Pangani alumni go back to support school
August 6, was an ordinary, chilly morning for Pauline Aketch and Erick Ouma, the parents of Damaris Awuor, a Form Three student at Ngara Girls High School as they went about their daily duties.
Aketch was busy selling her last pieces of chapatis in the streets of the shanty Kabiria settlement in Dagoreti, Nairobi, while at the Dagoreti Corner shopping centre, Ouma with one hand heavily wrapped in a plaster from a recent accident, was struggling to fix a window he was wielding.
Just as both of them worked on their respective ends, their phones rang almost simultaneously.
The call came from their daughter’s school with news that their daughter’s full-year school had been sorted.
“What has happened is a God-sent miracle,” Aketch said when Scholar reached her.
“I have been so stressed about where I will get school fees for my daughter,” Ouma said.
Aketch has been saving Sh100 every day to be able to pay for their daughter’s school fees. She scored 360 marks in her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE).
The school’s alumni led by its president, Regina Ombam paid fees for 10 needy girls amounting to Sh413, 139.
Awuor was one of the girls whose parents still owe the school fee balances spanning thousands of shillings.
“I save about Sh100 from a little profit of Sh150 from the sales. I am feeling so happy and thankful to God, the school and the alumni for choosing to help us.
It has been quite difficult for us to afford, and entirely relied on sponsorships and our little savings,” she said.
Ouma works in a jua kali shed. He makes less than Sh300 a day, and on a good day he takes home Sh1000.
Sigh of relief
“But I have rent of Sh5000 to pay every month, and other pressing issues, which require money. So, what I earn is not enough. What has happened today is a miracle. I thank God,” he said.
Their daughter cried tears of joy when her name was called out as one of the beneficiaries.
“It has not been easy. Sometimes I could not concentrate with my studies because I know how my parents are struggling to make ends meet,” an emotional Aketch said.
She added, “I am happy that the alumni have decided to take my hand and walk me through this journey. I know education is important and it is going to take me far,” she said.
Reflecting on the difficult journey, Awuor narrated that one day, the landlord had to remove their shanty house’s roof, because her father had not paid rent for a month.
“We went through difficult periods when I was in primary school. One day we didn’t have money for rent and the landlord removed the roof to our house,” she said.
Michelle Nyanchama Momanyi, a Form Four student was also a beneficiary of the Alumni’s generosity.
Her mother, Lucy Kwamboka, a single parent, sells vegetables in Sinai slums where they live.
Doing the best
“Today has been one of the best days of my life. I come from a humble background and it has been difficult for my mother to pay my school fees. We depended on good samaritans and sponsorships,” she said.
And to the alumni, a group of 200 members drawn from the 1970s through 80s to recently, Nyanchama pledged not to let them down.
“I promise to give my best mark ever, because the alumni have supported me,” said the girl who scored 395 marks four years ago in KCPE.
About 60 per cent of the school’s 1, 300 student population is drawn from informal settlements.
According to the United Nations Children Fund (Unicef), investing in girls’ secondary education leads to a number of benefits, including dramatic increase in lifetime earnings of girls, child marriage and mortality rates decline, maternal mortality also falls and stunting drops.
Ombam said since the alumni was established in the fall of 2018, about Sh1 million has been churned out to benefit around 20 girls.
However, the most important aspect of this initiative, she said is to enable the girls to see the broader picture; to be part of an ongoing inspiration and mentorship programme for many others coming after them for decades to come.
Investment in girls
“As we exit, we want to leave a lasting mark. We want to create a network of philanthropists.
We want to put in place a sustainable system where the underprivileged will have an opportunity to study and become important members of the society,” she said during the event that coincided with the school’s morning assembly.
At the moment, the alumnus is working on a programme to bring on board guardians and parents in a move that will help nurture the learners’ confidence.
“This way, we will nurture the whole aspect of the students so that as they study and their fees is paid, they also need to be comfortable that their parents are fine and in touch,” she added.
“That worry bit affects the learners’ performance, and that’s what we want to address,” she added.
The school principal, Dr Beatrice Ndiga said half of the 1, 300 students are completely unable to pay school fees, and thus the alumni came in handy to help offset the huge fees balances.
“Besides being unable to pay the full school fees, about another 50 per cent of the students have challenges clearing fees balances,” she said.
However, the school has advised them to pay at least Sh10, 000 of the Sh22, 000 so that they can pay bit by bit using the school paybill system until they complete.
“We have advised the parents to pay even as little as Sh1000 through the Paybill programme.
We don’t insist that they pay everything at once, but continue to pay as they get the money, because we understand that most of them come from slums,” she said.
Ndiga appealed to Kenyans to embrace the spirit of alumni to give back to their former schools in order to give an opportunity to future scholars.