Kenya is a beautiful country, famous for its African safaris, white-sand tropical beaches and stunning Rift Valley; but for many Kenyans, life is not so beautiful.
Out of Kenya’s population of 41 million, 60% live under the poverty line, surviving on less than $1 a day. Unsurprisingly, Kenya ranks low on the human development index at 147 out of 177 countries; Life expectancy is only 57.5 years (UNDP, 2011), HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is 6.3%, 40% of the adult population are unemployed, and just half of the students completing primary school continue on to secondary school.
Kenya is experiencing rapid urban growth – at a rate of 4.3% annually – such that 22.2% of Kenya’s population now live in urban areas. The capital city, Nairobi dominates the urban landscape, housing 3.4 million inhabitants. Infrastructure is better than in the rest of the country, with 59% of the population having access to piped water and 13% of homes owning a computer. Nairobi also commands the largest share of modern sector wage employment in Kenya, although there are 3.5 times as many people in informal employment than in the formal sector. This is a key indicator of the high inequality that characterises the city.
Coupled with poor nutrition, the incidence of preventable diseases, such as malaria and TB is high, and it is estimated that 1/5 of the 2.2 million Kenyans living with HIV/AIDs are residents of Kibera.
The climax of poverty is found in the vast informal settlements around Nairobi’s city center. Kibera is the largest slum in Kenya and the second largest in Africa. The slum originated in 1920 when the British colonial government allowed Nubian soldiers to settle on a hill out of the city center without land tenure. Since Kenyan independence in 1963, slum dwellings have been made illegal, although little has been done to re-settle unauthorized squatters. Over the past 80 or so years, Kibera has grown at an alarming rate and is now home to nearly 2 million Africans, approximately 1/3 of Nairobi’s population. Living conditions are extremely low, due to the high population density of 300,000/km².
The vicious cycle of poverty in Kibera condemns its inhabitants to a life of lack, hunger and despair, constraining them from breaking out of that environment. Maisha Trust aims to end this hopeless situation by empowering the people of Kibera to fulfill their potential and God-given purpose.
- The current education system in Kenya was introduced in 1985 and follows the pattern, 8-4-4. Children spend 8 years in primary school (leading to the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education), followed by 4 years in secondary school (leading to the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education, KCSE) and finish with 4 years of undergraduate study or vocational training.
- Access to primary schooling has grown phenomenally since free primary education was introduced in 2003. Over 86% of children are now enrolled in primary school, yet only 32% proceed to secondary school. There is a gender component to this too, because whilst gender parity has been achieved in primary school enrolment, only 41% of students completing KCSE are female.
- However, while education is universally available throughout Kenya, it is still not accessible to all. Even in the case of primary school, added costs, such as school uniform, books, exam fees, tuition fees and school lunch, mean that ‘free’ schooling remains a dream yet to be realized.
- Furthermore, pre-primary or kindergarten school is still not free. As a consequence, those unable to afford pre-primary school start primary education aged 6 or 7 years with no basic language, literacy or numerical skills, while their counterparts have already acquired a sound foundation in these areas, putting them at a severe disadvantage.
- Maisha Trust is committed to eradicating this injustice, as we believe that all children deserve the best start to life.
The work of Maisha Trust began several years before the Trust was founded. In 2006, Sarah started a kindergarten school in Kibera slum in partnership with two local teachers. The initiative was born out of their concern about the lack of affordable pre-primary schools in the slum and the recognition that, because of this, children in Kibera began life disadvantaged, setting precedence for their future prospects too.
After helping to establish the school on the ground, Sarah went back to England and registered a UK charity to raise funds to support the project. The charity was named after her ‘Sarah Junior School’ since it was acknowledged that it was quite an accomplishment for a 19-year-old.
The kindergarten school continued to operate under the loving care of the two teachers and supervision of Victor, a loyal Kenyan friend. Within a few months, the school had sixty pupils, aged 3-6 years, all of which were identified as living in extreme poverty. School fees were set at just Ksh100 (80p), which included lunch since the central objective of ‘Sarah Junior School’ was to eradicate barriers to education.
Moved to Kenya, 2010
Then, in 2010, Sarah moved to Kenya and saw the need to improve various aspects of the project, so that it could be even more impactful. She started by upgrading the registration from a Community-Based Organisation (CBO) to a Charitable Trust – Maisha Trust. Subsequently, with the help of Tom, her husband, a plot of land was purchased in Kibera. Since the school was then operating from a rented church hall, owning land gave the Trust the opportunity of constructing its own school building and providing the children with adequate facilities, such as running water, electricity and a safe space to play in (none of which existed on the former site).
