Hi, I’m Kathy, part of the US-based TLC team that visited our Kenya operations in March.
My Kenyan colleague Anne and I spent a day visiting Oltumusoi Primary School which serves the local Maasai community. In the 10 years since the school began with a handful of students, it has now grown to 200+ students. Through the sales of our Beads for Learning bracelets, The Leakey Collection pays for teacher salaries at the school. This year we are funding 5 of the 15 teachers.
In Kenya, parents must pay tuition fees for each child to attend school. The students standing in this class all have parents who work for The Leakey Collection. Earning money so their children can attend school is the top financial motivation for most of our women artisans.
Almost all of the children are the first generation in their families to learn to read or attend school. In this 8th grade class, I asked if any of their parents had attended school and only this single boy stood up. The children are taught in English and Swahili and are trilingual (including their mother language of Maa) by primary graduation.
The challenge of balancing traditional gender roles with preparing for a changing future makes it especially difficult to keep girls in school as they become teenagers. Our Beads for Girls Graduation bracelets fund mentorship programs to support girls in pursuing their educational goals.
In the upper grades I said a few words to the girls, reinforcing that they are just as capable as the boys to continue on to secondary school (equivalent to our high school) and even a university. They were surprised to hear that more women than men attend universities in the US.
Children as young as 4 can begin attending the pre-school class where they become familiar with the learning environment. Here they sing Heads-Shoulders-Knees-and-Toes, a song that unites children across the globe.
We walked home with the lower primary students who are dismissed after the school-provided lunch. These young children walk 8-10 miles each day to attend school. Truly inspirational!