girl was needed back at the school for a special Christmas performance. I am glad that everything went according to plan, I am however not sure that the grandmother was fooled. She might attempt to do it again next year. But for now the girl is safe.

Some background information on Kisii People

Gusiiland is located in western Kenya, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Lake Victoria. Abundant rainfall and very fertile soils have made Gusiiland one of the most productive agricultural areas in Kenya. Since 1889, the Gusii as a single ethnic group have occupied the Kisii and Nyamira counties of southwestern Kenya. The Kisii are one of the most economically active communities, tea, coffee, and bananas being the major cash crops of the area. The 2010 census puts Kisii as the seventh largest tribe in Kenya. Also the Kisii have the highest proportion of circumcised women in any Kenyan society, with an estimated 97% of adult, Kisii women having undergone the operation (Demographic and Health Survey, 2008)

Another Brief Update

We resumed school for the second term on Tuesday May 2, 2017 after a three weeks break. The first week of the term proceeded smoothly. The average attendance for the week was 155. By end of week 22 children had not reported back, however we expect that they would have come back by Monday next week.

New Teacher

Quinter Atieno Aduor joined us this week. She will be taking the place of Catherine Njeri who has been posted to Mugoiri Girls High School in Murang’a Central Kenya for her teaching practice (she is a Bachelors of Education Student at Kenyatta University). Before joining Hands of Love Quinter was the Deputy Director at St. Claire Academy in Korogocho. She Holds a Diploma in Primary Education.

Support by Feed the Children International

For the last couple of months, we have tried unsuccessfully to get Feed the Children International to support our food program. I am glad to report that we had a breakthrough this week. We did not get what we wanted but they agreed to offer a small loaf of bread (100 grams) Monday to Friday for every child in the Centre. The bread is served with morning porridge and is a welcome addition to our food program.    

Cornfying our Garden

The maize that grade 3 kids planted in March is doing extremely well. So much so that the nursery class kids who started an extra garden on our first floor balcony decided they also wanted to plant maize. Theirs has just sprouted and we hope it will also do well.

Unfortunately our passion fruit plant has lost more than half its foliage and we fear it is dying out.

Richard

At last Richard Mwangi the grade one boy was in Intensive Care Unit at Kenyatta National Hospital has been discharged after two month in hospital. He is still not able to come back to school but he is far better now.

Rising Political Tension

Kenya will have general elections on  August 8, and the campaigning has started in earnest. Unfortunately elections in Kenya can lead to tribal tensions and sometimes violence. Over the last few weeks we have seen with concern divisive political rhetoric which if unchecked will lead to insecurity in  Kariobangi and the surrounding  informal settlements which going by previous elections are hotspots for political/tribal violence. This may disrupt learning this term.

 

THAT’S ALL FOR NOW

Fourth Graders Visit Nairobi Museum & Snake Park

On Saturday March 25, 2016 our 4th graders had a memorable trip to the Nairobi Museum and Snake Park. The aim of the trip was to complement and reinforce what the children have learnt this term.

History of Kenya Gallery

They visited four galleries where they learnt the history of Kenya from pre-colonial times, to colonial and post-independence era; and cultural practices of various Kenyan communities plus the artifacts used in such practices in the past and today. They also learnt about mammals, birds and evolution of man.

Hall of Mammals

The highlight of the trip was a visit to the snake park where the kids got to see different types of snakes, crocodiles, alligator, turtles, tortoises, and fishes. With the help of a knowledge guide the kids had a very immersive experience in this section. As their teachers they did us very proud by engaging the guide and asking very intelligent questions.

Snake Park
Boniface Kulova

We hope that we will be able to have more field trips in the future so that we can continue to broaden the educational experience for our kids. This trips are also important on a different level, our kids come from disadvantaged backgrounds and are less likely to have visits to museums and other cultural institutions if the centre does not offer them.

Garden Update – March 2017

This term our balcony garden is coming along nicely. The kids and their teachers have been out there learning several times a week. Despite a slow start (the garden was not planted until end of February) class three (grade 3) who are in charge of the garden this term are doing a fantastic job.

