01 Oct Back To School In East Africa!
The fall season is synonymous with Back To School in the U.S., but what does that phrase mean for sponsored children in East Africa? Over his years with Lahash, Will Campbell compiled a stunning collection of school photographs in various East African countries at different school settings. We pulled together this small collection of his work to help you see what Back To School looks like for the kids in the Lahash Sponsorship Program.
Wow! That’s a full classroom! Students in East Africa are not guaranteed their own desks or books, and class sizes can range from 10 students to 80 (or however many can fit into the room). The students must learn to focus and get the information they need even when the learning environment is not ideal. There is no free public education in East Africa, so students are very aware of the sacrifices being made to pay for their education, and they are very proud to be students.
Each student must purchase their own school uniform and shoes, or they will not be admitted to school. The combined costs of tuition (“school fees”) plus uniforms and shoes make education an unattainable dream for vulnerable children living in poverty. Sponsorship gives life to that dream, and gives kids the chance to wear their school clothes proudly every day!
There is no bus to hop on, and few people have cars. So whether school is in their neighborhood or a few miles away, students make their way on foot. Some families are able to provide more than one meal a day for their children, but many families are not. Lahash works to improve food security for all the kids in our Sponsorship Program, so that they don’t have to make these long walks on an empty stomach.
For kids who have physical limitations, or who live considerable distances from school, bicycles can make the difference between regular school attendance or dropping out. Staff at each partnership identify children whose situations would be greatly improved y this simple upgrade in transportation, and the bicycles are generously provided by caring sponsors as Christmas gifts!
Each country in East Africa has its own unique education system. The divisions between preschool, primary, secondary, and post-secondary education fall at different grade levels. Each country has its own national languages that are taught in schools, and its own government-approved curriculum. All the countries follow some model of year-round school, with 4-6 week breaks between terms. Students who achieve the objectives for their grade level move up in January when the new school year starts.
One of the Lahash partners, Nipe Tumaini in Kenya, has its very own school on site! They have developed a very engaging and interactive classroom structure, as all of their students are young and starting school for the first time. There is a lot of time spent singing, reciting, and playing games. The children’s academic gains have been exemplary at Nipe Tumaini Academy!
A few of our partner locations are able to provide wholesome home-cooked meals for the students’ lunches, assisted by funds from Lahash’s annual Rice & Beans Month event. Children obviously learn better when their stomachs are full, and nutrition is a key factor in maintaining their physical health. For vulnerable children, routine childhood illnesses can takes weeks to recover from, leaving large gaps in their school attendance. For children who are HIV-positive, nutrition takes on an even higher importance. They need extra protein to maintain growth and strength, and to be able to avoid the harsh side effects of taking life-saving medications on an empty stomach.
Most children return to homes like these, and many chores await them. The sun sets around 6:30 near the equator, so there is limited daylight to walk home and help the family complete the tasks for the day. Children may be needed to help in fields, to tend animals, to fetch water, to care for younger siblings, to wash and hang laundry, or to help prepare food. In rural areas, children are often kept home from school to help with animals or harvests, because feeding the family takes priority over education. In this sense, allowing a child to attend school is a temporary sacrifice, the benefits of which may not be evident for years to come.
After chores are finished and the sun has set, students do homework by the light of kerosene lamps. Fuel for the lamps is yet another expense that many families can’t afford, which causes kids to fall behind at school. Program staff are identifying families where this obstacle exists, and offering sponsors the chance to purchase solar lamps for Christmas gifts this year!
As the younger students work hard to make progress through primary and secondary school, many of them have their sights set even higher. Golda Poni, pictured above, was the first student to graduate from university thanks to the Lahash Stand With Students higher education program. This program offers mentorship and discipleship to promising scholars to help prepare them for the next phase of their education, which may be vocational schools or university degree programs. It is exciting to see kids outgrow the Sponsorship Program and enter young adulthood equipped and ready to follow their dreams!
Sponsorship makes it possible for these kids to receive an education that literally changes the course of their lives. Yet our awesome community of child sponsors would be the first people to tell you that they aren’t the heroes in this story – the kids are! They have so many challenges to overcome on a daily basis as they do their best to keep making progress at school. Based on what you just learned in this post, here are some specific ways you can pray for these heroic students today:
- SAFETY – many of them walk or ride bikes long distances to and from school.
- STAMINA – in addition to walking, there are important chores that they are responsible for at home, and homework is done by lamplight afterward.
- FOOD SECURITY – some kids have enough food at home to eat every day and maybe even carry food with them to school. Some don’t, and you can imagine how difficult it is to learn and focus while feeling hungry.
- CARING TEACHERS – pray for the children to be seen, known, and valued by their teachers. It makes a big difference for kids who are so vulnerable – the more people paying attention to how they’re doing, the sooner they will get help when needs arise.
- CONFIDENCE & GROWTH – these kids have a lot of factors working against their academic progress. Pray that God encourages their hearts, and that they keep doing their best even when it’s difficult or they are feeling behind.
If you would like to help a waiting child make their way Back To School, you can:
- Become a sponsor! Begin the process now at lahash.org/sponsorship
- Donate to Stand With Students! Program and donation information can be found at lahash.org/standwithstudents
Thank you so much for caring about these amazing kids, and helping them make their way Back To School!