The children in the suborb of Kipsongo now have a choise: they will go to school

The Hekima Day Care Center is situated in the Kipsongo slum in Kitale, Kenya, a community plagued by famine, disease, illiteracy, abuse and forced child labor. At present, there are over 4,000 slum dwellers in Kitale; nearly half are under 16. There are few options open to them. They are forced by their families to beg for food on the streets. School is not an option; some 60% of the children born in the slum have no access to education or cannot afford it.

That was the case, at least, until August 2008. That’s when the Good Shepherd Sisters of Kenya began addressing the lack of education and nutritional deprivation faced by these children. The sisters set up for them a rare opportunity: a day-care center for children of some of the poorest families with tutoring services for those falling behind academically.

It wasn’t a smooth start, however. The rented space for the daycare program was too cramped, a problem fixed by the generous funding support of Misean Cara–and other lay partners. Together, they have enabled the sisters to expand the school to serve up to 80 children in the classrooms. The new facilities are not only bigger but are also energy efficient. They include: a new building with two big classrooms, one kitchen, a dining area, one office, a counseling room, and one multipurpose hall which will be used by the women from the slum involved in other GSS income-generating programs. Another addition was a play area and playground with garden activities, which will serve as part of the teaching modules.

And thanks to the generosity of Rome-based Green Utility, which funded the installation of a state-of-the-art water-waste management system for new toilets and a bio-gas system for cooking, the facilities runs more efficiently and cleaner. The energy-efficient features of the structure are currently recycling around 2000 liters of water, an incredibly precious commodity, every day.

What’s more is that the daycare center started off by feeding 144 children in 2008 but with the new space can now feed up to 170 children a day, with at least one meal. The impact of better-nourished students is paying dividends in the classroom too. For school-aged children falling behind in their studies, tutors from the center now offer daily instruction. The parents, many of whom have found training at another GSS project nearby, the Kitale Shalom Farm, are more engaged in their children’s education, as a result, participating in monthly parent-teacher conferences. And the first big sign the day care center is having an effect? Teenage pregnancies in this community have suddenly fallen, coinciding with more girls in school.

It’s not surprising then that the number of children attending area school is increasing, that the health and nutritional standards of the children is going up. Plus, the crime rate has decreased by at least 20% in the community.

In the next few months the Sisters and staff will work on the following:

  • Support the enrollment of graduating children in government schooling through local sponsorships
  • Meet the target number of enrolling 80 children at a time in classrooms and continue to feed 170 children a day, via the daycare feeding program
  • Improve the overall health level of school-aged children and reduce number of teenage pregnancies. This has a second added effect: if girls can stay in school, the number of teenage marriages should fall.
  • Increase the level of responsibility of parents/guardians for their children’s education by a program that involves them more in educational gains of their children

The Good Shepherd Sisters of Kenya are seeking continued support in all areas—especially financial and material—in order to sustain the children presently in school as well as enable many more to enroll in the near future.