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Hopeless to Hopeful by Grace Kavoi

This is a story written by Founder and Headmistress of the Malezi Centre, Teacher Grace Kavoi, where she shares about the centre's history, evolution, and impact. It has been edited some for clarity and flow, as English is not her native language.

Back in the year 1998, is when I felt I had a passion in taking care of the young children when I was living Kitui Ndogo. This, after I saw many of the children roistering in the slum all day, unattended by parents, not going to school. I was very much touched by the situation and wanted to help.

I started tuition classes in my single roomed house. I started with two children for neighbors, which motivated me most to have more children for class but the dwellers were not well informed about education and so didn't perceive the value of it.

No child who sincerely wanted to learn was turned away.

I decided to go on a door-to-door campaign to encourage those who were not going to school, to be coming for my morning tuition class.

After the campaign, still, the turn out was not good but I managed to get five more pupils. I went on with the tuition class, some coming in the morning and afternoon, others in the evening. In 2000, there was a need for a bigger classroom space after several mothers saw the good work I was doing.

I had no money to rent a room, so a friend of mine gave me one to use for free. I had no name for the school, but the people around used to call it Kashule Kwa Grace, meaning, "Small school for Grace." Still, the turn out was small, I had only twelve students coming regularly.

We all learned in one room. Baby class, nursery, and pre-unit classes sat on a stone floor and I wrote directly on the wall made of iron sheets. We did not have any windows or electricity. We couldn't afford for chalkboards and most school supplies, so we used what we had available.

The original Malezi school.

The original Malezi school.

In 2002, I did another door-to-door campaign, this time with a woman who was volunteering for the school. The impact was better. We recruited twenty new pupils and I decided the school's name would be Kitui Ndogo Nursery, and that the school fees would be 100 Kenyan Shillings/month, which is roughly equivalent to $1, what most dwellers here earn in a day. Many of the children, however, could not afford to pay but they were still welcomed to attend. No child who sincerely wanted to learn was turned away.

After a time, the room we were using for class was sold and the management drastically changed. I was now entitled to pay rent of 500 KSh ($6)/month, of which I could barely afford but through God's support, we managed.

Every child attending Malezi has a story to narrate of hardship. These are children whose future was once seen as broken but who have now found a place to call their school, where they can prepare their future life.

The room actually caught fire once and for three weeks we conducted class outside, which proved a challenge. Because of this hardship, a friend of mine became very much touched and decided to sponsor us with rebuilding the classroom and adding student desks. At this point, the school was in better condition than before the fire. You could say this was a helpful accident.

In 2008, I came to meet Jared Akama and Chryspin Afifu from a local NGO, Centre for Partnership and Civic Engagement Trust (CEPACET), who offered moral and financial support of our efforts.

I thanked God and prayed each day because CEPACET brought a light to my school. Jared and Chryspin visited regularly and introduced us to other well wishers, which made the children and I very happy. Partnership with CEPACET highly stimulated my hopes and built confidence in the hearts of the parents/guardians.

Teacher Grace Kavoi with students.

Teacher Grace Kavoi with students.

In the year 2010, the Kitui Ndogo Nursery was re-registered as a school and centre to nurture and unlock the genius in every child growing up in the slum. We decided to change our name to Malezi Centre, as malezi in Kiswahili means, "caring." At this time, the number of the students had grown to 50, so I had to rent a larger classroom and hire another teacher.

Through CEPACET, Christopher Lowman came to visit with us in 2012. He saw the challenges we were facing and his heart was moved. Through him and his network of supporters, a new and much improved Malezi Centre was born early in 2014.

Malezi gets a major upgrade in 2014.

Malezi gets a major upgrade in 2014.

Clean water livelihood project for Malezi.

Clean water livelihood project for Malezi.

A Malezi student works on a problem at the new centre.

A Malezi student works on a problem at the new centre.

Before, we had only two classrooms for three classes. Now, we have five rooms for baby class, nursery, pre-unit, classes 1-3, and a teacher's administration office. We have windows that let in the light, chalkboards, and enough desks so no student needs to sit on the floor. We can accommodate more than 150 students.

We also never used to have water available and now we have clean water running straight from the tap. We sell this water to the dwellers around the school for as little as 3 KSh/jerrycan, which helps our sustainability.

Every child attending Malezi has a story to narrate of hardship. These are children whose future was once seen as broken but who have now found a place to call their school, where they can prepare their future life. They were hopeless and now they have a great hope for their future.

Karibu sana (most welcome).

Teacher Grace Kavoi, Malezi School, Nairobi, Kenya

If you are interested in supporting Teacher Grace, as well as the Malezi Centre, there are a number of needs that can help the centre grow and develop, e.g., school supplies, upgrades to the structure, food for the children, etc. Please be in touch to discuss a program that would be most meaningful for you or donate here.