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Who really knows the value of education? I ask this question in all sincerity. It is often said that we don’t appreciate what we have until it is gone, but it is not often that we find that ourselves in such a position that our education is threatened in such a way. I find myself in a very privileged position: not only am I in a country where my education is protected by law, but I am fortunate enough to go a school such a Gordonstoun. Thus, how could I possibly know the true value of education?
Last summer I found out. When teaching on a service project in rural Kenya, I met Chahalee, the founder of Grace Children’s Outreach Missions, and James, his friend and co-worker. They had set up our work at Kirongoi School, and their aim is to work across Kenya to keep children from poorer backgrounds in school. It was a few nights into our stay in Kirongoi that I became engaged in conversation with Chahalee and James, who exposed to me the more challenging side of their work. This conversation had such a profound impact on me that I promised I would share their story, so later in the week I filmed an interview with them. My own words could not do the matter justice, so here’s an extract of James’ explanation:
We have so many girls in the rural schools, who are going through the normal menstrual period every month and they are unable to have their parents support them in buying sanitary towels. Therefore; it becomes a need for them to look for ways to get these pads. As we do our own research and speak with different children, we see the ways that they get this money and we have learned that there are men who take advantage of this. These men give the girls money to buy the pads, in exchange for sleeping with them or performing sexual acts, from as young as ten. So, we have a lot of children dropping out of school early due to early marriages, pregnancies or being forced out of their homes. Many of them also contract HIV.
Chahalee then went on to explain how the community allows this to happen, because a girl’s education is not as highly valued and many families know that they cannot afford these essentials for girls, and thus turn a blind eye because whilst on their period without pads, these girls cannot attend school. I cannot stress enough; just how eager these girls were to learn. During their lunch break they would remain in class to keep listening to my bad explanations of photosynthesis, or my teaching of geography. They would ask questions and would laugh at my hand gestures, whilst diligently making notes, fully aware that their education was the only way to a better life. These children – some the same age as me – have never ventured much further than their village, and many were orphans to HIV. It was soon apparent that the girls were most keen to learn, because through having their education threatened by a natural process they understand its full importance. This is not to say that the boys did not work hard, but the gender inequality in these rural communities is amplified by this factor in the girls schooling. With a simple supply of sanitary items, this problem could be alleviated.
I promised Chahalee that I would share the work he does and try and set up a supply of these essential items to these rural communities in Kenya. Thus, I made a video of an interview I did with him, and have since shared it and sent it to Various charities such as Zana Africa, The Obama Foundation, Fem International and the DFID. I have had a few responses, but none have fulfilled the aim of reducing the threats to the girls’ education – and ultimately their quality of life. Through this experience I can conclude, that these girls know the true value of education, and they can help teach us the value too.
I am trying to raise money for Chahalee to expand his work to more rural communities across Kenya. The money raised will go towards buying trucks and resources to distribute to the communities Chahalee works with. Education is the most effective way to alleviate poverty, and by working in the rural communities as well as in deprived urban areas, Chahalee is helping to end rural inequality. These children are grateful for everything they have, and by providing them with better and more consistent access to education, their lives will be changed forever.
This is the second fundraising attempt that I am making. We have previously raised £1325 to go towards transporting the pads and any more funds raised will contribute to this. I am grateful for the support so far, please feel free to get in touch with any questions.
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Angus McVean started crowdfunding