For far too many children in Kenya, the opportunity to attend school is a privilege, not a guarantee, and during the worst of the COVID-19 and schools were closed throughout the country last year and the first part of this year, they were devasted in a myriad of ways, including by the fact that for them there was no such thing as virtual learning.
Now with schools reopened, children are eager to resume their schoolwork and catch up on all they missed out on during the past year, including seeing their friends and classmates who they likely had not seen since schools were closed. And for the children attending the Seed School in the slums of Nairobi, is also means a resumption of the two meals a day they receive every school day.
We understand, of course, that coronavirus is still a threat (especially the deadlier delta variant), but schools are taking all the necessary precautions they can to protect students and staff, while we hope and pray that there will be no resurgence to force another country-wide school closure. It’s imperative that students remain in the classroom, as long as they can do so safely.
While we are pleased that schools are reopened, we also applaud the Kenyan government for doing the right thing when it had to to save lives. As education analyst Amos Kaburu, who agreed with the government’s decision to close the schools to protect the lives of children, stated, “Governments have to be very realistic about the safety of children. So, any responsible government should do what the Kenyan government did, and that is to take a conservation approach.”
The orphaned and abandoned children who live at the Lewa Children’s Home in Eldoret, Kenya are the fortunate few: they have all their basic needs. including a roof over their heads, warm beds to sleep in, three meals a day, being met by loving caregivers – especially its founder and director, Phyllis Keino, our international volunteer spokesperson, who they know as “mommy.”
In addition, the dozens of elementary school-age children living there also have the opportunity to attend the adjacent Kipkeino Primary School where they are receiving the education they need, starting off early in life to help them succeed in secondary school, possibly vocational training after that, and ultimately leading to a successful adulthood.
Lewa was founded in the 1960s when Phyllis and her family began taking in abandoned and orphaned children in their community, and thanks in large part to the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa® who helped build the current children’s home, which is now situated on a 500-acre piece of land and is home to about 100 children.
But Phyllis’s dream was larger than just meeting their day-to-day basic needs, so together Bread and Water for Africa® partnered with Lewa to construct the Kipkeino Primary School, which today is among the leading primary schools in the country with a capacity for roughly 400 students from throughout the region.
That number includes dozens of children living at Lewa, who, of course having no parents or family members, attend the school on a full scholarship, starting from 3-year-olds attending preschool to eighth grade when they take the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations to enable them to attend secondary school.
“We have successfully taken over 1,200 children through primary education, all of whom attended secondary schools and many who went on attend universities,” says Phyllis. “Our students have left a mark in all the secondary schools they joined and have a reputation for being overall achievers, wholly developed.”
The one last things every student from Lewa requires are the school supplies – including their very own pencils, paper and notebooks, and other items necessary to enable them to do their assignments – as well as a school uniform which is mandatory for all students throughout the country.
In addition to providing school supplies and uniforms for the Lewa students, most recently Bread and Water for Africa® has embarked on a new program supporting the feeding program for another school in Kenya located in Kibera, on the outskirts of Nairobi, one of the largest slums on the African continent.
Today, the Seed School provides an education for some 200 children living in the slum, as well as two meals each school day ensuring they are not hungry while in class, and helping to ensure they are able to regularly attend school instead of searching for food.
Patrick Ndongo, director of the Seed Foundation, explained that the school administration and staff strive to transform the lives of the children in their care by not only offering them hope through an education, but keeping them happy and healthy through the feeding program.
“This cannot be achieved easily without a realistic feeding program in place,” says Patrick. “Support received from Bread and Water for Africa® enabled the Seed Foundation to provide a reliable feeding program.
“This kept the children to attend classes regularly and gave them focused concentration in classes. Without the feeding program, it would be impossible for a regular school attendance which would heavily jeopardize our work toward meeting our goal.”