The garden pushes the kids and the teachers to learn more and try different things. And this term the theme is to show the kids how much effort goes into producing food. We want the kids to experience – in a small way –  the time and the energy that goes into producing a single ear of maize. We initially planted maize bought from the local market but those didn’t germinate and we had to get certified seeds which grew and are looking healthy now.

maize

Other things growing in the garden include this passion fruit which is doing fabulous.

passion

The strawberry was transferred to a bigger container on the 1st floor balcony it looked like it was going to die but is doing better now.

straw

And there is this mystery plant growing with the strawberry. When it germinated there was a small debate among the kids whether to uproot it or not. There those who thought it was a weed and therefore should be removed and others argued it was a pumpkin. In the end they decided to leave it and see what it grows into.

mystery

Then we have these onions which do not seem to be doing very well.

onions

Other things growing include bamboo and other decorative plants.

bam dd

ff

Target Area

Kariobangi North Where Hands of Love Educational Centre operates is a low-income residential estate in northeastern Nairobi, Kenya. It has four residential areas, Marura, Kanyama, Githembe and ‘Lightie’. Lightie is the short for Kariobangi Light Industries – a previously (late 80s & early 90s) sparsely populated area that was reserved for small scale enterprises aimed at building the entrepreneurial base for the area. Hands of Love Educational Centre is located in ‘Lightie’. Kariobangi North borders Huruma estate to the west, Ruaraka to north Korogocho to the East and Kariobangi South to the s come from these surrounding estates as shown in the map below.

Kariobangi North

Kariobangi as a whole has a population of about 60,000 people but the catchment area of the school which is shown in the map above has a population of about 20,000 people. About a third of this people live in extreme poverty in slum type dwellings constructed using recycled or found materials. For this segment of the population childcare and early childhood education costs more than they’d earn in a job.  Lacking access to the same educational and developmental resources as their counterparts from higher-income families during the vital time when 90 percent of a child’s brain growth occurs they are saddled with an insurmountable disadvantage when they join primary school. this is the challenge that Hands of Love Educational Centre is working to address. We educate, feed and clothe these children; nurture their families; and building hope. Currently we have 141 children representing 114 households

Core Foundation of Our Curriculum

Over the last couple of weeks we have been working with Moses Osore an educationist at the University of Nairobi to clarify and document the core principles of curriculum and the approach to learning and teaching. We still have some have some ground to cover but here is a look at some of the ideas we have developed so far, and we will be looking to train our teachers on implementing.

Play-Based Learning

Play is a principle foundation of learning, and it should drive our curriculum methodology. It must be incorporated into the daily routine, both planned and free-play.
Play is a process through which children actively manipulate and explore ideas and materials that interest them. Play promotes all aspects of children’s development, and helps children learn how to make decisions, negotiate social relationships, solve problems and express their feelings and ideas. Research shows that academic instruction impacts children’s learning in the short-term, the benefits fade over time. In contrast, high-quality, play-based learning experiences have a longer lasting impact on child development, particularly for disadvantaged children.

Child-Centred Methodology

Learning should be highly child-centred learning, ensuring the curriculum and activities fit their needs and talents to instill a long-term love of learning.
Child-centred teaching approach shifts the focus from the teacher to children, where teachers consider children’s interests and abilities when planning activities and learning experiences. Child centred teaching provides children with hands-on opportunities to learn, and construct their own knowledge in collaboration with peers, teachers, and other teachers. When education is child-centred it sustains the children’s interests and increases their motivation in school, encourages their talents and builds their self-esteem, while also providing opportunities to build on prior knowledge.

Developmentally Appropriate Education

Age-appropriate activities are core to the curriculum, ensuring children are not pushed too fast or memorize information, but understand concepts and build skills to succeed in school and life long-term.
Age-appropriate education is an approach designed to promote young children’s optimal learning and development. The approach is grounded in knowing how young children develop and learn, understanding the individual child and incorporating the local culture into expectations of children. This approach involves teachers meeting young children where they are, and helping them meet challenging and achievable learning goals.

Holistic Development

Hands of Love Methodology promotes seeing the “whole child”, addressing their emotional, physical, social and cultural needs, in addition to their cognitive / academic needs for optimum development results.
Rather than focus on academic development alone, holistic development seeks to address all needs of children. This means children are stimulated to achieve development milestones across all developmental domains, including cognitive, language, socio-emotional and physical development. By providing holistic development instead of providing pressure for specific academic outcomes, teachers allow the child to feel confident and provide the opportunity to master skills they need for life.

First Week (9 – 14 January 2017)

After a month long break, we reported back for the new school year on Monday 9th January. Most of the kids (104) came back on the first day – which is very encouraging. On the we were glad to have Terry and Damanyonti visiting.

A total of 40 new kids have joined the school and 11 have left. We are working out where the children who have left are.