The trustees’ vision of creating a place of ‘life’ resulted in the school being re-named as Oasis Kindergarten. Construction began in 2012 and lasted about a year. It took several months to clear and level the ground, put in the foundations and then build the specially designed school. It boasts an office, three classrooms, a music room, a large multi-purpose hall, a staff room, a kitchen, a general store, adult and pupil toilets and a guard’s house. There is running water, electricity, flushable toilets and even Wi-Fi. Another one of our priorities was creating a safe, pleasant space for the children to play, so the central area of the grounds has green grass surrounded by beautiful trees and plants-a true display of ‘life’ in the midst of the slum
Opened School, 2015
On 5th May 2015, the school opened its doors to the first intake of pupils. Sixty little children excitedly ran through the gates to behold their wonderful new school. Over the ensuing months they, along with new intakes of pupils, have been taught a range of subjects from our purposefully-designed hybrid curriculum, which combines the strengths of the Kenyan, British and Montessori curriculums. Extra-curricular activities feature strongly, giving them the opportunity to explore and develop their talents in Arts, Drama, Music and Sports. The pupils’ holistic well-being is further nurtured through Religious Education, an Emotional Intelligence programme, health check-ups and nutritious hot meals.
The school year ends with a fabulous Graduation Ceremony, where the finishing class is awarded prizes and congratulated on their successful completion of kindergarten education. They look magnificent, robed in splendid African graduation gowns and hats. The pupils of all classes treat the parents to a fantastic display of musical and dramatic performances and themselves treated with a delicious cake. It truly is the highlight of the year for all.
In keeping with our mission of enabling those living in extreme poverty in Kenya to realise and fulfil their potential in life, our vision is taken from an oasis; An oasis is an isolated pool of water supporting rich vegetation and providing a habitat for animals and human beings to survive in the middle of a desert environment. It is also typologically used to represent a place that gives relief from troubling or chaotic situations. Hence, in the context of Kibera; a slum of severe deprivation, hopelessness and misery, Oasis Kindergarten is a source of life in the midst of a landscape of scarcity.
Our curriculum was specially designed to combine the strengths of the Kenyan, British and Montessori approaches. It prioritizes developing pupils’ literacy, numeracy and verbal skills while giving plenty of room for creativity and exploration.Emotional intelligence is about a person’s ability to recognize, understand and express their emotions, as well as to respond appropriately to the emotions of others. Our ‘EQ’ programme was initiated at the end of 2016 and has brought tremendous results.
Our curriculum was specially designed to combine the strengths of the Kenyan, British and Montessori approaches. It prioritises developing pupils’ literacy and numeracy and verbal skills, while giving plenty of room for creativity and exploration. We have also ensured that our teaching is culturally and locally relevant to the children. Testimony to its efficacy, our learners always made us proud during their interviews for primary school!
Emotional intelligence is about a person’s ability to recognise, understand and express their emotions, as well as to respond appropriately to the emotions of others. Our ‘EQ’ programme was initiated at the end of 2016 and has brought tremendous results. In addition to becoming more confident, kind and thoughtful, our pupils are now able to resolve conflicts with little or no help from an adult.
Performing And Creative Art
We believe that every child has gifts that need to be discovered and developed, which is why Oasis gives plenty of opportunities for children to engage in performing and creative arts. Art activities have helped to make learning real, whilst also allowing pupils to express their thoughts and individuality. Our children love singing, dancing and drama so much that we now host an annual Talent Show to display their talents to the parent community.
Oasis Kindergarten helps children to know and relate with their creator at an early age, as stipulated in the spiritual rights of the child. In order to lay a sure spiritual foundation, the school has committed an hour every Friday to religious activities. As well as singing Christian songs and listening to stories from the Bible, pupils learn about other religions and grow to appreciate the different beliefs of others.
Every day, our teachers are mindful of pupils’ health and are conscious to check their temperatures, observe their mood and emotions, and ask questions about how they feel. They also take note of any behavioural problems and highlight them during the termly Parent Teacher Consultations. In addition, health visitors from a local clinic come to the school regularly to keep on track with the recommended schedule for deworming and vaccinations.
Officers from the Kenya Scouts Association come to Oasis every week to engage our pupils in Scouting activities. Scouting aids children in achieving their full potential in character, discipline and citizenship. Our learners are always excited to join Scouts and push their parents to buy the complete scout uniform!
Many of our children do not receive regular daily meals at home. We serve them porridge in the morning, fresh fruit and a hot lunch every day. Our food is healthy, nutritionally balanced and hygienically prepared. It tastes delicious too – we have never had any complaints!
Physical Education is an important activity in the early years. It fosters physical, mental, emotional and social development in young children. Oasis upholds this fact by allocating Fridays for an extended time of outdoor play and physical exercises.
Oasis Kindergarten offers the best pre-school environment in the whole of Kibera! It is a beautiful green space, defined by cleanliness, warmth, fun and security. Our pupils are integral in its up-keep, helping to plant trees, water flowers and pick up rubbish. Due to our wonderful environment, Oasis experiences a huge demand for new in-takes every year.
Oasis seeks to give children the chance to interact with nature and be exposed to things outside of their familiar surroundings. Our school trips aid in this, helping learners to appreciate their rich cultural and environmental heritage. Over the past few years, our children have visited the Nairobi National Park, Nairobi National Museums and The Mamba village.
Maisha Trust is committed to eradicating this injustice, as we believe that all children deserve the best start in life