Our scholarship students recently returned for their final term of 2016. This term our first cohort of students, who enrolled in 2012, will be sitting their final exams before graduating. It is humbling to consider the change and opportunities that together we have provided for these young people. We will continue to work with the graduating students as they prepare for employment or higher education. More about that another time. Today I’d like to share with you a couple of highlights from last term.
All of the young people who are part of our scholarship programme have access to education. Without the intervention and generosity of our supporters, that would not be the case. The nature of managing the programme and the checks we have in place means that I am exposed to the challenges more often than the celebrations and I regularly have to remind myself that even the struggles that the students face sit within the context of that life changing and hopeful story. Each argument with friends, failed exam or detention all contribute towards their education, whether part of the hidden, national or extra curriculum. It is often during breaks or at lunch, in discussion with friends or teachers after a class that the most significant and deep learning takes place. I love to imagine some of the conversations and confrontations, late revision sessions that teach little about algebra but lots about preparation, the satisfaction of the teacher’s tick and the challenge of their ‘must try harder’. These are the profound small moments.
I recently heard about one of our students called Mildred who, since joining school, has discovered that she loves to sing. She joined her school choir and entered the National Music Festival. They won their regional and state competitions and went on to sing at the national finals. Unfortunately, they just missed out on the ultimate prize but what an experience for Mildred! It is experiences and opportunities like this one that make school so valuable. I would argue that it is impossible to quantify how experiences like singing in the finals of a national competition provide enrichment, encouragement and inspiration. They are life changing.
To ensure that we are offering our students enriching experiences and opportunities, we have introduced visits for the student council during the holidays. Opportunities to meet professionals and see different industries fuel imagination and aspiration, yet the majority of young people with whom we work have never visited a business or office. Many of them had never even left their small community. During the holidays our student council visited the Central Business District and the Kenyan National Archive where they learnt about the history of Kenya and national leaders past and present. Unfortunately, (or not) we now have too many students to include them all in these visits, which is why the council are tasked with reporting back to their peers during the holiday programme. These trips are designed to raise aspirations and expectations and to show the young people we work with the possibilities, beyond those that they know of (namely casual labour), that lie ahead of them.
And so, as our first cohort finish their time at school, we look back with a sense of humility and forward with a sense of hope and excitement. For the formal and informal lessons that have enriched them and prepared them for the future; thank you.