By Joan Thatiah for the Saturday Nation

“I grew up in a family of nine in Mathare slums in Nairobi. I dropped out of school in Form Four due to financial constraints, and got married soon after – a marriage that failed barely two years in.

“Out in the world of work, I quickly learnt how hard it was to get a job without a KCSE certificate. I was asked for it even for jobs like cleaning, but I found a series of odd jobs which I did for seven years before finally sitting KCSE. After getting my certificate, I realised that there was a need for an organisation like the one I run. There were so many women in my neighbourhood who had dropped out of school. They wanted to go back to school, but they just couldn’t afford it and they didn’t even know how to go about it. Now, I spend my days giving women in Mathare aged between 15 and 35 a chance to go back to secondary school as independent candidates.

“I get up at 6 am to get my son ready for school and to get my six siblings ready for their day. My days involve meetings with the various people that the organisation works with. I look for teachers to volunteer to teach our candidates in the evenings and meet with heads of organisations to seek funding or partnerships. We get women who want to sit KCSE and provide them with tutors, learning materials and a learning centre. We also pay their examination registration fees. This year we have six candidates and we will equip them with ICT skills or basic entrepreneurial skills so they can face the world with confidence.

“So far, there have been so many more lows than highs. For this reason, I like to spend the afternoons visiting other organisations that have succeeded in touching lives. I gain from seeing how they work firsthand and hearing how they managed to overcome their problems.

“I have to be back at the learning centre at 4pm because that is when the women come in for their classes. They have to fend for their families during the day so they have to do with only two or three hours of study in the evenings.

“I do not think that there is a more fulfilling thing than picking a broken woman up, dusting her off, and equipping her with knowledge and certificates so that she can fend for her family better. Eventually, I want to build a fully-fledged institution where such women can come in and learn.

“Evenings are the best part of my day. All of us get to sit down together, have dinner as a family and share stories about our days.”

This story was first published on the Saturday Nation on 11th June 2016  http://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/saturday/Giving-women-a-second-chance-at-secondary-school/-/1216/3243944/-/5j4nr3z/-/index.html

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