New books, new pencils, new friends. The school year begins with the promise of new discoveries, whether you are in Kenya or Canada. In the community of Oloirien at the start of January, eager students gather in front of their school. Tightly clutching notebooks, they file into the classroom and choose a desk. Excited whispers mix with the rustling of paper as students settle in. With school called to order, the teacher explains the first lesson: mathematics. Concentrating on the problem on the board, students add, subtract and multiply. Hands eagerly shoot into the air to provide answers.
For some of the students, this is the first chance they’ve attended class. For others, this will be the year they graduate. Recently the Grade 8 students sat for the Grade 8 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education. This exam is completed by all Grade 8 Kenyan students for entry into high school. The better the mark, the better the high school the students will be able to attend. In celebration of all the hard work students have put in for eight years, community members organized a party! It was a touching reminder of the continued parental support of education across this community. Across all Free The Children schools, 182 girls and 188 boys sat for the exam.
When they graduate, a new grade of pupils will take their places. Luckily, the school facilities are expanding to be able to care for a growing population—in fact, we just finished construction on two new classrooms!
And to help fuel our students in their studies, we have continued supporting the school nutrition program. As a result of drought and crop failure, students’ families are at risk of malnourishment and hunger—issues our nutrition programs aim to address. This past term, we distributed 26 bags of maize and nine bags of beans to Oloirien Primary School.
Since most students aren’t able to bring a lunch from home, a warm lunch makes a big difference—letting students concentrate on their studies instead of their hunger and motivating them to come to class. The program also allows for more study time, as students no longer have to spend time walking home for lunch. Since the nutrition program began, teachers in Oloirien have already seen higher attendance rates and fewer dropouts.
Along with these nutritious meals, Free The Children is also providing students with health education to help keep students healthy and in class rather than home sick. Students recently learned about good dental care, and they practiced techniques for properly cleaning their teeth. Teachers will soon be incorporating brushing into their lessons plans to help their pupils remember the importance of oral hygiene.
And it’s not just the children of Oloirien studying how to stay in good health—their mamas have been learning too! Local women’s groups held education sessions to talk about proper eye care, promote proper eye hygiene, use sun glasses in bright conditions and eat foods that are rich in vitamin A.
Now the families of Oloirien share communal knowledge and commitment when it comes to improving local health—a sign that they’re ready to lead their children to a happier, healthier future!