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Student Spotlight

February 2015

EFAC Awards 40 High School Scholarships in 2015

Recently 40 new students were awarded EFAC scholarships to attend high school. As part of the admissions process, ANU staff made some home visits to deliver the good news. Here is an account of their visits written by EFAC staff member, Peter Kingori. 

Eric Wainaina and his mother in Kahara Village

Eric Wainaina and his mother in Kahara Village

Chants, jubilation and tears of joy were felt among the parents, guardians, teachers and relatives of  2015 EFAC applicants as they received the good news that they had received education scholarship from the EFAC office, Africa Nazarene University.

‘I pray to God to bless you so that you can continue to empower the needy,’ said Eric Wainana.  Eric lives with his mother in a rental house at Kahara village in Kajiado Country. He used to spend three hours per day to walk to and from school. He scored 371 marks on the 8th grade exit exam (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE)). Despite his poor background, he is determined to work hard in high school and transform the misfortune of his family. He praised his science teacher for being a role model and mentor to him. He has joined form one at St. Mary’s Boys Secondary school through an EFAC scholarship.

Tabitha at her house  in Ongata Rongai

Tabitha at her house
in Ongata Rongai

“My mother struggled to pay for my fees at primary school. It was mostly paid by well-wishers,” said Tabitha Naserian.  Tabitha lives with her mother in a rental single-room, iron-sheet house in Ongata Rongai. When she was in primary school, she missed many days because of lack of fees. Despite her needy background, she scored 375 marks on the KCPE. Her dream is to become an accountant.  She has joined form one at Vanessa Grant Girls.

"It is like a miracle for me to be awarded an EFAC scholarship. I know that if I am helped, I will achieve my goals,” said Faith Ndanu.  Faith lives with her mother and sister in Katoloni village in Machakos County. Like Tabitha, Faith was sent home quite often in middle school due to lack of school fees. Despite the challenges, she scored 391 marks in KCPE. She is thankful to the teachers who kept encouraging her to have a positive attitude.  She has joined form one at Vanessa Grant Girls.

Benard Mwengi with his teachers at the EFAC office, Africa Nazarene University

Benard Mwengi with his teachers at the EFAC office, Africa Nazarene University

Each of the EFAC 2015 successful applicants has a story to tell. For instance, Benard Mwengi, an orphan was the top student in his school. He was accompanied by his teachers to pick up his letter awarding him an educational scholarship from EFAC. He scored 376 marks in KCPE.

All of the Form One scholars have faced numerous hardships including lack of basic needs such as food and clothes. Listening to their narratives on how they used to go to school without taking breakfast, skipping the lunch meal and living with only one meal per day, but they remained hopeful. 

With the promise of an education, they can wipe their tears and alter their trajectory of life.  It is through the empowerment of an education that these scholars will grow up and bring a positive change in their communities and the nation at large. We are glad that EFAC in collaboration with Africa Nazarene University has granted education scholarship to 40 bright but needy students this year of 2015. 

Transforming Lives Through Community Service

by Caroline Ng'etich
EFAC University Graduate

Before I joined the EFAC family, life was too hard, terrible and hopeless.  I grew up in Sirwa Village, Baringo County. I faced numerous challenges as a young girl but my desire to acquire education was greater than the fear of being a house wife. Prior to being admitted at Africa Nazarene University, I was herding my father’s cattle and goats. However, my desire for a brighter future was cut short after a successful completion of one academic semester at the University due to lack of tuition fee. I had to drop out and go back to my village. I stayed home for one year without any hope of resuming my studies.

Caroline Ng'etich and SMG  Leaders

Caroline Ng'etich and SMG  Leaders

I am glad that EFAC came in my life and opened the golden gates for me. With EFAC support, I was able to resume my studies and complete my Bachelor’s degree successfully. EFAC impacted my life positively not only academically but also morally and socially as I acquired essential life skills during mentor workshops – we were always challenged to give back to the community. Thus, driven by the desire to mentor and empower young people in my community, I founded Sirwa Mentoring Group (SMG).  It was not easy at the beginning but since I had a vision, I was determined to see it mature and touch one or two lives. I approached the college students from the area and they liked the idea and wanted to help out. We organized and sacrificed our resources to fund the first mentorship forum which attracted more than 250 students. This was overwhelming, and it was successful.

SMG 2014 Parent Session

SMG 2014 Parent Session

Since then, most parents and students have changed their perspective about education. I was glad to witness the highest number of students who joined high school that year with an aim of being like Carol or my fellow college students. This mentorship has now become a yearly event in our community and surprisingly parents and leaders have pledged their support. In December 2014, we held our second mentorship event at Sore Primary school and it attracted youth in primary and secondary schools, form four leavers, college & university students, parents, leaders and academicians.  I am happy that there are small changes which are taking place in my village - everyone is working hard to ensure their kids go to school. Besides that, my neighboring college students are taking up the mentorship challenge by starting small groups in their villages with the aim of transforming lives. This is a great multiple effect of SMG.

SMG 2014 Interactive Afternoon Session

SMG 2014 Interactive Afternoon Session

Learning from Mother Teresa who once said “I cannot change the world alone but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples,” SMG gives me hope that the world will gradually change into a better place. A noble change starts with an individual who makes a positive change in someone’s life and that person impacts the same to someone else gradually. My passion is to make a difference in other people’s lives. I will use my abilities to fulfill my purpose here on earth. My next step is to organize a big event with the aim of nurturing student talents and help them realize that life is not all about books but being well-rounded.

As an EFAC Alumni, I am always thankful to the entire EFAC family; my brothers and sisters in college and high school, Sponsors and all mentors who have made me to be whom I am today. I will forever be grateful and will lift the EFAC flag wherever I go. Finally, I would like to encourage my fellow EFAC scholars that they do not need to have much in order to make a difference, all they need is a willing and caring heart. 

