The Role of Diversity in Daraja’s Admissions Process
By Diana Grote
Over the past three weeks, the Daraja admissions team has spent over 45 hours driving over 1,700 kilometers around Kenya, interviewing applicants from 34 of the 47 counties in Kenya. This isn’t accidental — seeking out diversity is at the core of our admissions process.
Why are we so focused on diversity?
First, we believe in peace. Kenya is incredibly diverse, and at times that diversity has been associated with conflicts. Daraja students arrive on campus with a variety of identities (since Daraja started, we’ve had students from 34 of the 42 ethnic communities in Kenya). Daraja students are a powerful example of the fact that it is possible for a diverse group of people to live together in peace — an example that we hope can inspire communities around Kenya.
We recently interviewed Salha (not her real name), an applicant to Daraja from Tana River. There are two major groups of people in Tana River: the Orma (Salha’s community) and the Pokomo. In 2012, a group of Pokomo raided Salha’s village, killing 31 people. The school was shut down, leaving Salha out of school for over a year as a result of the conflict.
We asked Salha whether she’d be willing to study, live, and even be friends with a Pokomo student at Daraja. “Yes,” she answered during her interview. “That is past tense.”
For Salha, the choice to look beyond the conflict is an individual decision. Yet, the simple act of coexisting in peace here on the Daraja campus has the potential to become a catalyst for peace elsewhere. Pokomo and Orma students living and studying together here at Daraja serves as a powerful example of tolerance for those back in Tana River.
Second, the diversity of the Daraja campus is revolutionary to many students. As one applicant told us during her interview, she’s looking forward to Daraja because it’s so diverse. In her previous school, every student was from the same ethnic community, and she’s excited to study with people from communities that she’s never even met anyone from before.
This experience of living in a diverse community has an incredible impact on the Daraja students. Daraja students are tomorrow’s leaders, and living in a diverse community allows them to develop essential leadership qualities: empathy, respect, cooperation, open-mindedness. These qualities become second-nature to Daraja girls, and stay with them as they leave Daraja and bring change to their communities.
In the end, 45 hours in the car sounds like a lot–but we would drive to the moon and back if that’s what it took. Diversity is Daraja, and we can’t find Daraja students without putting in the effort to find diversity. As the selections process comes to a close, we’re looking forward to welcoming the Class of 2021 to campus in a few weeks, and we’re particularly excited for the new diversity they’ll bring.