Stories of Change

Hellen and Elizabeth - third and fourth from the left, respectively - outside the new dormitory at Kotulpough Primary School.

Thanks to the School Safe Zones program, there has been a marked increase in student enrollment in West Pokot and Turkana counties in the last year, by 27 percent and 74 percent respectively.

Source: CWS Annual Report 2017

Chasing dreams of success

Everyone has a dream … and everyone deserves the chance to chase it. Meet Elizabeth Cherotich and Hellen Ngoris, both class six students at Kotulpough Primary School in West Pokot, Kenya. Supporters of the CWS School Safe Zones program are giving Elizabeth and Hellen that chance.

Elizabeth, who is the fourth sibling in a family of eight children, says, “When I grow up, I would like to be a teacher!” She continued, “I want to be a teacher so that I can teach children how to read and write.”

For Hellen, the second oldest in a family of six children, her dream is to become a doctor. Being a doctor for her means fewer cases of malaria in her village.

Despite being only 15 and 14 years old, respectively, the two girls are all too familiar with the barriers they have to overcome in this largely pastoral and patriarchal context where girls face the most vulnerability. Here, girls are trapped in a protracted cycle of disadvantage including Female Genital Mutilation, unwanted pregnancies and early/forced marriage. This situation is exacerbated by climatic extremes such as drought, which endanger their futures and the future of their community.

“Some of our friends didn’t report back to school at the start of this year,” Hellen quipped, while trying to justify the reason for the empty desks in her classroom. Their teacher vividly describes both Elizabeth and Hellen as very smart and responsible girls, who are poised to take up student leadership positions in the school in the year. “Elizabeth will make a good head girl for the school,” she remarked.

The two girls usually help their mothers to fetch water and firewood in the evening after school. Hellen says she does a few more chores early in the morning, like washing utensils and preparing her siblings for school. In line with the norms of the community, the girls will begin taking on more responsibilities at home like cooking and milking the goats.

Through the School Safe Zones program, CWS and implementing partner Yangat are supporting Elizabeth, Hellen and the rest of the girls attending Kotulpough Primary School to realize their dreams. As part of the broader initiative to enhance access to quality education in the vast and marginalized areas of Kenya, the program has helped construct a dormitory for 70 girls, classrooms, latrines and fencing. These developments have created an environment for girls to thrive and prosper.