What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead. — Nelson Mandela

January 2015

Education is the Hope for Generations

Blog post by Peter King'ori, a member of EFAC's Kenyan Team. 

Visiting Students at Rongai Boys School

Visiting Students at Rongai Boys School

Education and empowerment provide hope for countless generations who live in abject poverty in both arid and semi-arid areas. Transforming lives in these regions requires various stakeholders who collaboratively work together to instill hope, dreams and change to the younger generations.  Sylvester, an EFAC student attending Rongai Boys School, is an example of a student who is optimistic about the future as a result of such collaboration. Sylvester wanted an scholarship to secondary school so badly that he repeated class eight even after having sat for his Kenya Certificate for Primary Education (K.C.P.E.) and passed with high marks. He said recently, “I repeated standard eight with 353 marks since my mother had no money to take me to secondary school.”

A home constructed of local bricks and a thatched roof.

A home constructed of local bricks and a thatched roof.

Sylvester is among the 28 scholars who are benefiting from EFAC education scholarship in Kitui County. These students live with their parents, siblings and guardians in areas such as Katulani, Ikanga, Matinyani and Ikutha. A recent home visit by the EFAC team found that small scale subsistence farming is the main source of income for most peasant farmers in these regions. The climate is characterized by dry seasons with minimal short rainfall seasons. Rivers are seasonal and farmers depend on borehole water for drinking and washing. They must pay for their water and 5 liters of water costs 2 Kenyan Shillings.  Most of the houses are built with local bricks and either an iron sheet or a grass thatched roof. Illiteracy is common among older parents/guardians and they only speak the local Akamba language. Despite these levels of poverty, these parents/guardians are hopeful for the success of their children.

Ishmael together with his mother and siblings.

Ishmael together with his mother and siblings.

Education is the vehicle that drives change in this region. It is the hope for generations. Every parent/guardian the EFAC team met stressed the importance of education and its impact in ending the cycle of illiteracy and poverty. Students could not hide their joy as they narrated the events which transpired before they acquired an education scholarship. Ishmael Mother asserted that “You instilled hope and bright future to my family, it’s only God who can repay and bless you.” Antony Mulwa, an EFAC scholar who also acted as the team interpreter testified that “I had to repeat standard eight in order to get good marks which guaranteed me an education scholarship.” Through the support of sponsors, Anthony recently completed his Kenya Certificate for Secondary Education (K.C.S.E) last year and is eager to learn his results and what his options are for university or diploma programs.  He is currently growing green vegetables and Moringa trees in his father’s farm. He sells the vegetables in a nearby market. He puts a smile as he says “I learnt about the benefits of Moringa trees during the EFAC mentorship workshop. I was given a reference book by the facilitator and when I came back home I planted some seeds in our farm.”

Empowering one student at a time brings joy and hope to families struggling with illiteracy and poverty. Educating younger generations translates to a great future. Students are determined to accomplish their dream and transform their entire trajectory of life in a positive way. Together, let us empower one student at a time with the knowledge that education is the hope for generations.

October 2014

The Long Arm of Education

by Rod Van Sciver, founder of Education For All Children

Rod Van Sciver with EFAC students

Rod Van Sciver with EFAC students

After my friend Joe graduated from Yale in 1966, he went in the Peace Corp where he was assigned to teach school on a small South Pacific island in Palau, Micronesia. He arrived with his duffel of cloths to find a small hut with a dirt floor which was to be his classroom and six young children who spoke no English.

Joe said he was never very good with languages so if he and the kids were going to communicate, it was going to be in English. So the first day, they started learning to communicate.

As time went by, the kids learned Joe’s language. Having no book, Joe made up his curriculum on the fly. He talked about history and geography. They lay on the beach and counted the stars. He played math games in the dirt.

After two years, he returned to the US, having had an enriching experience but wonder if his two years on the small island had been a throw away.

When Joe turned 65, his son James said, “I want to go to Palau with you. I want to meet your students.” Joe thought it was a wonderful idea. What they found speaks to the power of education.

All of his students still lived on the island. They, their children and grandchildren all spoke flawless unaccented English. One of his students owned a successful fish export business. Another served on the Micronesia Fishing Commission that negotiated the licensing and revenue sharing model for tuna caught by foreign fishing fleets in Micronesian waters which turns out to be half of all the tuna caught in the Pacific and a major source of income for the islands.

Joe said his most shocking moment came when a small child asked him, in perfect English, “Are you the Joseph that my grandmother talks about?”

No Joe, you didn’t throw those years away. In fact, what you gave those six children will continue to reverberate well beyond our years. 

Voice from the Field - Mona Kyle – VGGS Prayer Day

Mona Kyle, is a volunteer from California who is volunteering with EFAC in Kenya for three months. Mona is living and working at the Vanessa Grant Girls School (VGGS) in Rongai, Kenya, a partner school of EFAC. EFAC students attend secondary school at VGGS. Read Mona's description of Prayer Day at VGGS.

Earlier this month was the 3rd Annual Prayer Day at VGGS.  Unlike many secondary schools in Kenya that have an Open House, a family Visitation Day, and a Prayer Day, in an attempt to reduce costs and disruption to the academic schedule, Nancy Mwaniki has decided to combine all three events into one, with the emphasis on mentally, emotionally, and spiritually preparing the Form 4 scholars for their upcoming KCSE ordeal.  In essence, Prayer Day acknowledges that VGGS has done its part to prepare the candidates for the examinations and enter into the next phase of their lives, requests the candidates’ parents and guardians to pray for their success, and culminates in the act of placing the candidates in the hands of God. The day began with the raising of the flag before an assembly of the entire student body, faculty, and VGGS trustees, and the blessing of the classrooms in which the candidates will be taking the KCSEs by one of the trustees, Lyndon Bowring.  This was followed by a procession to the field by the students, faculty, trustees, and, of course, the candidates, where they were greeted by their parents, families and friends.

