Margo Day, friend of World Vision who took a one year leave of absence from her role at Microsoft to focus on World Vision’s work in Kenya, recently returned from her sixth trip to Kenya. We bring you the second part of her words and reactions from her journey. Read part 1: “Profound” here.
St. Catherine Girls Secondary School in Chepnayl village, Sook
I visited this school last year and documented my experiences in my blog. Last year, there were 127 girls at the school (St. Catherine’s was established in 2010, with just 12 girls.) This year, there are 217 girls, a net increase of 90 girls in just one year… in Sook! Here are 217 girls who are not being married early. The principal quipped to me during the visit that last year the parents heard my encouragement to send their girls to school, and this year they did. I know there was much more that has gone into this substantial change! We met with the School Board and they underscored in no uncertain terms that they know ‘this school is real’ and they hold a tremendous responsibility for the education of the girls attending. School Board seats include the local chief, the county director for roads and public works, one of the longstanding nuns from the nearby catholic church. The government has just provided 5 new teachers in the last year (up from 1 the previous year), the senator representing West Pokot County sent his assistant to join us for the day to underscore his commitment. Because of the Child Protection and Education program, there are sufficient funds to welcome back girls who have had babies and had to drop out – they now receive vocational training and sewing machines so they can become seamstresses to support their families. The funds are also being used to build additional dormitory facilities so girls can have a safe place to live while pursuing their education. We had the honor to celebrate 42 girls who are in Form 4 (equivalent of grade 12 in high school) who soon will graduate from St. Catherine’s. In my view, the change in attitude is real and this school is a beacon of hope and positive outcomes.
St. Elizabeth Girls Secondary School and Morphus Primary School, Cheparia in the Marich Pass ADP
We had the honor of commissioning two primary school classrooms, see the work progressing on the construction of the expanded primary school girls dormitory and combined rescue center. At St. Elizabeth’s we laid the cornerstone on the new dining hall, saw the library construction progress, dedicated the new dormitory at St. Elizabeth’s and dedicated the rescue home on the grounds of St. Elizabeth, (where former rescued girls attending St. Elizabeth will live during holidays when the other girls go home.) There are currently 30 of the 34 original rescued girls attending St. Elizabeth’s in a variety of grades (whom I first met in 2009), which started this entire faith walk with God… more on the 30 girls later in the ‘fourth experience.’ We also had the honor to celebrate 29 girls in Form 4 who soon will graduate from St. Elizabeth’s (12 from the original rescue center group). This is the first time ever in this area of Pokot that any girl will have ever graduated from a local secondary school. Overall, there are now 248 girls attending St. Elizabeth, up from 154 just one year ago. At the celebration ceremony, there were well over 500 people in attendance – perhaps closer to 700. Dignitaries from the local, county and national government participated. Boys and girls from four different primary schools and one boy’s secondary school came to perform to add to the celebration. One group of primary school girls in particular moved me so deeply. These little girls (probably 8 – 12 yrs old) walked from Ortum, a distance of 15km (9 miles) just to perform two songs. The subject of the two songs? ‘I will listen to the circumciser no more’ and ‘my father (mother), please support me with education.’ Profound. (By the way, they walked back home just as far.)
I believe this community has hit the tipping point, and has crossed over. Thousands of girls are singing for their freedom from FGM and early marriage; their parents are beginning to hear and act differently. Mothers and fathers are sacrificing to invest to send their girls to secondary school rather than receiving a dowry in exchange for their daughter being cut and married by 12 years old. Boys are echoing with their songs of support.
Next week we bring you part 3 of Margo’s thoughts as she shares what impacted her most from this journey.