Local School's Improvements Impress US Ambassador to Kenya
US Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration visited one of the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) supported schools, Vilwakwe Children Centre and School in Mombasa, on September 12, 2011. This was part of his familiarization tour of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) programs in Kenya.
Vilwakwe Children Centre and School is one of 24 schools in the urban settlements of Mombasa that AKF’s Education for Marginalized Children in Kenya (EMACK) supports. EMACK addresses the challenges of access and quality of education for marginalized groups. It was initiated by the Kenya Ministry of Education with support from the USAID and has been implemented by AKF with other partners. Since October 2010, EMACK has expanded into Nairobi and Mombasa, directly benefiting over a quarter million students.
The Vilwakwe Children Centre and School began in 2006 with only seven children. It has grown from an early childhood development (ECD) center in 2007 to a primary school with 395 pupils (217 boys, 178 girls).
The Ambassador and other visitors were delighted to see various presentations in the classrooms including a reading lesson, buddy reading, storytelling by a parent and a model ECD classroom presented by the Madrassa Resource Centre, another project of AKF. Members of the school’s Girls’ Forum enthusiastically talked about the benefits they had received through EMACK in partnership with Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, such as making soap to sell in order to buy sanitary towels. Though the forum was initiated only this year, it was evident that it had built confidence and self-esteem in these girls.
On March 15, 2012, a service group from Aga Khan Academies, Mombasa which calls itself "Because I am a Girl" organized a charity concert with Kenya pop singer Wahu. The concert will raise awareness about girls' struggle for equality in Kenya and benefit girls at Vilwakwe Children Center.
The student organizers of the concert are doing their part to support positive, sustainable change Vilwakwe and the broader Mombasa community. All proceeds will support disadvantaged girls, enabling them to attend girls’ forums and helping to raise their aspirations and provide practical support and friendship.
The Ambassador, accompanied by his wife Julia, was impressed by the energy the teachers brought to class and the active participation of children in the learning process. He stressed that education is an important investment since it stays with children forever. He stated that basic education for all children is the best way to assist future generations. “The brain never grows old, it always keeps getting better, and what you are doing to the kid’s brain is a lifetime investment,” said Ambassador Gration.
The Coast Provincial Director of Education Alex Majani appreciated the efforts made by AKF and its Aga Khan Development Network sister agencies in supporting education programs in the region. He also noted that many children in the urban settlements of Kenya could not access basic education and lauded the contribution of education centers like AKF’s for the role they play in making education accessible to these children.
The Regional Chief Executive Officer of AKF East Africa Arif Neky acknowledged the support from USAID and AKF in their ambition to improve literacy and numeracy in Kenya. He highlighted the high degree of community involvement in the program. The ultimate goal, he said, is to ensure proper monitoring and evaluation of the successes, lessons and challenges of the different approaches to ensure Kenya’s Ministry of Education can use this model in other areas of the country.
Vilwakwe classrooms before EMACK intervention and after renovations.
The EMACK project was initiated by the Kenya Ministry of Education, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is implemented by Aga Khan Foundation and other partners to address challenges of access and quality of education for marginalized groups.