The program began with entertainment and presentations from the candidates together with the other students.  This included singing and dancing by various groups, as well as the VGGS choir.  Gogar Primary School also participated in the program with a couple of skits and several musical offerings.  The sermon was delivered by Lyndon Bowring who focused on the VGGS Ethos that “truth, integrity and humility are central to everyday living following the examples set by Christ,” and its motto, “Education Today for Leadership Tomorrow.”  Mr. Bowring concluded by saying that every day is today, and every day we are alive we should continue to learn since that is what being a disciple truly means.

 “The Charging of the Candidates” was done by trustee, Johnny Onslow.  He presented each candidate with her own Bible and read the following charge to the VGGS candidates:  “I charge you never to forget the great benefits that you have received in this place, and in time to come according to your means, to do all that you can to enable others to enjoy the same advantage; and remember that you carry with you, wherever you go, the good name of Vanessa Grant Girls’ School.  May God Almighty bless you in your ways and keep you in the knowledge of his love now and forever.”  

The principal advised the candidates that in order to create a meaningful legacy they will need to surround themselves with good people who have similar interests and moral character, recognize and continue to develop their abilities, and avoid compromising their personal integrity.  The deputy principal thanked the parents, and the faculty and staff for all the support and encouragement they have shown the candidates during their entire time at VGGS.  There was a final surprise presentation by the candidates themselves in which they sang a “Song of Thanksgiving,” individually acknowledging and showing their gratitude to the trustees, administration, faculty and staff.  It was a very sweet song, and everyone was genuinely moved by the sentiment.  The closing prayer was delivered by one of the parents.

After the program the students spent the afternoon with their visiting families. Their families brought home cooked meals which they were able to enjoy as picnics.  Some of these picnics were pretty elaborate affairs.  It was nice to see that those students who did not have any family visiting were often invited to join those who did.  A couple of girls even invited me to join their family for chapati and mukimo, my favorite Kenyan dishes.

Voice from the Field - Mona Kyle – KCSE Testing

Mona Kyle, is a volunteer from California who is volunteering with EFAC in Kenya for three months. Mona is living and working at the Vanessa Grant Girls School (VGGS) in Rongai, Kenya, a partner school of EFAC. EFAC students attend secondary school at VGGS. Read Mona's description of Kenya’s KCSE exams, something all of EFAC’s Form 4 students are currently taking.

The significance of the KCSEs in the Kenyan education system tends to be a little overwhelming, not only to the candidates, but even to the casual observer. The KCSEs are currently being administered on every secondary school campus across Kenya, and I am witnessing the effects of the exams at VGGS first hand.

KCSE stands for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education, and is taken by all Form 4 students at the completion of their secondary education. KCSE candidates are tested on a minimum of seven subjects.  For grading purposes, the candidates must take all three compulsory subjects (English, Kiswahili and mathematics), at least two sciences (biology, physics and/or chemistry), one humanities (history and government, geography or Christian religious education), and at least one practical or technical subject (home science, art and design, agriculture, computer studies or business studies).  The grading of the examination is as follows: A (80% and above), A- (75-79), B+ (70-74), B (65-69), B- (60-65), C+ (55-59), C (50-54), C- (45-49), D+ (40-44), D (35-39), D- (30-34), E (0-29).  

In Kenya, this examination determines admittance to public and private universities.  The passing mark for the 2013 exam was a minimum score of 60% (B-) for males and 58% (C+) for females.  Students who attain a grade C or below have the option to enter a diploma program such as mechanical engineering, clinical medicine, wildlife management and other options that also provide opportunities for employment in the future. Once admitted to a university, a student’s KCSE score also determines what course of study he/she will be permitted to pursue.  For example, in order to study medicine, one would need to have As in the four core subjects of English, mathematics, biology and chemistry.  Similar requirements exist for every other major offered.

Students at VGGS

Students at VGGS

The KCSEs are in full swing.  The process began on Tuesday, October 14th with the Computer Studies written examination, followed by the Computer Practical examination on the 15th.  It should be noted that the security surrounding the test questions is very stringent.  The examination booklets for all of the local secondary schools are delivered to the Rongai Police Station, and then each subject is individually distributed to the schools on the exact day of the examination with an armed guard, who remains on the campus while the test is being given, collects the completed examination papers, and returns with them to the police station for safe keeping.  Similarly, the day before the Chemistry Practical exam was given, it was necessary for Mrs. Mwaniki to go to the police station to pick up the chemicals that would be used for that examination.  There are breaks in the exam schedule (for example, Oct. 20th is a national holiday, i.e., Mashujaa or Heroes’ Day to honor all those who contributed to the struggle for Kenya’s independence), so the last day of the KCSEs is not until November 3rd, when the candidates will sit for the Biology Practical exam.  It has been very quiet on the VGGS campus (even Rongai Boys’ is somewhat subdued) as the lower forms have been very polite and respectful of their older schoolmates, and they contemplate what lies ahead for themselves.

The armed guard who has been on campus at VGGS   since the start of exams, which is standard procedure.

The armed guard who has been on campus at VGGS since the start of exams, which is standard procedure.

Nurturing Talents Beyond Academic Excellence

Blog post by Peter King'ori, a member of EFAC's Kenyan Team. 

