Kalaa, which means a young flower in the Kamba community, was born on 1st March 2002 in a polygamous family of two wives and twelve children. As the third child to the first wife in the family, her name proved appropriate when Kalaa joined school and it became apparent that she was a highly intelligent girl, a much-welcomed trait in the destitute family. Indeed, being a child in a huge and poor family came with a unique set of challenges which adversely affected Kalaa’s educational journey.
To begin with, as an alcoholic, the father left the responsibility of providing for the family to his two wives forcing each mother to work to provide for their children. With little education and a limited source of income, Kalaa’s mother could barely manage to avail enough food for her five children with seasonal droughts experienced in the village always placing the family at a great risk of starvation. As a result, education for Kalaa and her siblings became a luxury the family could barely afford. However, despite the many challenges Kalaa faced at home, she managed to perform very well in her Primary education national exam and scored a B+ which gained her access to our program.
By the time Covid hit, Kalaa was in her final years in secondary school. When the lockdown was lifted and she returned to school, Kalaa’s teachers noticed a significant change in the typically jovial and hardworking girl. Emotionally, Kalaa was withdrawn and seemed to be in constant deep thoughts. On the other hand, she was physically weak and looked as though she had not eaten in a long time.
Concerned, Kalaa’s teachers reached out to the organization and together, we made an inquiry on why she had undergone such drastic changes. Kalaa described how the pandemic had magnified the challenges at home forcing her mother to leave her in charge of her siblings as she went to fend for them working as a domestic servant. As the sibling responsible for others, Kalaa would wake up very early in the morning to fetch water from a far-off stream. On average she would leave the house at 9am having completed other duties and return from the stream at 1pm carrying a 20l jerry can on her back. Once back, Kalaa would have to make the decision whether to cook dinner or lunch as the scarce vegetables and few grams of maize meal could only serve one meal per day. To make matters worse, her father has started threatening Kalaa with forced marriage as he saw it as a better investment compared to educating the young girl.
Having heard what Kalaa went through during the pandemic, we worked with her teachers to come up with a plan to refocus her. Firstly, it was decided that Kalaa would receive counseling twice a week to help her cope with the emotional trauma she had undergone. Secondly, the school availed the girl with free revision books to ensure she caught up with her practice for the national examination.
The efforts and resources directed towards Kalaa paid off big. In her national examination, she scored a strong B+ which gave her automatic admission into our WOVEN program and admission to Chuka University to pursue a Bachelor of Education in Science. In her own words, “my mentors helped me change and change for the best, I am confident that, now in the woven program where I am fully supported, I will do wonders not less than a First-Class honors.”
As we the high school team hand over Kalaa to the Woven department, we are confident that she will make us proud and use the opportunity given to her through our donors to improve both hers and her family’s life.