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What happens next?

Kisima School alumni have gone on to study a whole range of subjects including accountancy, agriculture, analytical chemistry, computer science, engineering, HR management, international development, nursing and teaching. A number of students have been awarded full scholarships to universities in Kenya as well as China, Costa Rica, Poland and the US.

Increasing numbers of Kisima School alumni who have graduated from university have now returned to their home areas and are working in a range of employment including engineering, finance, IT, medicine and teaching. Many are paying for their siblings to attend school as they know education is the key to unlocking a new future for their families and communities.

There is an active Kisima School Alumni who stay in touch with one another and support Kisima School in various ways.

Joseph’s story: from humble beginnings to powering a nation

Joseph Lengugwani was born into a very poor pastoralist family in northern Kenya whose livestock had been badly affected by drought, disease and banditry. One of five children, his mother died when he was young leaving the family dependent on food aid. Despite his challenging background, Joseph scored the highest marks in his primary school and was offered a place at Kisima School as his family had no money to pay for further education. He was the first in his family to go to both primary and secondary school.

At Kisima School Joseph flourished, becoming top student in the county in 2009. He now gives thanks for the amazing support he received from teachers and external speakers who motivated him to succeed academically with a strong work ethic. He credits Kisima School as providing him with a nurturing spiritual, physical and social environment that prepared him for later life.

Joseph left Kisima School and took up the offer of a one year pre-university leadership programme at Equity Bank before undertaking a five-year engineering and electronics degree at the prestigious Jomo Kenyatta University in Nairobi supported by a government scholarship. During university he was chairperson for the students from his home county of Samburu which he also visited, giving motivational talks to young people about options for studying.

After graduating, Joseph returned to northern Kenya and in 2017 joined the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) working on one of the largest wind power projects in the world, the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project. There he was involved in the construction of a transmission line and substation which now serves the largest wind farm in Africa, generating approximately 15% of Kenya’s power. Joseph started as an assistant project engineer and then became a project engineer in 2018. When the substation was completed he became the electrical engineer, responsible for the entire region.

Joseph now supports his family helping them to live in a better place and pay school fees for two younger siblings. He also pays the school fees for other young people from the village. Joseph leads youth groups as well as organising holiday youth activities. He is currently working on a project to provide solar power for some secondary schools in his area which currently have no electricity.

This is what can happen when we give a child with potential the opportunity of an education.

Mariam’s story: From Kisima School to Flying Doctors, Kenya Red Cross and Beyond

Mariam Godana Galgalo, Kisima student 2007-2010

Mariam grew up in Moyale, a market town found between the border of Ethiopia and north-eastern Kenya. Before she arrived at Kisima School she had never travelled and only knew other people from her home town. She found Nyahururu – which was 436 miles from her home and much further south – very cold compared to Moyale where the weather is always hot. She says that one of the greatest things about Kisima was being able to meet and get to know people from other parts of Kenya and from different tribes and religions to her own.

Mariam excelled at Kisima School and was awarded a place at Maseno University on the western side of Kenya, to study for a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics with IT.

After graduating from university in 2015, Mariam worked for AMREF Flying Doctors – Air Ambulance Service in Africa. This involved working in the community giving dietary advice and helping people with HIV and aids.

Following this, Mariam spent a year working at Moyale Sub County hospital before joining the Kenya Red Cross where she now works as Regional Nutrition Officer in Isiolo, Central Kenya.

Since graduating from university, both of Mariam’s parents have sadly passed away, leaving her in charge of her younger siblings along with her older brother who runs a small business in Moyale.

When asked about her experience at Kisima School, she said that the school moulds its students to be responsible and teaches them the importance of discipline and hard work in a way that no other institution does. Being at Kisima School boosted her confidence and taught her how to be part of a team. She says that it is thanks to her time at Kisima that she is now able to bond with people from all sorts of backgrounds. The experience also made her flexible and able to adapt, which has served her well in her working life.

She described Kisima School as a “home away from home” as well as a “place where you can be transformed into a responsible person and which helps you realise your goals”.

Mariam is now planning to study for a Master’s degree, specialising in Public Health and Nutrition. She says that the world is very competitive when it comes to job opportunities and her Bachelor’s degree alone is not sufficient to fulfil her ambition for the future.

Simon’s Story

Simon Eris Akuwam is from Nalingangor, a remote area of Samburu County in northern Kenya. Simon is one of 10 siblings and growing up was, in Simon’s words, ‘very tough’. His family were extremely poor, nomadic pastoralists who had lost all their livestock to raiders. They could only afford to eat one meal a day, mostly a supper of light porridge. Simon walked four miles to primary school and back each day.

Simon excelled at Kisima School and achieved a very high A- result in his Kenyan Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in his final year. He was offered a place at one of Kenya’s best universities, the University of Nairobi, to study BSc Food & Nutrition. He was the top student on his course and graduated with a first class honours degree. He was offered a full scholarship to study for a masters degree but turned it down to take up an offer of employment which would enable him to pay the school fees for one of his sisters.

Simon is now back in his home county working for a health and nutrition project supported by USAID and implemented by the US NGO Family Health International 360. Simon teaches women about health, hygiene and nutrition and gives practical cooking demonstrations. He also works on a special project with women who are iron deficient, particularly during pregnancy.

Simon is very active in the Kisima Alumni network and hopes to study for a masters degree in the future when he has finished paying for his sister’s school fees.

Joan’s Story

Joan Akiru Epua is from Natiti, also a remote area of Samburu County in northern Kenya, where she grew up with her single-parent mother and brother. Joan’s mother had no livestock and only survived through working as a casual labourer. On her very small income buying food was a constant struggle and there were days when they had nothing to eat.

Joan attended primary school through a government programme which also provided meals and stationery. She proved to be a very bright student, also enjoying music and representing her school in athletics competitions. Joan again excelled at Kisima School and achieved a very high A- grade in her KCSE. She was offered a place at Kimathi University’s School of Engineering where she graduated with a BSc Electrical & Electronic Engineering.

Joan is now working as an Electrical Engineer for the Danish company Vestas Wind Systems on the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project. This is a flagship project in Kenya, attracting the largest single investment in Kenya’s history. The wind farm covers 40,000 acres in the Loiyangalani district of Marsabit county in northern Kenya.

Joan’s employment allows her to support her mother, who she has helped to set up her own small business, and her grandmother who was such a support to Joan as a child. She is also paying for one of her cousin’s university fees and donating to an education foundation that sponsors needy students in her home area. Joan is an active member of the Kisima Alumni network and plans to become more involved with schools and mentorship programmes in her home area when work permits.

Simon and Joan are inspiring examples of the transformational potential of education which is at the heart of both TEFT’s and Kisima’s vision. For Joan in particular this is a remarkable achievement. In the traditional pastoralist communities of northern Kenya where polygamy is often the norm and the practice of FGM remains endemic in many places, girls are simply viewed as marriageable prospects, attracting a ‘bride price’ of livestock for their families when married. Girls as young as 10 years are married, often to much older men, and may be ‘betrothed’ or ‘beaded’ from a very young age. Kisima School is firmly committed to equality of opportunity for both girls and boys and therefore half of all places are awarded to girls.

I am and will forever be grateful to the Kisima fraternity. They saw potential in me and nurtured it and helped me be the woman I am today. And being the first woman engineer from my area, and amongst the few female engineers from the pastoralist communities, I will dedicate my life to enlightening my community in educating women and appreciating the girl child.

Joan Akiru Epua