Jay Cortes, Gift Mukanabo & Elisa Akinyi (It is Jay’s & Elisa’s first day in school

Three kids have not reported back but we expect they will be coming back, two of them are sick and the third is caught up in a custody tussle between the parents.  The sick ones are Edgar Joseph (Grade 3) and Gift Kinyua (Nursery). Edgar is hospitalized in Kakamega after having surgery on his head, it is not yet clear the circumstances that led to this. He is one of the brightest kids in the school and we have invested a lot on his health especially in 2015. We plan to travel to Kakamega on Thursday to visit him in hospital. Gift Kinyua is hospitalized in Huruma Nursing Home with Pneumonia and he is responding well to treatment and we expect him back in school soon. Fernando Torres dad took him to their rural home and is refusing to return him to the custody of the mum because they separated. We have advised the mother to take up the matter with the authorities.

We have two new teachers. Teacher Maureen who will be teaching grade 1 and has a diploma in Primary Education and Teacher Margret who has will be teaching Nursery class and has a diploma in early childhood education. They replace teachers Nelly Akoth and Jane Weringa who have the centre.

We had an encouraging response from the parents in terms of contributing to the operations of the centre. Last year after a series of meetings with parents on the direction the school ought to take in 2017. Parents pleaded with us to have one more class so that the kids who were in grade 3 in 2016 would remain at the centre and proceed to grade 4 in 2017. To enable this happen they pledged to contribute US$5 per parent per month. As at Friday 13th they had contributed a total of US$600. This is really amazing to see that the parents recognize the incredible work we are doing with their kids and are ready to join hands with us. We have a total buy-in from a majority of the parents.

 

 

 

Update on Kevin

Thanks to donations from our partners and friends, I am pleased inform that we were able to meet all the expenses Kevin incurred at the hospital. Of the total US$1,140 bill, Kevin’s family raised US$185, National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) gave US$310 and we (HoL) contributed US$232 and Through the intervention of the gracious Dr. Abel and Mrs. Nkanai doctors waived their fees and that way we got a discount of US$413. We are glad that everything came together nicely and we were able to get the money paid. We are especially grateful to Mrs. Nkanai – the hospital administrator – who went out of her way to ensure NHIF got involved and Dr. Abel who spoke to fellow doctors to waive their fees.

By the time, we were closing school November last year Kevin was making steady progress towards recovery and he had started to regain vision in the affected eye (he could make out motion) but sadly when we came back for this year he seems to have regressed. Even his general state of health is not all that good. We want to take him back to hospital but this has been hindered by an ongoing national strike by doctors.

 

Teenage Pregnancies in Kariobangi

Three weeks ago, I had a conversation with the principal of one of the high schools in Kariobangi and she gave me saddening statistics on girl’s dropout rates. In her school, out of 146 girls who joined high school in 2013 only 45 sat for their O level examinations last November. A hundred and one girls – almost 70 percent of the original number did not complete their high school education. she did not have the corresponding number for boys and it would be interesting to compare the two.

I have been wondering whether there is a connection between this fact and high levels of poverty witnessed in Kariobangi and its environs. It seems to me that there is.  According to the principal, the situation in her school is not uncommon in schools around Kariobangi. Girls routinely drop out of school because of early pregnancies. That a majority of girls who join high school will drop out is the rule rather than the exception in Kariobangi. This has a huge impact on the community. It perpetuates a cycle of intergenerational poverty. Without an education, it is difficult for these girls to see beyond their lives in urban slums and their options are limited. These girls represent a huge well of untapped potential and a missed opportunity for Kariobangi and Kenya.

The high dropout rate contributes to the challenge that Hands of Love Educational Centre is trying to address in Kariobangi.  About a third of the parents at the Centre had their first child when they were teenagers. Most of them were unable to continue with their high school education and now they work casual jobs where they earn less than it would cost to put their kids in childcare and early childhood education centers.

Urgent Appeal: Please Help Us Help Kevin

A boy in our school urgently needs your help. On 31st August Kevin, while playing with his friends at home – after school, another shot a toothpick from a slingshot hitting his eye and puncturing the eyeball. Kimani lives with his mum who is unemployed. Therefore, his only chance of getting proper treatment was the Hands of Love. We responded to this challenge swiftly ensuring that he was in a good hospital within 2 hours. He has since undergone two surgeries and the doctors say he should be able to recover sight in the injured eye.

But this has come at a cost and this is where we need your help. We need to raise US$710 to pay the accrued hospital bill. Although Kevin has now been discharged from hospital we had to deposit a title deed to a property as security with the hospital and we have a short time to the raise the money.

Anything you can give towards this cause will be highly appreciated.

Please get in touch with us on the contact form below for details on how you can donate.