On January 2013 in the Standard Newspaper, Kenyan Ministry of Education, Science and Technology stated that “top marks alone will not assure excellence.” The Ministry stated that schools in the future will be ranked on the basis of academic excellence and other parameters such as good governance and leadership, talent development and character formation aimed towards nurturing well-rounded students.  This effort stands to be of great importance as the 21st Century employers are not only looking for qualified and competent employees but people who also possess the necessary soft skills to fit in the modern work force. These soft skills include ethics, communication ability, working well with others, problem solving ability, interpersonal skills and positive attitude, among others.

Since then, the ministry has taken significant strides to recognize outstanding schools which are contributing immensely in nurturing well-rounded students during national release of academic results. These government efforts to align education with employer demands requires numerous stakeholders to work collaboratively in order to create collective impact while raising lifelong learners.

EFAC Students Attending the Annual Mentor Workshop

EFAC Students Attending the Annual Mentor Workshop

Education For All Children (EFAC) in collaboration with Africa Nazarene University (ANU) and diverse sponsors from across the globe are in the forefront of transforming lives of the bright disadvantaged students’ from numerous region in Kenya.  EFAC students are provided with the opportunity to attend an annual mentorship workshop. During the workshop, students are empowered with values, life skills, IT skills, leadership skills, competencies and career guidance that positions them to succeed in life and the world of work.

Through these workshops, various scholars have been able to unearth their unique abilities and rise up to fulfill their potential in life. Numerous students have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities in their school student governance; proactive participation in school drama and music festivals, sportsmanship and essay writing contests, among others.

Wycliffe Displaying his Poster at the Segal Family Foundation Annual Meeting

Wycliffe Displaying his Poster at the Segal Family Foundation Annual Meeting

Recently, Wycliffe Nackeel, an EFAC scholar emerged to be the winner in a “Sexual and Reproductive Health Youth Poster Contest” which was organized by Segal Family Foundation. He received a fabulous award during the Segal Family Foundation Annual Meeting held in Arusha, Tanzania. In his acceptance speech, Wycliffe moved the audience as he narrated how EFAC, teachers and mentors have impacted his life thus far. He said “talent is what I have learned to tame.” Wycliffe’s passion for art, drama, and poetry made led his former primary school to win the district drama and music festival. He played a key role in composing the play and teaching it to the pupils and teachers. In his recommendation letter, the head teacher praises him as a scholar with “a great degree of talents in poetry, painting and drama.”  It’s our hope as the EFAC family in collaboration with stakeholders of good will that we will continue to touch and transform lives in Kenya by nurturing students’ talents, character formation and leadership abilities besides simply academic excellence.

September 2014

2014 Double Your Dollars Campaign: Sponsor a Student for $500 per year

A generous EFAC sponsor has donated 6 four-year matches giving you the opportunity to sponsor, communicate and mentor a student for only $500 per year.

We have 14 bright but impoverished students in Form 1 of high school that need sponsors in order to complete their high school education. 

In sub-Saharan Africa, 10 million children in sub-Saharan Africa drop out of school every year. That is a staggering statistic. 

While we know can't help all of them, we know we can guarantee that 6 more deserving students will complete high school with your support and the 2014 Double your Dollars campaign. 

Simon Peter with his grandparents and cousin

Simon Peter with his grandparents and cousin

Simon Peter is one of our unsponsored Form 1 students. Simon Peter lives with his grandparents, aunt and young cousin Jimmy in Nyeri. His father abandoned the family before Simon was born and Simon's mother was unable to care for him so his grandparents have raised him but were unable to raise the fees to send him to secondary school.

But, thanks to EFAC, Simon has started his first year of high school at top-rated St. Marys Boys School but needs a sponsor to help him complete his education.

Simon's favorite subject is Geography and he loves to play basketball. In September, he attended the EFAC Mentor Workshop at ANU -- his first time to travel to Nairobi (95 miles from Nyeri) -- and he loved seeing the buildings, like Parliament, which he had previously only seen as pictures in books.

Jimmy takes a selfie

Jimmy takes a selfie

To read more about Simon Peter and the other Form One students, click here. Unsponsored students are indicated by a red "Needs Funds" on their photo. 

To sponsor a student for $500/year, go to our Donate page and under "Scholarship Details" tell us that would like to participate in the matching gift campaign and what gender you would like to support -- or if you would like to support a specific student, like Simon Peter, this is a good place to let us know as well.


Small NGOs Are the Core of Systemic Change

by Nancy Van Sciver, founder and executive director of Education For All Children

You planted a seed in a desperate heart where there was no hope before.” Education For All Children (EFAC) graduate, Samuel Amwai wroteto me in a recent letter. When I first met Samuel, he was a street boy in Kenya. He applied for funding to attend secondary school through Education For All Children (EFAC), a Kenyan nonprofit organization (NGO) I co-founded in 2008. I’m proud to say, Samuel is another one of our success stories. He is now a local university student studying business.

Transforming a child’s life comes from the support of the community, local NGOs and donors, but the real impact is seeing the systemic change that can start with just one student. Not only is Samuel a university student, he is also using his education and experience to mentor other street boys. He wants younger boys to know that there is more opportunity out there for them, and they don’t have to live on the streets.

I’ve seen Samuel’s success every step of the way. As one of his advocates, I’ve been rewarded with one-on-one feedback, but I’m just one individual and EFAC is just a small NGO. I’ve struggled with a question that is all too common: Can small NGOs operating in developing countries really make a global impact if their reach stops at a few hundred beneficiaries?  

My simple answer is YES. I believe that Education For All Children and similar grassroots organizations can create systemic change because of their unique understanding of the culture and communities in the countries where they work. Having local management creates trust in the NGO and their deep roots in the community ensure sustainability. EFAC has a local board and team on the ground that executes and designs the programs, ensuring that our programs are reinforced throughout the community. This intimate understanding of the local community is something that larger bureaucratic organizations have trouble duplicating.

