“I come from Kibera, an area in Nairobi. None of my friends are able to attend secondary school and they tell me “˜good luck’ and wish me hope.”
These are the words of one of the Daraja girls I interviewed – three from Form 2 — in their second year of secondary school, two who had just arrived on campus. Their stories are similar. Siblings are unable to attend high school, like friends, because of the expense. The opportunity to receive an education at Daraja Academy is something each girl is grateful to receive and they want to be here in order to fulfill their dreams.
[singlepic id=1 w=480 h=300 float=right]Kenya is the land that birthed Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Like the Daraja girls, Wangari Maathai was determined to get an education even though most girls in Kenya were uneducated. There are no limits to what the Daraja girls can achieve, especially now that they are in the nurturing environment of Daraja Academy. Their energies and their minds have access to an uncharted territory of possibilities. Classes are taken in Mathematics, Biology, History, Music, Physics, English, Swahili, and Chemistry. The students are in Study Hall from 6:30 — 7 AM and again from 7 – 9 PM; classes begin at 8 AM and end at 3:20 PM. I see girls washing floors, helping each other, cleaning tables, and hanging their laundry on clotheslines behind their dorms. Life is school. School is life.
I have one more full day here at Daraja and in the afternoon peace I listen to rain sweeping over the campus like hands on piano keys — a tender, powerful waterfall of beauty, similar to the magnitude of talent that I see in the girls. A song, a poem, a smile, words of gratitude for being with their scholastic sisters, the experience of being at this private, four-year boarding school this week has given me the gift of remembering what is important in life: Being in a community where growth comes from embracing another’s content of being and offering a hand to walk with someone into the future.
A Form 1 girl (first year student) said that she never expected to attend secondary school, but was told of Daraja by an aunt. She went to a church for an interview with the directors and two teachers. Her Class 8 scores were exceptional, but there were no family funds to send her to school. I asked her how her first few days at Daraja were. “A miracle,” she said. “Everyone is so welcoming and the campus is wonderful!”
There are many things that Daraja needs: water, solar power, laptop computers, textbooks, a new dorm. But there are many things Daraja has that cannot be bought: excitement to learn and every teachers’ dedication to expand these girls’ horizons, respect for humanity, and the promise that these girls’ futures will be brighter than their pasts. Daraja Academy is power and love and I leave with the smiles and love of angels.