Suzy Mmaitsi, a tutor at Tewa College in Kilifi, Kenya shares the impact of her work in rural villages and the transformation it has bought to her life and the communities she reaches out to.
While boys are sent to school until they can communicate before being forced to drop out and earn a living, girls in these rural areas are not encouraged to go to school, and instead, a whole other fate awaits them, one where their childhood is tragically stripped away.
“The boys go to school until they can read, and then they are given a fishing rod to earn a living for their family. That is it. But the most neglected child is the girl. In these rural areas, girls are not supposed to go to school, and when they reach the age of nine they are expected to get married and have children.”
Changing minds, changing hearts
In order to challenge this mind-set and attitude, Suzy believes that parents must be first educated before approaching the subject of educating girls.
“We have to teach their parents first. Unless the parents say yes, the child will not come to school.”
Outreach work is extremely important to Tewa College. They introduce literacy, numeracy and communication classes to mothers in the villages, empowering them with the skills and knowledge to set up their own businesses. Women also have the opportunity to take part in vocational training sessions.
“We also take some of our vocational training classes out into the villages, and we show them how to bake cakes, for example, using local materials in the clay oven to make different items.”
Bringing hope through education
The positive impact of education and the role it plays in empowering girls to support themselves and escape poverty helps convince parents to send their children, both girls and boys, to school.
“The mothers and fathers have seen the reason why they should take their children to primary school, secondary school so they can go to college. They can see there is hope. Our job is to convince them that they have to start from somewhere.”
“When a girl gets married in rural Kenya, she ends up even poorer than she was before for various reasons — from not having the chance to earn money for her family, to worsening health that may result from giving birth at a young age."
The impact of education can never be underestimated, and Suzy has seen first-hand the difference that it makes to not only the lives of girls and women but also to her family and community, and the wider impact that comes with sharing knowledge.
“But when a girl finishes vocational school, she goes for a placement with a hotel and often gets a serving or cooking job there, or even is able to start her own business. The income of her family can be doubled or tripled, and she can also share the general skills she has learned — nutrition, hygiene, budgeting — with her relatives.”
A personal struggle Suzy knows all too well
Being one of 19 children growing up in a village in Western Kenya, Suzy knows all too well the struggles involved in gaining an education. Both her parents worked hard to send their daughters to school but financial difficulties made it impossible for Suzy to attend college.
“My parents worked very hard so that my sisters and me could go to school, but we simply had no money for college.”
However, through the recommendation from a neighbour, she applied to a college in Nairobi and was accepted. She worked hard to pay her way through college and after three years of study, Suzy received an amazing opportunity to study in Manchester on a scholarship.
Giving back to her motherland
Determined to give back to her community, Suzy moved back to Kenya after the completion of her studies to pass on whatever knowledge she has learnt.
“I have now returned to Kenya to pass on what I have learned to others. I see girls come into college unable to do much, but by the time they finish they are changed people. I feel like this work is changing the world.”
Suzy is determined to continue educating both parents and their daughters and helping them understand the value of education.
“My life has been transformed, but there are still many girls who cannot access vocational training. These courses can help girls and their parents understand why school is valuable. Girls may not even own shoes, but once they see where training can lead, they tell us how much they want to study and to do the best they can.”
You can help bring education to more rural communities in Kenya by supporting Wonder Foundation today.