Upendo School

When I first saw Upendo School, it had a flea infested dirt floor, mud walls, no desks and no running water. In 2013, we left a new school in the hands of the community with four classrooms, a solid foundation, cement walls with windows, a strong metal roof, separate toilets for girls, boys and teachers and a secure perimeter fence!

Digitizing a Rural Kenyan School

Upendo School was completed in 2013. Funds were raised by Elimu and construction was overseen by a joint Elimu / Upendo partnership. After building was complete, ongoing management of the school has been in the hands of the community with Elimu providing mentorship and monitoring for several years. In 2016, we began delivering our Digital Reading Program to their students, teaching them to handle the digital books and edtech resources on our Kindles and tablets. The whole school came for a special field day sponsored by Elimu Resource Centrein 2018. For some of these children, the forty-minute bus trip was their first foray outside Sabaki Village and their first ever visit to a digital education resource centre!

A Typical Rural Village

Sabaki Village is typical of rural Kenya with mostly mud houses without electricity or plumbing. Women and children fetch water from a central standpipe. In 2004, the community knew they needed a school for their youngest members. The three public schools that served the area were at least an hour’s walk away—one across a major road, another across a river! Mothers had to accompany their little ones to school leaving them with not enough time for their daily household chores—gathering water, hand washing laundry, collecting wood for cooking and preparing meals. 

Parents would choose to keep children at home until they were 7-8 years, old enough to walk to school alone. With no means to build, the Upendo Self-Help Group rented a mud structure that ran as a church on Sundays and as the school during the week. Over time the structure degraded. The roof leaked. The dirt floor exposed children to fleas and jiggers (nasty insects that lay their eggs under the skin and hatch as worms). With no desks or chairs, the kids sat on the floor with or without straw mats. The school had no toilet facilities and no running water.

Building Upendo School

We first met the Upendo School founders in 2010 when they asked us to help them build a proper school. Fundraising for the project began in June 2011 and by November solid cement latrine toilets were in place. In 2012, villagers came out to volunteer their time to dig the foundation for the first and, then the second, classroom. The main structures were built by local skilled labourers – totally by hand. During 2013, two more classrooms were completed; the school compound was fenced and a gate erected.

Giving Thanks is Part of How We Work

A Thanksgiving Day was hosted in October 2013 to engage the community, promote the school and celebrate the achievement. Elimu’s volunteer advisor, Sue Stoltz who headed the fundraising efforts in Ottawa, was on hand for the joy-filled day. With great excitement, she saw firsthand the huge impact of her tireless efforts with public relations and social media. Invited as the guest of honour for the day, she met the school’s founders, the teachers, parents and the excited and over-joyed students who sang, danced, and performed for her to show their boundless gratitude and appreciation.

In the Hands of the Community

The school is now in the hands of the local founders. The responsibility for the day-to-day running of the school is theirs. They generate income to sustain the school through affordable school fees. They have been able to add a fifth classroom as they grow towards their goal of becoming a full primary school.

Upendo Partner

Elimu wishes to acknowledge the special support of Global Child Care Services Ottawa, Canada. Their unwavering commitment to this project was overwhelming. Over 65% of the funds for the project came through their efforts. They continue to support us to deliver our Digital Reading Program to the school and have helped us bring the Upendo students to Elimu Resource Centre. In 2018, some staff of Global Child Care Services, together with founder, Nina Chung, in Ottawa, met Upendo students via Skype while at Elimu Resource Centre for the day. They sang, danced and recited poems with gusto as their enthralled benefactors watched from Canada. Click here to visit our eMagazine and read more.

About Elimu

Elimu empowers learners to increase academic and digital literacy, improve school retention and encourage self-sustainability through employment planning and entrepreneurship. 

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