EVERY YEAR, when children write the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams, our organisation crunches numbers. We try and calculate the cost of sending “our children” to secondary school.
When I say, “our children”, I mean the orphans and vulnerable children that KENWA, in partnership with other organisations and individuals, educate up to university, some in technical institutions.
When national exam results are released, and the country celebrates the top pupils, I worry about our children’s future. Regardless of performance, our organisation believes that no child should be left behind. When KCPE results are announced, our biggest worry is what will happen to the children that will not make it to secondary school. If they are left behind as their peers progress, chances are high that these children will fall victim to the vicious cycle of HIV. Even in the middle of the year, needs arise, and the cost of keeping these kids in school keeps fluctuating.
Back to school blues
Sometimes, unconsciously, I want to ask the person seated next to me in a reception, hospital bench – wherever I am, whether they have school books they can spare. I’m talking about Golden Bells hymnals, dictionaries, atlases, Bibles and text books, the usual books parents buy when their children are joining secondary school.
Imagine how expensive it is to buy all these books for one child, now imagine the 100 KENWA children that join Form One every year. Each child is a different individual, going to a different school, and even when we have three kids going to the same school, we still have to buy individual books and equipment.
That’s the drill every year.
This year, we were hit hardest. One of our main donors, supporting almost 6,000 kids, informed us that come end of year, they will no longer be able to support us this project. I can tell where their fatigue is coming from. Many times, I have felt the same; only that I don’t know where, and when to stop. A project of this magnitude is akin to trying to fill a pot that has holes with water. The water level never rises, which means that once you start educating such children, you can never stop.
I take it one step at a time. For me, the most important step is that the children in our care complete secondary school. That is the biggest hurdle. Once they clear it, they are on the home stretch.
They are victors
Even kids who do not score the required marks needed to join a good school have untapped talent that we must not lose. For a long time, I was brainwashed that if a child was not “Amaterial”, they were only fit for menial jobs, which, apparently, do not warrant papers.
Times have changed. With a swelling population with papers, there is nothing like a menial task. I have seen people rising from humble positions to become CEOs. I know that any job, however basic, can change fortunes and futures if done with purpose, professionalism and integrity.
I have 6,000 children. I don’t want to say I will not take more kids, if anything, I have no idea how they grew to this huge number. All I know is that it pays to invest in children. Many of them long completed school and college and are now employed. I feel like doing a victory dance and ululating when I am assisted in a bank, escorted to the door, and told, “You don’t remember me? I was one of your childrem”.
Such encounters give me fulfillment and encourage me to assist more children, even when money is scant and hope is thinner than prison soup.
Save our spawn
I’m weakening. I feel like packing up my goods and chattels and boarding the next plane out of this calling, so that I will not see these children fail to go to school.
But I can’t. I can’t turn my back on them. I created this monster. And now it has outgrown me.
Folks, I have learnt my lesson. Next time, before I start a project of this magnitude, I will consult widely. I want to avoid, or know how to mitigate such predicaments.
Speaking of mitigation, do you have school material you’re not using? Please holler at your sister. I will arrange how to pick it. Or, better yet, if you can take it upon yourself to support one child, I pledge to do all it takes to make this child complete school.