Catherine was offered a scholarship in 2011 as she entered Class 4
She comes from an incredibly poor home. There is no running water, no power. The house has two rooms, a dirt floor and a few bits of scavenged furniture. The cooking shack is separate also has a bed in it and that’s where the children sleep.
The family lives on a plot about a quarter acre in size, which is nowhere near big enough to support them. Her parents seek out “casual labour” whenever they can to help make ends meet. But this sort of work is hard to find and doesn’t pay well and so the family is desperately poor. And to make matters worse, Dad tends to drink most of what he earns.
Catherine went to Nanyuki Boarding Academy, a private boarding school that while not especially grand by Western standards was a significant improvement from the local school she had attended. The kids there all have their own books, both notebooks and textbooks, and the instruction is structured and organized. There are extracurricular activities and field trips. Based on the results of the state-wide Class 8 final exams, Nanyuki Boarding Academy consistently ranks first of all the schools in its district.
Going to Nanyuki Boarding Academy was a huge change for Catherine. At home, Catherine shares a bed with her brothers with no mattress and just a few old and dirty blankets. At school, she has her own bed and bedding. At home, Catherine would have, at best, one meal a day, frequently just a few boiled potatoes, and meat was a very rare occurrence. At school she gets three good meals a day with meat twice a week. At home, Catherine had one set of used clothes and only a pair of flip flops for shoes. Personal hygiene was a challenge. At school, she can shower regularly and washes her clothes and bedding once a week. If Catherine got ill at home, she usually had to tough it out. If medical attention was needed, the family had to spend its meager savings or beg from neighbours. At school, The Small Project pays the small annual fee required to enroll her in the government’s national health insurance plan. If she requires medical care, Catherine she is taken to a proper clinic.
At the end of grade 8 Catherine wrote the nation-wide final exams and based on her results, she was placed by the government in Muruguru Girls Secondary School, quite a good secondary school near the town of Nyeri about an hours drive form her home area. Catherine finished Form 4 at Muruguru in December of 2019. Because of the near total absence of post-secondary guidance at her school (which is common throughout Kenya in our experience), Catherine had an unrealistic idea of what would be appropriate for her to study. Canada students are often encouraged to go to university or college and to take something that interests them. However, for our students in Kenya, The Small Project insists they take a program that will best lead to secure, full time employment. Our goal is break the cycle of poverty. Catherine’s post-secondary plans were further derailed by the arrival of COVID-19 in Kenya and the government’s decision to close all schools. As of November 2020, Catherine’s plans were not completely decided but we are hoping she will attend Mathenge Polytechnical College and take a certificate course in Food Preparation and Catering. If she does well with this two year program, which includes a great deal of hands on learning and practical workplace experience, Catherine may wish to complete a further two years and earn a diploma in the program. Based on reports from the school and some previous students who took this course, Catherine should be well placed to get meaningful work to support herself and her family.