Oleleshwa Girls Secondary School in Kenya
Partner: Free The Children
Since 1999, Free The Children has focused on providing high quality primary education and on removing the barriers to girls’ education in partnership with Kipsigis, Maasai and Kisii communities in the Maasai Mara. With the Oleleshwa Girls Secondary School project, 60 million girls is thrilled to continue our work with Free the Children in Kenya where we supported the Oloosiyoi Primary School in 2007 to provide education for some 300 primary students every year. It is a natural extension of our support to enable the girls graduating from elementary school in the region to have access to a high quality, well rounded and practical high school education.
Free The Children (FTC) has built over 90 classrooms, in a region that has the highest primary school dropout rate in Kenya, resulting in increased enrolment, increased rates of graduation and improved academic achievement. For example, over the past three years, the primary school graduation rate of girls has increased by 9%. These girls also demonstrate superior academic achievement. However, due to numerous obstacles such as domestic obligations, financial limitations, early marriage, childbirth and inadequate access to secondary school, young women in rural Kenya are unlikely to have the opportunity to attend secondary school.
Recognizing that secondary education provides a greater impact on the welfare of women during their lifetime than any other level of education and motivated by the achievement and passion of girls graduating from our primary schools, Free The Children has chosen to bring accessible secondary education to this region of Kenya. Their first all-girls secondary school, Kisaruni, was opened on Kipsigis land in 2011. Since its opening, the organization has witnessed the impact of Kisaruni on girls’ motivation and educational achievement at the primary school level. Bolstered by support for girls’ secondary education throughout the communities, the number of applications received far exceeds the number of available openings at Kisaruni.
FTC thus decided to open another secondary school, Oleleshwa, on Maasai territory. Oleleshwa will follow Kenya’s national curriculum and, like Kisaruni, will operate without government funding. To ensure the students have a guaranteed secondary education, full scholarship funding for each student will be assured. 60 million girls is providing $300,000 in funding over 2 years for the construction of 3 classrooms, 2 dormitories for 100 girls, a school garden and sports facilities. This funding, in alignment with other donations for the school, will enable up to 200 girls per year to attend this innovative high school.
Alongside the Kisaruni Girls Secondary School, Oleleshwa will help meet the growing demand for girls’ secondary education within the partner Kipsigis, Maasai and Kisii communities. More than a learning academy, Kisaruni is a symbol of freedom and choice and is built on a philosophy that values community, culture, diversity, leadership and active learning. While Kisaruni was built on Kipsigis land, Oleleshwa will be constructed on Maasai territory, ensuring that a new catchment of girls in the region is able to obtain a secondary education. Oleleshwa graduates will have the skills and tools that will allow them to pursue post-secondary education as well as employment in their local communities.
From what we have learned from Kisaruni, Oleleshwa will empower young women to break the cycle of poverty in the Maasai Mara by meeting the following objectives:
- Provide high quality secondary education to a new catchment of girls in the Maasai Mara. Currently, there are over 3,200 girls enrolled in Free The Children primary schools. With only one secondary school, the demand for secondary education far exceeds availability.
- Increase the number of girls graduating from primary school. Oleleshwa will provide 200 girls annually with a comprehensive secondary education. Girls in primary schools across 13 communities will have aspirations of attending Oleleshwa, thereby increasing their motivation to complete primary school and achieve high standards on national exams.
- Provide young women with the tools for future success in academics, the labour force and community leadership. Complementing the national curriculum, programming will incorporate:
- Employable skills relevant to the region, including agriculture, tourism and financial literacy training. Students will gain employment in roles related to the local economy and, therefore, remain in their communities upon graduation.
- Cultural education to facilitate the preservation of traditional cultures.
- Leadership programming strategies to provide girls with the tools and confidence to become culturally grounded community leaders.
- Technology including computer and science labs for practical, transferrable education.
- Parental involvement to ensure students are supported and to augment cultural learning.
Why partner with Free The Children?
Free the Children has been working with rural and marginalized communities in the Maasai Mara region of Kenya since 1999 with a large country office staffed by local professionals who work directly with community members and in partnership with local leaders and government. FTC representatives and the team in Kenya itself would administer the funds and implement the project. The project will be overseen by FTC senior staff member, Robin Wiszowaty.
Education projects are central to Free The Children’s holistic and sustainable development model, Adopt a Village. Through the education pillar of this model, FTC builds and outfits primary schools including classrooms, libraries, gender-specific latrines, school gardens, kitchens and dining halls. They also provide professional development, pedagogical training and on-site living accommodations for educators to ensure the highest quality of education. Education projects are implemented in conjunction with the other pillars of its Adopt a Village model: clean water and sanitation, health, alternative income and livelihoods, and agriculture and food security. This holistic model eliminates the obstacles preventing children from accessing primary education and equips communities with the tools needed to lift themselves from poverty.
An independent evaluation of Adopt a Village concluded that the model is effective at facilitating a path to economic self-sufficiency and prioritizing education and gender equality; it supports all of the millennium development goals focused on community-level development and is aligned with accepted components of successful development; it embraces several principles of sustainable development; and it utilizes cost-effective programs to produce complimentary, reinforcing outcomes.
FTC is committed to working in collaboration with communities to identify and address their needs. With graduation rates increasing in their primary schools, particularly amongst young girls, the need for ongoing education was identified. As such, FTC has chosen to implement comprehensive secondary education in the Maasai Mara region of Kenya with the establishment of the Oleleshwa Girls Secondary School.