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As families settle back into the rhythm of the school year, we wanted to share about education in Kenya. How would your child’s life be different if she went to school in Kenya? Here are some Kenyan Ed basics shared by Beth Oaks, an American teacher who has taught in both Kenyan and American schools.

Bilingual Education

Classes are taught in Kiswahili (literally "the language of the Swahili people") through class 3 (3rd grade). Starting in class 4, all classes are taught in English except for their Kiswahili lessons. Students are typically fluent enough in English by class 4 that it isn't a difficult leap for them.

School starts with the Calendar Year

The school year in Kenya runs from January to November with breaks in April and August.

Children pay for their own supplies

Students are expected to come to school with all of the supplies they’ll need for the term. For primary school, the equivalent of grades K-8, the biggest costs are school supplies, including uniforms, and, if they go to a private school, tuition.

A private school education is ideal, but out of reach for many. For public school students, uniforms are a huge cost, and many students only have one uniform that they wear every day and wash when they get home from school. Supplies are also costly, leading some students to fill every available space in their notebooks and find scrap paper to write on when their notebooks fill.

Tech-free Ed

Computers are not common in Kenyan schools. The higher-priced private schools in Nairobi have computers, but few other schools do, so students don't typically get this vital skill until high school or university, if at all.

High school is private – so are electives

Different students have different goals, mainly depending on what part of the country they're from or how wealthy their parents are. Most students would LOVE to get good enough grades on their standardized tests to get to university, but many students won't realistically get there, and the best they can hope for is an 8th grade education, which is as far as the government will pay for. After that, many students go on to work, likely on their parent's farms or similar labor jobs. Students who can afford high school and university can go on and hope for better careers after graduation.

Students in primary school don't typically get electives, though teachers may sponsor clubs to allow students to pursue interests outside their typical classes. In secondary school, students have more choices for their classes, such as various foreign languages, math and science courses, music classes, and computer classes if computers are available.

Students also aren't automatically admitted to high school after class 8, regardless of the availability of money for tuition. Students must pass a test called the KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) to be admitted to high school. Their grades determine how good of a high school they can get into, and high schools send out offer letters to prospective students in early January, following the release of the KCPE scores.

Side by Side is proud to promise education through high school to the eleven students currently enrolled in the Embakasi Project and to provide computers to teach students at the Tania Centre about technology and enable them to practically implement word processing and online research in their studies. All donations to Side by Side are directed entirely to providing educational support and additional interventions to vulnerable children and their families in the United States and around the world. Join the impact today!  

5 Things to Celebrate in Embakasi

Some of the students and their mothers and guardians gather after first term.

Some of the students and their mothers and guardians gather after first term.

1. Eleven children are now included in the project

Side by Side’s original goal of providing education through at least high school for 10 children has been met and surpassed. At this point, we are coming alongside eleven individuals ages 8-20 offering educational support in school fees, books and uniforms as well as additional supports as needed individually.

Side by Side board visits Mercyline at Kimana Secondary School for Girls

Side by Side board visits Mercyline at Kimana Secondary School for Girls

Side by Side and NGCI visiting Lilian at her school, Gideon's Memorial Academy

Side by Side and NGCI visiting Lilian at her school, Gideon's Memorial Academy

2. Five girls are enrolled in the program

Orphaned girls face additional challenges as they grow into maturity and forge their place in the community. This year, Mercyline and Lilian were joined by Blessing, Claudia and Marie more than doubling our enrollment of young women.

3. Staff is growing and going further

As part of her broader duties at Nairobi Gospel Centres International (NGCI), the project has welcomed Jackie, as the coordinator for the Embakasi Project. The Embakasi Project has grown with Jackie and is now able to document and centralize more measurable data, such as school records, and personal information like career goals, and even favorite foods and music.

4. Bigger goals have been set

Side by Side has set sights higher with a new goal to support 15 children through at least high school.

Students enrolled in the Embakasi Project who attend King's Academy

Students enrolled in the Embakasi Project who attend King's Academy

5. Impact is spreading

A school in Embakasi, run by NGCI, has adopted the Embakasi Project model for their scholarship application and assessment process to support vulnerable children. The church currently supports 15 students, providing impactful education for vulnerable children.

Many teachers at the school also attended Side by Side’s initial teacher trainings. The 20 kindergarten students who attended the school at the beginning of Side by Side’s partnership in Embakasi has grown to 180 students. Now, the Kenyan government is working to introduce a new curriculum, a challenge for the academy that we believe they will meet beautifully.

Every gift you give goes straight to programs like the Embakasi Project. These milestones were only possible thanks to the generous support of our Friends and donors.