A place of safety and hope

Posted by Roger Cooke on Fri, 26 Oct 2012 | 0 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

July 2011 saw the official opening of ACK Oloosuyian Girls’ Secondary School in Kenya, which was built thanks to a partnership between Kajiado Diocese and Limavady Grammar School. A story about this partnership appeared in inMission magazine, and we also posted a Kenyan Newspaper article here

The school was built as a strategic response to the educational obstacles experienced by Maasai girls. It’s estimated that less than 50% of Maasai girls enrol in primary school and as little as 10% reach secondary school level. Poverty and cultural issues, particularly arranged early marriages, often mean that many girls are denied education opportunities.

It is in this context that the Church is seeking to offer a place of safety and hope for girls like Jane, Alice and Sarah – three of the students who have been enrolled in the school. Here are their stories.
(Please note: Names have been changed).

I am from a family of seven from my mother’s side, as my father is a polygamist. I was sent to day school at the age of 6 and, later, to boarding school, which was not my choice. Unfortunately, my mother is not the ‘favourite’ wife, so she is not included in family decision-making. I performed well at primary school and was then sent to a Secondary school near my home in 2009.

I later learned that my father had been making arrangements to marry me off to a 70 year-old man. I pleaded with my mother not to allow the marriage to happen and when she tried to oppose my father he reacted furiously and we were both sent away. However, the man I was to marry had already paid the dowry, so my father insisted that my mother and I return home, which we did. My mother was continually beaten for opposing the marriage and I was withdrawn from school.

On the eve of the wedding, I escaped at night with the help of my older brother. My aunt gave me the fare to travel to Kajiado Township to seek assistance. I went to the Children’s Office at the police station, where I was introduced to Priscilla Nangurai, who gave me temporary shelter.

We talked about my interest in my past education and Priscilla kindly offered to help me. At that time, her church had been talking of starting ACK Oloosuyian Girls Secondary and she encouraged me to be patient and wait for the school to open. I now attend the school and during the school holidays, I live with Priscilla. She raises money to support my fees. I work hard and am performing well in many fields and have been made current head girl of the school.

I am from a single parent family as my father left us when I was very young – I can hardly remember him. My grandmother tells me that when I was three months old my mother could not cope with breast-feeding and bringing up a baby, possibly because of her drinking habit. I was given away to my grandmother on my mother’s side and it was she who brought me up. She also enrolled me in school. Much later, my mother returned for me. However, life was unbearable as she gave me lots of work to do before and after school and beat me when she drank. I kept returning to my grandmother.

One day, as I was preparing food, my mother arrived in very drunk and she grabbed a knife and threatened to kill me. I managed to run and though it was dark and raining, I escaped. I ran for about a mile and decided to enter the nearest home. Luckily for me, the people there welcomed me and fed me. It was in this home I heard about a shelter for girls, where I ended up the following day!

This was in 2010, the time when I was due to sit for the end of Primary National exam. Because of the problems I had experienced and the fear instilled by my mother, I did not score high marks, but I did qualify to go to Secondary School. I decided to join ACK Oloosuyian Girls Secondary School and I am very happy to be here. I am really enjoying school and am performing above average.

My parents were brought together under an arranged marriage, as is the case with many Maasai marriages. My mother is educated to high school level and studied Design and Dressmaking. My father dropped out of school before he completed his Secondary School level. My mother often ran back to her own father’s home because my father would abuse her, but as the dowry had been paid she was unable to leave the matrimonial home. A time came when she felt enough was enough and she ran off without my brother and me.

My brother and I went through a very hard time under our father’s care as he was a habitual drinker. We carried out all the domestic chores whilst being abused and neglected and at one point the tissue around my nose was damaged from his beatings. But God has been good to us and my brother and I were able to perform well in school and by the end of Primary level, we decided to follow our mother. We then were able to join Secondary education. I was admitted to a good Secondary Girls school in the county and even though I did not want to go there, my father forced me to do so.

During the April holidays, I met with some of the girls who attend ACK Oloosuyian Girls Secondary School and they were full of praise for their school. I nagged everyone to allow me to attend the school and as my mother and grandmother liked the idea, they were easily convinced! My father, of course, did not accept the decision and has threatened to take me to court!

I have now settled into ACK Oloosuyian Girls well and am beginning to do well at my studies. I am thankful that my grandmother can afford to pay for my fees and she has promised to continue to assist me through my Secondary education. Praise be to God!

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