Turning Point has been returning out-of-school children to school in Kibera since 2004. Our School Transition Programme is a one-year programme that helps children to catch up on what they’ve missed so they can integrate back into the school system. The children we serve are out of school due to poverty, not forced to stay home by a global pandemic. Coronavirus school closures may only last a few months while some of the children we work with have been out of school for years. We’ve been working with kids on the margins, kids who slipped through the gaps. But now across the world, we find 9 out of 10 school kids are not in school. Out of school is the new norm, at least for a time. As more countries start to reopen schools or make plans to do so, perhaps we have something to share from the years we’ve spent returning children to school. We thought we would pull together some of the lessons we’ve learned from working with out-of-school kids over the last 17 years…
When we heard that coronavirus had reached Kenya, straight away, we set up the handwashing stations the children use in our centres outside the gates of our projects for the community to use. But we wanted to do more.
At this point, we turned to our friends in the community.
We admitted 40 new children into our School Transition Programme in January. It’s always a joy to meet these new kids. But, there’s a hint of sadness as we listen to stories of children who come to seek a place in our education program.
One notable story is that of Cynthia, Cynthia grew up in Nairobi and lived with her father. Her father provided everything she needed to lead a healthy life. One day, thugs injured her father during a robbery and he was in the hospital for a long time. This one incident changed Cynthia’s life. Her mother left, she dropped out of school and had to go live with her father at their rural home.
Rose sits with Effie in the Laini Saba Community library and listens to her read. Effie stumbles through the words and Rose helps her sound them out when she gets stuck. It’s a simple thing but it makes the world of difference to Effie. She gets frustrated when she can’t read the words, without Rose sitting with her, she would have given up by now.
There are more children out of school in Kibera than in the rest of Nairobi. Why is this happening? Let’s hear a few stories to understand why.
There are so many people living in the slums that the nearby public schools are packed with kids. Brian shared a classroom with 50 other students, all vying for one teacher’s attention. This did not suit Brian at all. Brian is super high energy and gets bored easily. He often missed school, fell behind his peers and eventually dropped out of school. Brian’s worried mother brought him to Turning Point.
Imagine having to watch your peers go to school every morning and listen to them sharing stories of their day in the evening yet you have spent your day fetching water for people because your guardian cannot afford to take you to school. It’s not an easy picture to paint yet this was the life of Leo for two years before he joined the transition program.
On your mark, get set, go! This year’s summer camp, our first since 2016, was new for a lot of people. A new bunch of energetic youth ready to fellowship together and learn from God; a dedicated group of teachers ready to get in the groove and a team of coaches ready to stretch everyone’s fitness.
Peter joined our Transition Class in 2018. He had dropped out of his previous school because his mum couldn’t afford the fees. Unfortunately, the small private school in Kibera he had been attending had not paid attention to whether he was actually learning. When he joined Transition, he had to go back three school years to learn at the right level. This was definitely a setback for him. He took some time to settle in and open up.
Every other Monday, 12-year-old Jered joins his friends at the library after school. They meet for a joint mentor session with Coach Brian. Jered loves talking about football with his friends. He never thought about how he could apply what he learned on the pitch to the rest of his life. Like on the pitch, he’s responsible for protecting the goal, if he neglects his post the team will lose the game. In life he has responsibilities too and if he neglects them, he will lose out.