Oloosiyoi school project in Maasai Mara, Kenya
Partner: Free The Children
In 2007, the 60 million girls Foundation partnered with Free The Children (FTC) to address the daunting array of developmental challenges in the Oloosiyoi community, located in the Narok South District of Kenya, the heartland of the Maasai Mara. In formulating the plans for the project, FTC worked with the local people to better address their needs and to better ensure the long term sustainability of the project.
The initial assessment conducted by FTC illustrates the deep poverty and the paucity of basic education, health services and means of livelihood in the Oloosiyoi community. On the education front, 80% of primary school aged children do not attend school and those that do face a student/teacher ratio of 1:55. The community has no immediate access to health services, and most households do not have safe drinking water or proper sanitation facilities. Average life expectancy is a mere 48 years for women and 50 years for men, compared with 51.3 years for the Kenyan population overall. Meanwhile, 90% of the population lives on less than $2 a day.
The project funded by 60 million girls addresses some of these issues by combining the construction of the school with other basic community needs.
There are many obstacles to overcome to enable girls to access a quality primary education, particularly in rural areas. The Maasai Mara region of Kenya is no exception. All children in this region, but especially girls, face barriers to achieving a quality education, preventing them from reaching their fullest potential.
Women in communities in the Maasai Mara region of Kenya have many responsibilities, such as managing households and finances and caring for extended families. These demands mean that young girls often need to stay home to help their mothers with chores, preventing them from receiving the education that will help to ensure their future health and wellbeing, as well as that of their families.
In 2007, 60 million girls partnered with Free The Children to address this imbalance. Through this project, 60 million girls will directly and measurably improve the number and quality of educational opportunities for girls while building a strong foundation for long-term community development through the empowerment of its women.
The project consists in the construction of 8 one-room furnished school buildings to offer a complete 8 grade primary school education to the children of the community, and it will also specifically address some of the main constraints that girls face to enrol in school.
Girls are most often responsible for getting water for the family and for looking after younger siblings. With the installation of a water pump in the school area, girls can bring home water after school thereby combining the walk towards the water source with their walk to class. Clean water is also thereby more accessible to the community. A day care centre enables girls to drop off their younger siblings in good care while they attend school. Latrines are built to encourage greater hygiene and allow girls to be more comfortable during their day. As well, two bursaries will be provided for two young girls to be able to pursue their education further and attend high school.
Free The Children encourages the hiring of female teachers and principals at its schools to serve as role models for girls. The organization works directly with local women to empower them through the provision of alternative income opportunities. With the added income, women are better able to support the education of their daughters.
The Maasai and Kipsigis people have a long history of marginalization and discrimination within their own country and struggle to achieve their basic human rights. They have very little access to education and health services and the very few schools in the region are often run down and long distances apart, creating a safety issue for girls.
The future of the Maasai and Kipsigis is uncertain and their very existence is in danger. In recent years there has been a decrease in the local population related to inadequate access to health services and increasing rates of poverty-related health issues including child mortality, infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS.
Over the last 6 years, Free The Children’s education and community development projects in Kenya have helped to bring about significant change in the communities. Free The Children has specifically worked toward improving the availability of primary education, incorporating school construction and capacity-building for education, clean water projects, alternative income projects and a mobile health unit for the betterment of community wellbeing.
These efforts, combined with efforts of the government and the local communities, have resulted in several positive changes including:
- Overall school exam marks have risen with girls ranking amongst the top students in the schools;
- Rates of female circumcision have fallen;
- The practice of young marriages for girls is being debated and gradually changed in the community;
- Strong female role models have been introduced in the form of female teachers and principals;
- Women’s groups have been strengthened through alternative income opportunities and training, enhancing local women’s empowerment efforts and role modelling for girls.
The first stage of the project, which began in March 2008, included the building of five classrooms as well as a clean water project and latrines. Health services were offered by a mobile clinic.
The second stage, currently anticipated to begin in March 2009, saw the construction of three more classrooms and a nursery. Teacher training, health awareness programming and alternate income projects for women also began. Scholarships for two girls were made available.
Finally, in March 2010, stage three added an outreach program for men and youth groups while continuing the health awareness and income projects begun in stage two.
Over the course of the project the FTC team on the ground collected data on an annual basis to evaluate the project’s progress and its effects on the community. The indicators for development include: school enrolment, school attendance and retention rates in school, all of which will be analyzed by gender. The indicators also measure teacher attendance, the number of households with sanitation facilities. Finally, the FTC team evaluated the change in resources available to families (size of plot, number of goats/cows, wider variety of vegetables and household income).