I’m always astonished at the enthusiasm that exists for education among students in the developing world, especially when compared to my native USA. I was reminded of this during a recent assignment in Kenya, where I spent a day at the Sapashe girls’ dormitory at a remote primary school in Samburu County. The dorm, one of many constructed by ChildFund in sub-Sahran Africa, provides a safe place for school-age girls to live on campus while they focus on their education.
Girls face a number of challenges in rural Kenya including FGM, child marriage, and, more often, the hurdle that when at home they’re expected to perform domestic chores like fetching water and herding livestock, rather than to concentrate on academics. The ability to live on campus helps bypass many of these obstacles. In the above video piece I present the story of Rehema, a resident of the Sapashe dorm, who at twelve years old ran away from home to attend school for the first time in her life.
Pictured above attending class, Rehema is now 15 years old. She grew up in a pastoralist community, and instead of attending school, she was responsible for herding her family’s livestock from a young age. When she was twelve, she overheard her parents discussing plans to marry her off to an older man in the community. She decided it was time to make her getaway, running away to stay at the Sapashe dormitory in order to begin her education. After school officials battled successfully with Rhema’s parents for her right to an education, she has studied hard for the last three years in order to catch up to the level of her peers.
Many of the girls that attend school here come from nomadic, pastoralist families whose home may shift several times a year as their livestock seek water sources or fresh grazing grounds. Even when families practice a more sedentary lifestyle, their home may be miles away from the nearest school. This dorm, and others like it, provides safe haven for girls and chance for them to one day shape their own destiny.