Guest post by Amanda Gicharu-Kemoli, Angeline Kasina, Cheryl Kerama, Margaret Ndisha and Lucy Wanjiku, 2016 fellows of Kenya
Editor’s note: The 2016 fellows of Kenya were one of five country cohorts to receive a $2,500 seed grant to support the implementation of their action plan that was developed during the 2016 TechWomen program. In addition to mentorship and cultural activities, TechWomen participants collaboratively work to develop an action plan to address a socioeconomic issue in their community alongside Impact Coaches.
The elation that we felt when Team Kenya’s action plan was awarded a seed grant cannot be described in words. It was an honor to have been selected as one of the top action plans from among all the other amazing TechWomen pitches and to get a chance to implement our project, “One Desk, One Child,” which aims to support students’ learning and attendance by improving the student-to-desk ratio in Kenya. (Learn more about Team Kenya’s action plan, developed during the 2016 TechWomen program, here.)
Our first step was to identify a pilot school. Our challenge was to find a marginalized school close to the city center in need of desks. After a short search, we identified Eiti and Saina schools in Kajiado, a town 30 km from Nairobi. The two schools had a combined total of 500 students and a dire need for desks. We planned to leverage local resources and artisans to build desks, thereby providing jobs in the community, as well as to perform maintenance on existing desks and recycle disposed desks from corporate firms. With the $2,500 TechWomen seed grant, and at a cost of $20 per desk, we would be able to get most students from the two schools off of the floor and into desks. TechWomen fellows and mentors visited the Eiti School in February 2017 during a delegation trip, interacting with the students and administrators to further understand the challenges faced by the schools.
Production and launch
After searching for artisans and local carpenters to produce the desks, the Kenya Prisons Carpentry Section was selected by the school administration and TechWomen fellows. Production of the desks began in April 2017 and was completed within three months. Fifty desks were built for 150 students.
We officially presented the desks during a launch event at Saina School in June 2017, getting 150 students off the floor! It was a colorful event presided over by the District Education Office, the Parents Teachers Association and parents.
Building on the success of the pilot project, we will pursue opportunities for additional funding and solicit donations of old desks from local companies in order to get more children off the floor in other provinces of Kenya. With this project we have learned the true meaning of determination and perseverance despite all odds. The sky is the limit!