“We reach out to high school students in the slums and encourage them with their education”
A community outreach programme in Kenya is pairing up pupils with mentors who are university students - to support them through their challenges.
I am Sandra Ngaire. I am 21 years old and from Kenya. I believe that every child is entitled to education and deserves to be heard and enjoy working to ensure that this is the case.
I am happy to work with Macheo – a community outreach programme that began in 2014. Macheo is a Swahili name that means sunrise.
In this programme, we reach out to the high school students residing in the less fortunate areas such as the Kibera slums and Kangemi slums.
Kibera is the largest slum in Kenya and East Africa. It houses around 250,000 slum dwellers. It is most definitely faced with poverty and crime issues.
In Macheo, we reach out to students residing and studying in the slums. Due to limited funds, we do not mentor the whole school. Instead we recruit a number of students per school who then join the programme.
Students who join the programme are both boys and girls. They join while they are in form two (at around ages 14 to 17). Students who join the programme are offered mentorship, tutoring and get to have excursions.
In mentoring, every student is given a mentor according to their gender. Girls get lady mentors whereas boys get gentlemen mentors. The mentors are Strathmore University students.
I am part of the mentors and I mentor two young girls who are currently in their final year of secondary education. While mentoring, we encourage the girls to share their lives with us and we act as a support system for them. We offer a listening ear to them and are present in their lives.
These students are faced with various family issues. Some are orphans, others live with their relatives and most face domestic violence. Tuition fees are a major hiccup for them.
The mentor-mentee relationship is ideally like that of a sister relationship. Or that of sibling – whereby you always must look out for your younger sibling.
We walk with them as though they are our younger sisters whom we are guiding to reach to a higher level. We especially encourage them on education so that they may get scholarships, go to university and be of help to their families and save them from poverty constraints.
Tutoring is done three Saturdays in the month at the university. The students come in at 12.30pm, have their lunch then go to their classes whereby they are tutored by mentors and professional teachers.
During the last Saturday, students have an excursion around the city of Nairobi or in the outcasts. Whereby they have a hike on a mountain, go to a game park or a museum and have a feel of the outside environment.
The idea is to let these young girls and boys know and feel that there is a life out of Kibera. Most of them have spent their entire life in the slums. They know nothing out from the slums other than the crime, lack of amenities and poverty.
There are smart students who lack the moral support and someone to guide them and hence they engage in crime or trade their bodies for sex to get money. It is challenging for them, especially for those who are orphans and should take care of themselves and their younger siblings.
We let them know that much as we cannot offer them solutions for everything, we can offer them support and guidance anytime they need us.
It is encouraging and delightful when some of the students who have completed their high school get good grades and join university. We are excited to see most join Strathmore University under scholarship.
Personally, Macheo has greatly changed my life. While interacting with these students, seeing how passionate they are in their studies and how much they want to change their families and their lives is rewarding.
I want these students, especially the girls whom I often interact with, to become great women in the nation. Women with integrity, women of valour and respectable women.
That is my ultimate goal. I believe that this will come to pass.