It is clear to many that the girls’ education movement is not only about improving access to education for girls, but also the quality of that education and the empowerment of girls around the globe. At The Daraja Academy of Kenya, it is important to empower and create a well-rounded and confident leader, in addition to an educated girl.
In response to the attack on Kenya in Nairobi recently, third year Daraja students created illustrations for peace during their WISH lesson. Mesret’s illustration shows that peace starts within oneself and only then can it be propelled outward.
Daraja Academy is located in central Kenya outside the town of Nanyuki, about four hours north of Nairobi, Kenya’s capitol city. A boarding secondary school, Daraja provides a quality education to Kenyan girls with top academy scores and exceptional leadership skills, but no means to continue their education past the primary level since secondary school is paired with high school fess in Kenya.
Mesret arrived at Daraja Academy with a hunger for education. A couple weeks prior, she approached her father to ask for assistance in paying for her school fees. Despite Mesret’s extraordinary academic scores, he refused. Coming from an area of unrest as many tribes fight over water and grazing land, Mesret yearned not only for an opportunity to continue her education, but also for the skills to bring peace to her community.
In addition to the demanding Kenyan curriculum, Daraja students have an additional class once a week called WISH class. WISH stands for Women of Integrity, Strength, and Hope. With four years comprising three terms each, Daraja girls focus on a wide variety of subjects in WISH.
During WISH class in her first term in secondary school, Mesret defined what “Integrity,” “Strength,” and “Hope” each mean to her and what role she wants each of those values to play in her life.
Mesret explains, “I am a woman of integrity, I work with the strength that is in my heart, and I have hope for the future of my community.”
By year two, Mesret engaged in lessons about topics such as culture, community, gender stereotypes and more. She felt more confident both in and out of the classroom and became a natural leader as peers frequently approached her as someone that they could rely on for help and encouragement.
As a current third year student, Mesret is utilizing the confidence she has built and the self worth she has developed to apply the knowledge that she’s gained from inside the classroom to learn about leadership, conflict resolution, and peace building in WISH class.
“WISH this term is really exciting because I get to learn about something that I am really interested in. I want to bring what I learn back to my community,” Mesret reports.
Next year, WISH class will continue to give Mesret the tools that she can use to utilize her education to positively transform her community. She will learn about teaching, social justice, tools for social change, and stress management among many other skills and topics.
Although it is powerful, educating girls isn’t just about giving a girl a pen and a notebook. It is about investing in her, and teaching her that she can be more than a wife or a housekeeper. It is about giving her the tools to make the difference that she thinks needs to be made. It is about trusting her and letting her fly.
To learn more about The Daraja Academy of Kenya, visit www.daraja-academy.org.