Now that we know we CAN make a global impact, the question becomes HOW do small NGOs make a significant impact? Larger NGOs can measure their impact in the 1,000+ people they reach with their services. Smaller NGOs can’t compete using the same metrics.

Educate. Employ. Elevate.

Educate. Employ. Elevate.

At EFAC, we’ve come to understand that even a few hundred students can create systemic change. We invest a lot of time and resources into our students. Our eight-year program provides scholarships from ninth grade through university. We also partner with 7 high schools and provide a robust and innovative year-round mentoring program for secondary and post-secondary students. The price tag of our hands-on approach and success rates is only $83 a month per student- a small cost for the opportunities gained!

EFAC is in its sixth year of operation and has seen two classes of high school graduates, a total of 96 graduates with 97% enrolled in higher education. Read more about EFAC’s secondary school graduates and their success.

Besides measuring graduation rates and enrolment in university, I measure our success in how students give back to their communities, by starting girls’ empowerment programs, mentoring younger students and actively participating in the EFAC community service program. Two recent EFAC associated initiatives exemplify the kind of systemic change we create beyond the classroom.

Samwel Mwiko, an EFAC university student, founded Eagle Mentorship Group. Two other EFAC graduates helped Samwel organize a workshop with the mission of, Ensuring the youth make informed choices.  The workshop had more than 75 youths in attendance. Samwel and his classmates are taking the skills they’ve learned into their communities to insure that other youths have the same opportunity for success that they had with EFAC.

EFAC Graduates Become EFAC Mentors.

EFAC Graduates Become EFAC Mentors.

Recently our Kenyan team, headquartered at African Nazarene University (ANU), sent six EFAC/ANU team members to assist a partner secondary school. The school was having a major issue with students’ indiscipline. Our team engaged the students in focus group discussions on strategic issues and possible solutions to the problems. Working collaboratively with the school’s administration and faculty, progress has been made along with a follow-up training for the peer counselors. Although this is not part of our formal program, our grassroots structure allows us to help the schools we work with to ensure a better education for the students.

Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” At EFAC, we are making our global impact one student at a time. The growth is not linear, but exponential as the students and staff gives back to their communities creating positive systemic change.

Voice from the Field - Mona Kyle - A Day in the Life...

Mona Kyle, is a volunteer from California who is volunteering with EFAC in Kenya for three months. Mona is living and working at the Vanessa Grant Girls School (VGGS) in Rongai, Kenya, a partner school of EFAC. EFAC students attend secondary school at VGGS. Read Mona's description of a a day in the life of a VGGS student.

The bell that is run to single all of the day's events at VGGS.

The bell that is run to single all of the day's events at VGGS.

A typical day for students at Vanessa Grant is long and demanding.  Prior to this term, the girls were required to be up and out of bed at 4:00 am in order to report for “preps,” or individual study in assigned classrooms until the 5:00 am bell beckoned them to return to their dorms for showers and to tidy up their personal spaces.  However, this term the new principal, Nancy Mwaniki, has made the 4:00 - 5:00 am “preps” time optional (only for those students who really feel the need to get in an extra hour of studying, primarily Form 4s), so the first bell is now rung at 5:00 am, providing a half hour for them to get cleaned up and report to their dormitory common rooms for devotions.  (It should be noted that there is no warm water in the dorms, so showers tend to be quick and efficient.  I was assured by Nancy’s daughter, Joyce, a university student in Njoro, that cold showers are not uncommon in Kenyan secondary schools.)  It is the responsibility of the prefects to make sure everyone arrives at devotions by 5:30 am.  Devotions are supervised by the Christian Union members, and these daily gatherings begin with silent prayer, followed by the reading of a Bible verse and its interpretation, and conclude with a final prayer led by a CU member.  At 6:00 am the bell is rung for breakfast in the dining hall, and the girls return to their dorms at 6:30 am for “chores,” i.e., cleaning their rooms and bathrooms.

Classes begin promptly at 7:00 am.  Most classes are 40 minutes long, but Math, English and Kiswahili are expected to meet 7 or 8 times each week, which often requires double sessions, or at least one 80 minute period for these subjects each week.  After three class periods, there is a short break at 9:00 am.  On Monday and Friday, this break is actually an assembly of all the students and faculty which includes a formal raising of the flag, singing the national anthem, and announcements from students and the TODs (Teachers on Duty) addressing such issues as tardiness and excessive noise during “preps.”  The assembly usually ends with some inspirational words from the Deputy Principal, stressing the need to aim high and work hard.   On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday the 9:00 break is dedicated to leadership and house meetings.  Classes resume at 9:30 am, and continue until the official Tea Break at 11:10 am.  Tea, or more accurately “chai,” a very sweet, warm drink of tea, milk and sugar brewed together, is served in the dining hall with “mandazi,” a semisweet, deep-fried, triangular doughnut.  There are two more class sessions before the girls break for lunch at 1:10. That’s a total of seven lessons before lunch.

By comparison, the afternoons seem a little more “relaxed.”  There are two more class sessions, beginning at 2:00 pm and ending at 3:20 pm.  The girls are then responsible for cleaning the classrooms and the staff areas.  Everyone is expected to participate in sports from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm on Monday and Friday.  Sports include football (soccer), basketball, netball (which is similar to basketball but the ball can only be advanced toward the goal by passing), and volleyball.  It is during this time period those students who are interested can join me in one of the dorm common rooms for Yoga.  On Tuesday and Thursday various clubs (music, drama, etc.) and religious societies (CU and CCD) meet from 4:00 to 5:00 pm, with remedial subject sessions from 5:00 to 6:00 pm.  I am teaching Remedial English to Form 1 students in this time frame.  In an attempt to improve the students’ math skills, the principal, who was a mathematician before coming to VGGS last year, has instituted “Math Contests” on Wednesday afternoons from 4:00 – 6:00 pm.  The first hour of this period is devoted to mastering a particular math concept, and then comprehension is tested during the second hour.  Although the students seem to believe that the “test” is the important part of this exercise, Nancy explained to me that she really added the “Math Contests” to the curriculum in
order to get the girls excited about spending additional time each week studying math.

