4. Many students have to learn a whole new language just to learn in school.
That language is English, and many students from Kibera do not start off speaking English around the home. The "mother tongue" in most Kenyan homes is Swahili, while the language of instruction in school is English. As you can imagine, putting a kid straight into the school system in Kenya without knowing English creates a huge disadvantage. The Little Rock School intervenes here in a great way, getting young kids comfortable speaking, reading, and writing in English before they go into the public school system where English literacy is essential.
5. Special needs students are not served by the Kenyan public school system.
No special needs children have access to the public school system in Kenya. A typical teacher in a Kenyan classroom might be responsible for 100 students (think of a large university lecture hall in the United States). As such, there's no way that a teacher could provide the personalized attention that special needs students require.
This point in particular is what really makes Lilly's work go above and beyond. She opened the doors of Little Rock to special needs kids in 2006. They are "doubly disadvantaged." They deal with extreme poverty as well as deafness, Downs Syndrome, cerebral palsy, or autism. The schooling they receive at Little Rock is unique and vitally important. Today, one third of Little Rock's preschoolers have special educational needs, and Little Rock offers the only inclusive preschool option in all of Nairobi, a city of 4 million people.
Eliminate Poverty NOW focuses support primarily on the students beyond preschool. As students move on to eighth grade, Little Rock offers test prep tutors, funded by Eliminate Poverty NOW. This tutoring program drastically improves the chances that students earn high marks on their secondary school entrance exams and qualify for some of Kenya's best secondary schools. Once qualified, we provide 4-year scholarships so students can attend. To date, EPN has funded 26 scholarships and hopes to add 10 more this coming year.
You'd think that after a year of intensive test preparation, scoring well on the entrance exam and qualifying for a scholarship, the rest would be easy. But students from Kibera have huge cultural adjustments to make in secondary boarding schools. They are away from home for the first time, sleeping in a bed for the first time, and dealing with the challenge of being "the kid from the slums" in schools made up largely of students from well-to-do families. So Lilly and EPN added an additional tutoring and mentoring program for Little Rock Scholars to ensure their success. And it's working.
Of our 16 scholars who have completed at least one year of secondary school, half are in the top 20% of their class, several are in the top 5%, and one is in the top 1% of her class. Not bad for a group of kids from the slums!!
As you've seen from these facts about the Kenyan school system, children from Kibera face many challenges before they even get into the classrooms. Hopefully these posts give a clearer picture of how heroic Lilly's service is. Students lucky enough to attend Little Rock are going on to do great things in school, and we are hoping to see great things well beyond! With your continued support, we can keep on working with Lilly to make a difference in Kenya. Leave a comment below, and donate for a Little Rock Scholarship here!
How has this information on the Kenyan school system inspired you? What came as a surprise for you? Share your thoughts below, and share Part 1 and Part 2 with friends!