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…
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.
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.
This question was our starting point as we talked about our vision for the kids we work with in Kibera. We had gathered the team at our School Transition Programme who prepare children to return to school.
We talked about wanting our children to be healthy and happy, to be confident, to be kind to others and have friends. We talked about our dreams for them to go to university and get degrees and good jobs. Maybe you have similar dreams for the children in your life.
Just as we have dreams for our own children, our father God has dreams for each of us. He has dreams for each of the children who come to our centres in Kibera every day.
Like Joash*, who is eleven years old and lives with his mum in Kibera. Joash dropped out of school 4 years ago because his mum could not get the money together to enrol him. For four years, he’s been out of education, he is so far behind his classmates but he is also so eager to learn.
We talked with our team of teachers, cooks and social workers about our mission to demonstrate God’s love to vulnerable children in Kibera. As we work with Joash to get him ready to return to school, we show God’s love and point him to the hope that God holds out to him.
So when Mary, our cook, wakes early to prepare breakfast for 25 kids. It might look like she’s just cooking another meal but actually she is taking part in God’s great work in Joash’s life.
(Pictured above: Kids in our School Transition Programme showing off their new pencil cases)
*We have changed the name to protect the child’s identity
“Welcome, welcome! Please have a seat!” the mother excitedly greeted us as we squeezed through her half-open doorway. If we had opened it any further, it would have fallen off its hinges. I squashed onto a seat next to social worker Margaret, our knees touching the bed in front of us.
Once a year, Margaret and Daniel, our social workers, visit the home of every child in our programmes to conduct a home study. It is a chance to catch up on how the family are doing and see first-hand their home situation. Last week I joined them as they went house to house in Laini Saba.
The new year is always exciting for us at the transition school, we not only welcome new kids to the project but we also celebrate as the kids we had transition to formal primary education.
This year 27 kids out of the 30 chidren have successfully transitioned and Maria is among them. When you meet Maria along the corridors of her new school, Fountain of Hope Primary school, she exudes a gentle confidence. She’s calm yet has blended in with the rest despite her being the new kid in Class 5.
Back in 2012 we asked our supporters to help us send David Ombisa to nursing school. We were amazed by the response that covered his fees and in September 2012, we dropped off an excited and nervous young Ombisa to begin the rigorous course.
Last Saturday we had the great honour of attending Ombisa’s graduation. He is now a fully qualified nurse!
Miles* left his home in the slums and lived on the streets froma young age. He sniffed glue and drank illicit brew and became addicted. He was arrested on several occasions and his life was in ruins. But his life was turned around when he heard what people were saying about him and he decided to change.