Stories of Change

A student in West Pokot County, Kenya, uses a handwashing station funded by CWS to help communities prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Students in rural Kenya are on a path to greatness

“We are very grateful to CWS and its partners for the great transformation happening at our school,” says Francis Loseron, the chairperson of Chepakul School in rural western Kenya. “The reason I say this is because the girls’ biggest need [a dormitory] has been met; as a result, they will be happy, healthy and ready to learn. It’s a sad state that so many of our public schools are in similar high-poverty situations, but it’s also a testament to the power of our community here. We assigned ourselves different roles during the construction. Mr. Samson Kameri, the school treasurer, and I saw to it that parents came out in large numbers to support the construction projects. Also, we had a shortage of toilets at the school. With the [CWS and partner] support, we are now confident that the school’s sanitation has been improved and the school now has enough toilets.”

Every child should have the chance to go to school and get an education. What happens, though, if that school isn’t equipped to help them learn? What if it is too far away, and the long walk to and from school is dangerous for girls? What if the school doesn’t have enough bathrooms, or running water? What happens if parents don’t realize how many doors education can open for their children? And, as we’ve seen recently, what happens when a pandemic closes school doors for months?

All of these “what ifs” are real challenges facing many of our neighbors worldwide. Here at CWS, we know that we can overcome them when we work together. That’s why our team in Kenya is working with communities in West Pokot County, where Loseron lives. Hand in hand with students, parents and communities, we are knocking down these challenges. We’re constructing dormitories so that girls don’t have to face dangerous journeys every day. We’re installing water pumps, tanks and toilets to improve hygiene and sanitation. We’re talking to parents about the importance of education. Finally, as schools reopen after long pandemic-driven closures, we’re helping teachers and school leadership welcome them back.

Selina is an eighth grade student at the same school, Chepakul. “CWS not only made it possible for us to have a dormitory at our school,” she said, “but also helped improve water systems and provide life skills and mentorship programs for us.”

Selina also told us how CWS helped as the school reopened. “Early in 2021, 10 students dropped out due to problems from the coronavirus. Some of them were either preparing to get married or engaging in work like bodaboda [motorcycle taxis],” she said. In West Pokot, it is not uncommon for teenage girls to be married to older men for economic reasons. “CWS helped our teachers and parents bring them back to school,” Selina said.

She has a message for you, too: “We see ourselves being great people in the future, and we are so proud and grateful for our supporters for reaching out to us.”

Liman Agnes is the deputy head teacher at nearby Ngengechwo primary school. “The girls’ dormitory built by CWS at Ngengechwo triggered the West Pokot county government to construct a boys’ dormitory,” she said. “Because of this, boys here have no reason to miss school…student enrollment has doubled, and we attribute this to efforts by CWS in our school and community. Parents are more positive than before, and we are working with the leaders to ensure that students, particularly girls, are supported to stay in school.”

Liman told us about how the pandemic had impacted her school. “Our students were lagging behind, having lost almost a year of school during the COVID lockdown. Their counterparts in Nairobi and other big cities were still learning because they have internet connections at home and can afford computers. We are grateful to CWS for helping our teachers to facilitate catch-up learning sessions when the schools were reopened,” she said. “They trained teachers, supplied materials and shared information with our parents about COVID prevention.”

In the neighboring community of Kapsentoi, Totok Lolinganya is the father of Sikuku and Patience, who have just finished high school and eighth grade. “I am deeply humbled because I am one of the lucky parents whose children had a chance to benefit from CWS programs in Kapsentoi,” Totok said. “The most important project was providing counseling to our girls. They have also given me the resolve to take Patience to secondary school, since I now know that there is hope for our girls–as opposed to my tribe’s attitude that girls are a source of wealth in the form of dowry when they get married. My two educated daughters will be great. They will not only change the status of my family, but they are already becoming great role models to their fellow girls, including families who believe that marriage is everything.”

Girls across West Pokot County–and their families and school communities–are blazing trails right through the challenges that they used to face. We’re so proud to stand beside them as they do.