"They Don't Care."
These were the exact words used recently by my host sister, Jyoti, here in India to describe the attitude of teachers found in the government-run schools her children go to.
Unlike Kenya, free basic education is afforded to every child in India, regardless of their economic level. So even kids in a slum area, like the one we live in, receive primary school education at no cost up until the 10th grade.
In Kenya, government-run "free" schools still require certain fees that typically rule out any child living in poverty from enrolling. This is why you find community-based schools, like Brosis, cropping up.
Teachers working for a government-run school in a slum in India are teaching students from poor families, who usually have parents who are not well educated and who may not value their child's education. It's unlikely these kids will break out of poverty or end up in jobs that require much formal education. Plus, the behavior of children from slum areas is usually quite troublesome and difficult to manage.
It's understandable why the teachers might not care that much—it doesn't seem like there is much incentive to care when the job is so difficult and potentially not that rewarding.
A Radical Experiment
The comment from Jyoti got me thinking about the school we plan to launch in a harsh slum in Nairobi, Kenya, and the phrase I typically associate with it—care is the solution.
It made me realize we are doing something unique, radical even.
Teacher Grace Kavoi (above), the to be director of our school, and her story tells the tale.
Grace is well educated and could be living a comfortable middle class lifestyle. Instead, she willingly moved into her neighboring slum and for the past ten years, has been providing free daycare and basic education to a percentage of the community's youth—kids who would otherwise do nothing all day.
Why? Because she cares deeply, enough to forsake her own comfort to serve a cause.
This is precisely the generous spirit the school we plan to build is being founded in. Realize, we're doing so in a thoroughly neglected slum area where sanitation issues abound, where crime, drug, alcohol, and prostitution issues abound, and where dreams are not really possible to achieve.
It's a place where there is hardly any reason to care and little care to be found.
Because of the love and values going into the school — from the community leaders who want to give their children education, from Teacher Grace, from the eight teachers the school will employ, from the students who want to learn, and from the donors who will give when they don't have to — we anticipate graduating inspired, self-respecting youth who will want to break out of the poverty and crime cycle, who believe in the possibility of their dream, and who will partner with the school as community leaders and change agents to work on other community challenges.
If we graduate 200 children like this/year, that's 1,000 in five years. Imagine the change that could happen, as they integrate into the community. To me, this is how you transform poverty on the grassroots level.
Continue to next update ab0ut building the Malezi Centre.