Supper is served in the dining hall from 6:00 to 6:30 pm.  As with all other meals, the girls are assigned to a table which seats 10 – 12 for the entire year, and the student who is acting as “table girl” brings the food from the kitchen to the table and serves everyone seated there.  Each girl is responsible for bringing her own cup, plate and utensils to meals, and washing and storing them after they have eaten.

After supper, the students return to their assigned classrooms for “Recap” where they quickly review the subjects they have studied during the day and discuss their homework assignments.  Again, for those girls who are having trouble with particular subjects, remedial sessions may be scheduled with teachers from 7:00 to 8:00 pm.  If no remedials  have been scheduled, the students all have “preps” from 7:00 until 9:00 pm.  At 9:00 pm everyone is expected to watch the news on the televisions in the dorm common rooms.  (This is the only time the televisions are turned on, except for three hours for entertainment on Saturday.)  Form 1 and Form 2 girls remain in their dorms after the news and get ready for bed.  However, Form 3 and Form 4 students are served hot chocolate for a little extra energy so they can do an additional hour of “preps” before lights out at 10:30 pm.

VGGS Form 4 Students

VGGS Form 4 Students

The weekend schedule provides little relief.  Devotions are still at 5:30 am on Saturday with breakfast at 6:00.  After breakfast there is a half hour of “preps”, and then two class sessions from 7:00 am to 9:00 am.  There is a ten minute break, and two more classes from 9:10 until 11:10.  The tea break with “chai” and “mandazi,” is followed by a General Discussion period from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm.  During the discussion period the girls are encouraged to identify concepts and/or issues they are having trouble with and seek help from their classmates.  Lunch is served at 1:10 pm, with a general cleaning period until 3:00 pm.  The students are not only responsible for cleaning their dormitories, but also the classrooms and offices.  Those who finish their designated cleaning assignments early are free to do their personal laundry.  There are no washing machines at VGGS (in fact, washing machines seem to be quite a luxury throughout Kenya), so the girls wash all of their clothes by hand in buckets and hang them on the line to dry.  The only real free time the students have is on Saturday afternoon between 3:00 and 6:00 pm.  At that time, the girls are permitted to watch television in the common rooms, primarily movies and music videos, and they often simply let go and dance!  Many students choose to practice their music during this time, so it is not uncommon to hear the new marching band practicing enthusiastically. The time allotted for supper on Saturdays and Sundays is the hour between 6:00 and 7:00 pm.  “Preps” resume after supper until 9:00 pm, followed by the news, with lights out at either 9:30 or 10:30, depending on whether the students are in Forms 1 and 2 or Forms 3 and 4, respectively.

Sunday begins relatively late with breakfast at 6:30 am, followed by an hour of cleaning.  The mandatory church service begins at 8:00 am and goes until 11:00.  Once again, tea is served at 11:10 am, followed by an hour and a half of Bible study.  Between 11:30 am and 1:00 pm, the girls meet in groups of twenty to discuss the Word of God until they break for lunch.  Recognizing how demanding the VGGS schedule can be and the need for the students to be at their best, the new principal has instituted a three hour rest period from 2:00 until 5:00 pm on Sundays.  The girls are actually expected to lay down on their beds and sleep, “so they don’t sleep in class.”  They then have an hour for “grooming,” at which time they can take care of their hair and do whatever mending, etc. may need to be done.  Dinner is at its usual time, and even the Sabbath winds down with “preps” and the news. 

Just writing this schedule down exhausts me, but the VGGS students all seem to accept it as a necessary way of life in order for them to achieve their goals.  All of these girls have big dreams and understand that hard work and discipline are important components of success.

EFAC Education Award from Ministry of Education - Maasai Mara, Kenya

Blog below written by Nelson Kirrokor. Nelson is tremendous contact of EFAC who works to coordinate between the Kenyan Board and the partner schools in the southern part of Kenya. 

I would like to congratulate EFAC for their recent award from the Ministry of Education, Mara Division. 

I have been an EFAC supporter since the year 2009 when I had an opportunity to meet the co-founders Nancy and Rod Van Sciver, as my guests at the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Since then I have supported EFAC in coordinatingbetween the schools and Kenyan board on the southern part of Kenya to make sure the right students get an opportunity to apply for the scholarship. When Rod and Nancy first shared the idea,I thought it was difficult and would require a lot of time and arrangement but thanks to both boards, the US and Kenyan board, for the efforts and dedication they put in place to make this a reality shorter than I expected. I know this has caused them a lot of time and resources but they may not be able to understand how much is the positive impact thisbringsback to our societies. We are so proud of EFAC scholars already and have a lot of confidence that they will change our society for a better future.

This year, the Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Education recognized EFAC as a foundation that is transforming life through education in Mara Division in the Southern most part of Kenya. I was so excited to receive the certificate on behalf of EFAC. I am so proud and happy to be an EFAC supporter. May God bless you all for the great work. We love you and always stand with you.
Kinds regards, Nelson Kirrokor from Maasai Mara -Kenya

EFAC Volunteer Shares Details of a Student Home Visit, Initial Impressions of two EFAC Partner Schools and More!

Mona Kyle, is a volunteer from California who is volunteering with EFAC in Kenya for three months. Mona is living and working at the Vanessa Grant Girls School (VGGS) in Rongai, Kenya, a partner school of EFAC. EFAC students attend secondary school at VGGS. Read Mona's first impressions of her first week in Rongai.

