The class picture above has one astonishing feature: no one is smiling! This is due to both nerves and culture. We’ve learned that it takes a month or two before new students will smile naturally in a picture. It takes A LOT of coaching, and some may never fully embrace the idea. But not to worry; our new students are happy and settling in nicely. Below are some interesting things we learned about the new class of 2023.
What was the longest/shortest distance traveled to get to Daraja?
Mombasa (430 miles away) Juakali (15 minute drive)
What is the biggest problem facing your village?
Drought and Floods
Which animal causes the most trouble near your villages?
What happened to the girls at home who didn't go to school?
They got married (age 14-15)
Nothing is better than homework
At least that’s how Daraja’s 32 newest students feel. A month ago, they watched as any friend who could afford it started school—leaving them behind. Without Daraja these girls would have become house help, subsistence farmers, or wives within a year.
Mercy is the oldest member of her class. Can you imagine starting high school at 18 years old? That’s how much Mercy cares about getting an education. In fact, Daraja has admitted many older girls through the years. Due to crippling poverty, it takes some girls much longer to complete primary school (1st-8th grade). This may be due to the cost of school fees or because the family moves frequently, looking for grazing land. Many will even repeat their 8th grade year 2 or more times while they try to figure out how to get into high school.
Thoughts from a mother
On reporting day (Feb 14), parents and guardians were given a special training about how to support a child who has experienced trauma. Afterwards, we pulled aside one mother to ask how she felt about her daughter starting school. She had never gone to high school and spoke very little English, but she was dressed in her finest beads for such a special day. Here’s her response to our question (translated from Swahili to English):
“I am feeling very good. When she finished primary school, I didn’t have the money for her to go to secondary. Daraja has really helped me. And I pray they keep helping the less privileged. When my daughter studies and performs well, she’ll not only helps herself but the whole family.”