For the past 15 years the Karen Street Children’s Trust has been working to build a brighter future for impoverished and disadvantaged children from the slums surrounding the Karen suburb of Nairobi. To date we have helped 134 young people building worthwhile lives through education, training and employment opportunities and currently we are working with 41 bright young students. Each has been selected on the basis of hardship at home and the potential to benefit from a good education. We are proud that so many have grasped the opportunity and worked hard to achieve top grades. It is our policy to educate each student to the level from which each will benefit and then to equip them with skills which will help them to earn in an increasingly difficult employment environment. We have also been working with the Dynamic Business Start-Up Programme which assists young people with self-employment business skills.
There is a real education crisis in Africa. So many gifted children in Kenya have no hope of education beyond the state-subsidised primary schooling. All secondary schooling has to be paid for and this is beyond the realms of possibility for so many. This makes education inaccessible to those stricken with poverty in Kenya and thereby offering them no future hope of changing their situations. Literacy in Kenya is a gateway to eradicating poverty in Africa, however the current lack of education is appalling with millions of farmers up-country having to use children as young as 5 to help them harvest crops instead of attending school, even though primary school is free to all. Quality of life is seen as a priority before education and more than 50% of Kenyans are illiterate. Communities in rural Kenya have nil literacy levels in some households. The effect of this is perpetuation of the vicious cycle of poverty.
Our small charity helps a few children break this cycle. We have the unenviable task of having to choose 4 or 5 homeless street children each year from the many who approach us for help. We never have a need to advertise as word of mouth spreads quickly through the Nairobi slums and The Karen Street Children’s Trust is known to many as one of the best providing an opportunity of a lifetime among the many children’s charities who offer a much needed education to just a few in Kenya.
We ‘select’ our children on a need basis. The criteria are strict and monumentally heart-breaking for the small Committee of volunteers who each year read through children’s letters begging for a place with our Trust. All are interviewed and then those who are show aptitude, spark and the greatest need are selected for home visits to check on their level of poverty. It can come down to whether there is a concrete or earthen floor in their shack; whether they have a toilet, pit latrine or ‘other’; whether they are orphaned children, or have one working parent and how many siblings there are in the household. We take children who have shown a level of competency in primary school because we need to ensure that they are going to use donated monies to the best of their ability and go on to profitable employment. Statistics show that every person in Kenya who is employed supports 18 family members who have no opportunity to work. There is no unemployment benefit or handout to those out of work so we need to ensure your money is spent wisely.
Once selected, our students are then placed in boarding schools and colleges across the country where they are getting an education in a safe environment with food provided and a bed to sleep in at night. Many of our students are not assured of even these basics at home.
Every year we also take on a few children, usually girls, who may not be exceptionally bright but have suffered great hardship and are in need of special care and boarding school.
In addition to providing them with a term time education we are incredibly fortunate to have a qualified Counselor in Catherine Muguru, our only paid employee. Catherine becomes the mother, sister and mentor to our children who have often been abused, (mentally and physically) and who have to become accustomed to a new environment. Catherine also runs our small office doing accounts, buying necessities for the children and visiting homes and schools to ensure the welfare of the children during the school term and holidays.
During school holidays we ensure the children have somewhere safe to go home to and we provide extra tutoring in the form of visiting gap year students and volunteer teachers. In addition, we take the children on educational visits and have guest lecturers for future possible careers and opportunities. We also have children’s camps for fun. We aren’t all work and no play!
The current costs of educating our children stand at KSH 63,250/£ 550 per annum for Primary Boarding fees and KSH 92,000/£ 800 per annum for Secondary Boarding fees.
This is based on actual costs for the year 2010 and includes school fees, food and accommodation for boarding pupils, text books and stationery, all uniform, shoes, transport, tuck, pocket money, holiday activities, cover for medical emergencies and the pastoral care and support of our qualified counsellor, Catherine Muguru.
We are proud to be able to provide for a small group of bright children what so many elsewhere take for granted.