"I have been at VGGS for four days now, having arrived on September 4th after visiting another EFAC partner school, St. Mary’s Boy’s School, in Nyeri.  St. Mary’s was incredibly warm and welcoming, and Brother Peter couldn't have been more hospitable.  While we were there, I visited the home of one of the EFAC scholars, Simon Peter.  Simon Peter lives with his grandparents, a 26 year old aunt, and his young cousin, Jimmy.  We were greeted warmly and taken to their sitting room where we were first offered some delicious fingerling bananas, and then tea.  It was necessary for Simon Peter to translate for us when we spoke with his family. What struck me most about this visit is how proud Simon Peter’s grandparents are of their grandson, and how much love there is in their home. Driving back to St. Mary’s we discovered that when Simon Peter attended the Mentorship Workshop at ANU, it had been his first visit to Nairobi (which is less than 200 km away). When I asked him what he thought about the city, expecting his first impression to be similar to mine, i.e., very busy, noisy, and crowded, his eyes lit up and he exclaimed that he thought it was great.  He went on to explain that he found Nairobi to be very interesting because he had been able to view various sights and buildings, like Parliament, which he had previously only seen as pictures in books.  His explanation reminded me of the first time I traveled with my son to Rome and he became very excited when he actually saw the Colosseum, the Forum, and the Pantheon, historical sites he had only seen in photos before our trip. Being exposed to new things through travel, no matter the distance, is universally exciting.

Simon Peter's Home

Simon Peter's Home

After arriving at VGGS, I settled in with Nancy Mwaniki, the principal of the school.  The following morning we walked down the road to Rongai Boy’s School, another EFAC partner school.  Even though the students had just returned from their August break, they were already embroiled in exams, which they referred to as “Openers.”  After meeting with the EFAC scholars, we were given a very lively tour of the campus by two Form 4s, Antony Kinywa and Ismael Ngei. They were quick to point out the real name of the school is “Rongai Agricultural and Technical Secondary School,” and proceeded to show us why.  They took us to the fish pond where they farm tilapia; the workshop where they repair furniture and machinery; the granary and the  kitchen; and, of course, the livestock pens with pigs, goats, cows, chickens, rabbits, and turkeys, and the “shambas,” or fields where they grow kale, spinach, carrots, beets, and potatoes.  Although the Form 4 students are excused from agricultural chores in order to prepare for the KCSEs, the lower forms are responsible for taking care of the animals, collecting the eggs, milking the cows, slaughtering the pigs and goats, and tending and harvesting the crops, which, in turn, provide most of the food consumed by the students. A truly amazing system.

Mona was welcomed by the Students

Mona was welcomed by the Students

Yesterday I taught my first Yoga class here at VGGS.  I was initially upset because I had shipped 25 yoga mats to Kenya about a month ago, but only half of them had cleared customs by the time I left Nairobi. Since I only have a dozen mats, the Deputy Principal, Josphat, selected twelve girls to participate in the initial class.  We unrolled the mats in the common room of one of the dorms, and I began their introduction to Yoga.  When I asked some of the girls at the Workshop whether they had heard of Yoga, they either had not, or they had the impression it was simply a form of meditation.  The girls here at VGGS did not seem to have any preconceived ideas about Yoga, or, at least, they did not care to voice them.  I explained to the class that Yoga comes from a 5,000 year old Indian tradition, and that Hatha Yoga, the form of yoga I will be teaching, comes from Sanskrit words which mean “to join” or “to yoke” the body to the mind “through determined effort.”  I further explained that I would be teaching them physical postures and breathing techniques to help them find this union and create harmony between the mind and body in order to achieve emotional balance, which should leave them better equipped to deal with the demands of being students here at VGGS.  As we began to move into some of the basic postures, other curious girls joined the class without mats, and a few even jumped up on the tables that had been pushed to the side to make room for the class, so they could participate as well.  I had a wonderful time sharing something I love with such a receptive group, and the girls seemed to enjoy it as much as I did.  After class I spoke with Josphat to see if I could offer several Yoga classes during the week so that more girls could participate, and I think he is going to try to fit this into their schedule. 

Today was also very special.  I attended the Sunday service.  It started with a number of songs/hymns sung by the girls in both Swahili and English.  The beauty of close to 400 young voices singing so harmoniously was very moving.  After almost 30 minutes of music, the congregation was addressed by Josiah Aeteh, a faculty member, who welcomed them back to school, and then by the Deputy Head, Josphat, who introduced the theme of having a positive attitude, dreaming big, and working hard to achieve those dreams.  A similar theme was addressed by the pastor whose sermon stressed that all things are possible when we turn our lives (and problems) over to God.  He ended with the traditional hymn “How Great Thou Art,” which was beautifully sung in Swahili.  Josphat concluded the service with a prayer in which he asked God, among other things, to look after me so I would not regret my decision to come to VGGS.  I don’t think I could ever regret coming here."

Exciting Updates from our Volunteer, Mona Kyle, on her First Days in Kenya

Mona Kyle, is a volunteer from California who has committed to volunteering with EFAC in Kenya for three months. Mona recently arrived in Kenya, where she spent three days at the secondary student workshop hosted at African Nazarene University (ANU). Mona is now living and working at the Vanessa Grant Girls School (VGGS) in Rongai, Kenya, a partner school of EFAC. EFAC students attend secondary school at VGGS. Read Mona's first impressions of the workshop, the EFAC students, and her initial days in Kenya below.  

