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Free The Children has been operating in Kenya since 1999 within the Narok South District, working with both Kipsigis and Maasai communities. Through the Adopt a Village program, we’ve engaged many communities across the Mara and built schools, libraries, water projects, latrines, kitchens and teachers’ accommodations. There are now many communities involved in our development and education projects in these communities and our team of community outreach and development workers consistently works with active women’s, men’s and youth groups.
In 2002, Kenya’s newly elected government made primary education free and announced it in the national newspaper on a Friday. The following Monday, one million additional children woke up to go to school. The sudden pronouncement had left no time for preparation. Kenyan schools were caught off guard. To this day, the government is struggling to catch up. This is where Free The Children comes in. Free The Children builds schools and schoolrooms while the government pledges to maintain them in their entirety, including hiring teachers and providing materials and resources.
In addition, Kenya faces other issues. As of 2003, 56% of the Kenyan population lives below the poverty line—$17 per month in rural areas and $36 per month in urban areas. Extreme poverty (defined as those living under $1 per day) includes almost 30% of Kenya’s current population. In the Narok South District where Free The Children focuses its efforts, one in 10 Kenyan children still die before reaching their fifth birthday. One third of children under five years of age are stunted, reflecting chronic under-nutrition. This proportion is 14 times higher than the level expected in a healthy, well-nourished population.
Did You Know?
- 26% of Kenyan children aged five to 14 are child labourers.
- Almost 30% of Kenyans live in extreme poverty on less than $1 per day.
- ¼ of all Kenyan girls under the age of 15 are married.
Free The Children’s Objectives in Kenya
- Assist the Kenyan government in providing free, quality education to all primary school aged children.
- Providing access to education for girls in Maasai and Kipsigis communities who often face the biggest barriers preventing them from attending school.
Adopt a Village at a Glance in Kenya
- School building
- Educational programming
- Teacher training
- School pride program
- Teachers accommodations
Clean Water and Sanitation
- Rain catchment systems
- Hand-washing stations
- Water and sanitation education
- Mobile health clinics
- 8 habits to a healthy home
- Baraka Clinic
- School health clubs
Alternative Income and Livelihood
- Women’s, men’s and youth groups
- Education on financial principles and practices
- Leadership & skills training
- Maasai traditional beading
Agriculture and Food Security
- Irrigated school farms
- Medicinal garden
- School environment clubs
- Agriculture training and seed distribution
- School nutrition program
Community Case Study: Salabwek
Solution-focused thinking, raw determination and love that threads through the community binding it together, have helped ensure Salabwek’s success as an Adopt a Village community.
Free The Children began working in Salabwek, Kenya in 2007. School buildings in the community were primarily mud structures. The average child walked three to four kilometres to school, though some walked as far as eight kilometres. There was no local source of clean water. The community had an illiteracy rate of over 90%, and an average family income of less than $1 USD per day. Subsistence agriculture provided the only source of income, maize being crop of choice. Socially, gender equality posed a particular challenge, and early marriages were commonplace.
Since Salabwek joined Adopt a Village, Free The Children has built 20 school buildings for students up to Grade 8 (that’s over 700 students) and the school continues to expand. Teacher accommodations have been significantly improved, which attracts good teaching talent to the school. Most recently, the graduating class sent more girls to secondary school than boys, a great victory in the fight for gender equality. Student retention and academic performance have both shown consistent improvement. The dedication to education was sorely tested during the recent drought when children have more pressures on them to fetch water. However, attendance rates remained at 97 to 98%.
As new schoolrooms continue to be built, water projects are implemented at tandem. In addition to sanitation education, a Water Management Committee oversees sustainable and equitable sharing of water. The school contains an on-site water catchment system, as well as a water system that provides clean water for the school and the community, increasing local clean water access from zero, in 2007 to 88 per cent today. The clean water system has been instrumental in establishing a drip-irrigation system at the school farm. Healthy water usage habits at home have improved as now 91% households are practicing these (up by 48%).
The health pillar of Adopt a Village provides a variety of systemic solutions by aiming to improve the overall health of community members. A school farm, tended by students, provides nutritious food such as kale for student lunches that are cooked in the community kitchen. Introduction of the drip-irrigation irrigation system has resulted in both higher crop yields and reduced costs. In addition, a mobile health clinic visits each month, and students are regularly dewormed. Most importantly, students have taken ownership of their health and established health and environmental clubs. Eighty-nine per cent of households are now practicing healthy habits at home such as hand washing and dish drying.
As one of Free The Children’s oldest Adopt a Village communities, Salabwek’s alternative income and livelihood programs are well established. The goal of this pillar, as with the others, is to make the community economically self-sufficient. To that end, Free The Children has provided financial literacy training to men’s and women’s groups. In 2011, 12 households participated in a Village Savings and Loans program (VSLA) that allows members to pool resources and take out loans for small businesses. Salabwek currently has 12 women’s groups and over 2300 community members benefitting from alternative income projects.