SIMS Department Delivers Sanitary Towels to Lesirwo Secondary School
Recently, a group of 16 members of staff and students from Strathmore University, together with friends, took a 252 km road trip to visit Lesirwo Secondary School in Kipkelion, Kericho County. This was the culmination of a month long campaign to raise Kshs. 102,900/- towards a years supply of sanitary towels to all the 245 girls enrolled in the school. The project was adopted by the Strathmore Institute of Mathematical Sciences (SIMS) as a Community Outreach Project in the Year of Mercy.
The funds were raised through a WhatsApp mobile based market dubbed the Kiondo, where products for sale, were provided by Strathmore parents from their farms. Items such as; Cockrel, dry maize grains, sorghum, millet, beans, sweet potato, carrots, pumpkins, pineapples, Kaisugu tea leaves, as well as the famous Mursik Kalenjin sour milk, were sold to the highest bidders. The total collections from this campaign amounted to Kshs. 56,390 (about 55% of cash needed). Direct donations from well-wishers accounted for the balance and a total of Kshs. 122,470 was raised.
This is the fourth year of campaigning, with the overall aim of improving academic performance in the school and by extension the well being of the community.
Over the years, the performance of the school in national examinations, though improving, has remained in the C- to C average, a relatively weak performance that the community is keen on improving.
A worrying issue that was noted by the schools administration was an increasing number of girls pregnancy and dropout rates. The average completion rate of girls as at 2013 was just 50%! A reason for this was the relative low value proposition for formal schooling, but also a worrying trend of soliciting sexual favors to get money to buy essential items such as sanitary towels. This was the immediate problem we sort to solve.
Over the four years, by building boarding facilities for form four girls and providing sanitary towels for all enrolled students, the population of girls enrolled in the school increased by 68%. Year on year prevalence of pregnancies has dropped from about 10% to near negligible with girl completion rates improving from 50% to nearly 90%.
Though the visible gesture is provision of sanitary towels, the act of visiting the school does more than gifting. It seeks to touch on the root cause of the problem – the perception of dignity and pride as a young woman as well as the role that the young men can play in protecting their sisters as well as improving their homes. The Strathmore team therefore, freely interacts with the students informally as well as formally in 90 minutes long mentorship sessions split by class level and gender. The activities of the day are really organic, informal and are aimed at cultivating genuine conversations with new friends to impact and be impacted upon; an opportunity to go MAD (Make A Difference) as described by one of the mentors- Irene Ngunjiri.
The impact is multilevel from what the mentors say, to how they behave to how they look.
At the end of the sessions, a student at Lesirwo has a perception of a real person that they inspire to be like. In fact, during the introduction to the whole school on this particular day, one of the fourth year BBS Actuarial student introduced herself as Sheila Ngetich, 4th year BBS Actuarial Science and there was a clear hoo-ha from the crowd of girls, a wow, I can do this! sort of response.
The blessing of giving is evident every year, and this year the catering and housekeeping staff Beatrice Mutai and Joyce Chepkirui teamed up to offer a family nutrition talk to the mothers. This was especially important as the mothers are the everyday mentors of the students. Language was an important factor to consider as most mothers are not conversant with English and struggle with fluency and accurate translations of Swahili. Ms. Joyce therefore, ably engaged the mothers in both Swahili and Kipsigis language.
It was also amazing to learn of a number of staff members who in their private ways are engaging with their local schools to promote academic excellence. A member of staff from SIMS suggested and sponsored the first series of Academic Excellence Awards designed to instill term by term competitiveness in the school. The award is a fully paid tuition fee for the subsequent term of the top boy or girl per stream.
The Strathmore team was moved by the emotional tears of a student, Joy from the mother of Caren Luvui, the overall top girl.
The day would not be complete without a bit of belly laughs and a warm cultural dance festival. Mrs. Koech, the schools principal was first hand to induct the Strathmore team to enjoy Mursik most of whom had never had a taste of the champions drink before.
All in all we were overwhelmed by the great generosity, warmth and welcoming spirit of the community of Lesirwo. We could not help but smile as some students took selfies with the Strathmore Bus quipping Vision Strathmore as their desired University on completing highschool.
I would like to extend a heartfelt THANKYOU to Strathmore students and staff, Strathmore Community Service Centre, and all individuals who participated and contributed donations through the Kiondo campaign and in kind.
Article by Mary Mutinda