EFAC Secondary Students at the ANU Workshop

EFAC Secondary Students at the ANU Workshop

From Mona:

"I was incredibly impressed with how disciplined and respectful the EFAC scholars are.  On the first day of the workshop, these kids, many of whom had spent hours on matutus (small buses) in order to get to ANU, were up and at breakfast by 6:30 am, and after 7:30 devotions and announcements from the mentors, attended lectures and presentations ranging from Building Positive Self Esteem and Peer Pressure to Setting SMART Goals and Effective Time Management until after 6:30 pm when they broke for dinner.  Although the speakers were highly qualified and very engaging, I cannot imagine American teens sitting on hard, molded plastic chairs for that long and still being receptive to the information presented.  The students followed pretty much the same schedule the second day, but there was an additional speaker after dinner, Johnson Mwakazi, a former local newscaster who was very charismatic, and, again, the students gave him their undivided attention.  The final day was a little more relaxed, but students were still up at 6:30, and after breakfast and devotions, listening to various speakers and participating in break-out sessions until the final dinner, which included a very lively talent show and school presentations.  The mentors were all very personable, and did an amazing job keeping the students energized while shepherding them from one activity to another.  EFAC's Kenyan Team and ANU should be commended for organizing this event and lining up such a remarkable group of speakers.

My second observation from my time with students was how important it is to the EFAC scholars to hear from their sponsors.  I can’t count the number of times I was approached by students and asked whether I knew their sponsor.  Unfortunately, since I am from Los Angeles and new to EFAC, I found myself trying to explain to kids with a very limited understanding of American geography, that most of the EFAC sponsors are on the East Coast, and I really did not know anything about them since we had not had an opportunity to meet.  I was able to work with a smaller group of students on the second day of the workshop when I had the Form Three scholars fill out their questionnaires.  At that time, I distributed the letters that had been sent from sponsors via Sheila to the workshop.  It was clear how disappointed students were when they did not hear from their sponsors.  Students who received letters were more than happy to share them with their friends.

Mona's First Yoga Class at VGGS

Mona's First Yoga Class at VGGS

Finally, I will share one of my embarrassing moments. On the second day of the workshop, the students were divided by form into discussion groups in order to talk about some of their school experiences with each other and their mentors.  I was listening to the Form Two students talk about how demanding their school schedules are when I heard a couple of VGGS girls mention RATS.  Since I was on my way to VGGS I was more than a little concerned to hear several VGGS girl indicate that the RATS at their school were adding to their stress.  I assumed the girls were referring to the nasty little rodents we are familiar with in the U.S., and was definitely relieved to learn that RATS are, in fact, a type of “pop quiz.”  In fact, now that I am on the beautiful VGGS campus I can see how ridiculous my fears were, and I have learned that RATs actually stands for Random Assessment Tests."

Thank you Mona! Mona is an experienced yogi and wanted to bring the peace she feels on her mat to the students in Kenya, so she sent 25 mats ahead of her to Kenya. Mona taught her first yoga class to VGGS students on Saturday morning and it looks like it was a full house! 

July 2014

What is the definition of success?

At a recent dinner conversation, the question was raise about how EFAC students define success. What better way to find out than ask. Our recent graduates have a Facebook group page on which I posted the question, how do you define success?

"It is less about how much you earn than how you use the little you earn to help others."
"Looking back and having no regrets."
"Success is defined by how much you give, not by how much you have."

Of the 16 responses, many talked about reaching one's goals. Every single one talked about helping someone else. I find these responses remarkable coming from kids who grew up with less than we can imagine, in many case less than $1 per day.

The other thing I find encouraging about their responses is that their definition of success is achievable. If they wanted to work for Goldman and live in a big house on the hill, they would probably be disappointed. But many will reach success as they define it. When they do, they and Kenya will be better off. Who need one more investment banker anyhow?

Samuel Amwai: Planting a Seed in a Desperate Heart

Samuel Amwai’s father died when he was only 2 years old. After moving around with his mom in Nairobi, he ran away from home in search of a better life. He was just 7 years old when he started living on the streets.

“Life in the streets of Nairobi was not good at all, going for days with no food, sleeping in sacks, wearing rags and drug abuse was my new lifestyle,” said Samuel. “The worst part of it was that the police kept chasing us away from the streets, harassing and brutally beating us if they caught any of us, before taking us to juvenile cells. I hated snatching women handbags to make a living. I hated doing this but ironically I could not avoid it.”

Samuel wanted a better life, but he was stuck. He couldn’t go home and he didn’t know how to make an honest living. With limited education and a runaway at 7, he had limited options for a brighter future.

One day Samuel’s luck changed by a chance encounter with a social worker from a children’s home. “I met up with a guy who was a social worker in a children's home. After a chat with him, he was good and kind enough to rescue me from the streets,” said Samuel. After four months on the street, Samuel was happy to to call Nyumba Ya Tumaini children’s home his home. Nyumba Ya Tumaini has remained Samuel’s home for the last ten years.

We met Samuel, when he was just finishing 8th grade. He had been living at Nyumba Ya Tumaini children’s home when he applied to EFAC. Through our program Samuel attended secondary school at the Rongai Boys School for four years, was a leader among his peers, and attended EFAC’s annual workshops.

We are proud of all of his accomplishments, he graduated secondary school in 2014 with a mean grade of A-. This allows him to enter university this year with many choices of programs. He’s also busy with extracurricular activities such as volunteering as a teacher at his former primary school and farming.  Our programs at EFAC are designed to help boys and girls like Samuel find success through education.

EFAC gives students like Samuel a new outlook on life. We are proud to support his education, but more importantly his dreams. “My dream is to help the needy in the society and start up a children’s home for the street boys because they have great potential in them and if given a chance they can be great people! When I was desperate and hopeless in life Nyumba Ya Tumaini and EFAC came into my life and planted a seed in a desperate heart. They are the reason why I don't regret what I went through in past for they have granted me an opportunity to design and shape my future!” said Samuel.