Helping hand raises slum children's prospects

By OTIATO OPALI in Nairobi, Kenya | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-07-21 07:16
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Support from Chinese diplomats, businesses in Kenya provides youngsters access to education

To walk to Faith Adhiambo's house, one has to cross little streams of wastewater flowing between closely packed tin shanties.

Faith is a sixth grade student at the Mathare Community Education and Development Organization Beijing School in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. Her home is in Mathare slum, which has a population of more than 500,000 disadvantaged people and sprawls over 155 hectares.

Her entire family lives in a dimly lit one-room house with a mud floor. The humble dwelling is divided by a curtain, which separates the parents' bedroom from the living room where the rest of the family sleeps. This common area also serves as the kitchen. Other amenities such as bathrooms and toilets are shared with more than 10 other families in the neighborhood.

Despite its vast expanse, Mathare slum only has two government schools, even though it is the second biggest slum in Nairobi. With most parents in the slum unable to afford to enroll their children in the few available private schools, informal schools such as the MCEDO Beijing School are providing much-needed education for children in the area.

Brenda Achieng, Faith's older sister, said education in the slum is hard to come by, especially for girls like Faith.

Most parents cannot afford basic necessities like food, and as a consequence education is usually put on the back-burner, said Brenda, who also attended the MCEDO Beijing School.

Schools like her sister's, which offer free education, are seen as a godsend to help lift poor people out of poverty.

"After my sister was admitted to MCEDO, my family did not worry about school fees anymore because they are paid for by the school. Otherwise, both my sister and I would never have stepped in a classroom," Brenda said.

A key feature of the school is the provision of free meals, a bonus that encourages slum students to continue their education.

"There are days when we do not have enough food, but we are assured that my sister had something to eat at school and will not go hungry," Brenda said. "We also believe that after my sister attains her education, she will use her knowledge and skills to lift the family out of poverty."

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