Lenana Girls High School

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Common Ground for Africa, with the help of Lift the Lid and local communities and women’s groups, is continuing to build a boarding school for orphaned, vulnerable, and dispossessed girls from the age of 11 to 22. It’s name is Lenana Girls High School, the sister school to Lenana, the all-boys school in the village of Karen, near Nairobi. Laibon Lenana was a legendary leader of the Maasi people until the early 20th Century. The school is now open to girls of all tribes and religions.

The best chance for young girls in Kenya to gain an education is through boarding schools, where they will be housed, educated, and protected from cultural traditions such as early marriage (at the age of 12 or 13) and Female Genital Mutilation. The school will empower the next generation of African women by providing high quality education, personalized mentoring, and rigorous leadership development.

When you invest in gender equality, and believe in girls, communities are strengthened and lives are forever changed.  In 2013, Lenana installed their first Form One class (equivalent to Ninth Grade in the U.S.)  We see these young  women as hope for their families, their communities, and for the future of Kenya.

One example is Pauline, a student with the spirit to seek out education at Lenana despite extreme poverty at home. She has the desire to impact the world, and is starting in her own community by volunteering as a field trainer on how to grow food using GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming methods.

As Judith Mutinda, Executive Director of Gilgal Foundation said in her speech to the girls at their Girl’s Day Celebration in Makueni, “Your accomplishments thus far gives us confidence and to you good reason to believe that many more accomplishments lie ahead. The founders of Lenana Girls High School always want you and other Kenyan girls to fulfill your dreams and to have a productive life. We want you, to work even harder, and remain focused on your goals, and to believe in yourselves. Every path you take should be taken with confidence that you can make a difference, for yourselves, your families, and for your country.”

Lenana Girls High School will graduate exemplary young women who will be change-makers equipped with 21st century skills in science and technology. They will be enabled to succeed in their advanced studies at local or international universities and technical schools, and ultimately the labor market. We support an environment of academic excellence, ensuring that graduates will become inspired young leaders filled with confidence, a love of learning, and a sense of empowerment to strengthen themselves and the greater world.

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A major barrier to education for young girls in Kenya is that most families would prefer to educate boys as opposed to girls because they feel a girl’s education will only benefit the family they end up marrying into. Therefore educating a girl would be a waste of their meager income. Lenana Girls High School will offer free and/or affordable education to girls though income-generating projects and community support. This has been demonstrated at Pathfinder Academy (a co-ed primary school near Kitale started by Common Ground for Africa), where in addition to traditional studies, students engage in entrepreneurial activities, such as agricultural development, dairy farming, bee keeping, and selling solar power for charging batteries. Pathfinder Academy has received multiple awards from the Ministry of Education for its varied curriculum and its positive influence on the community as a whole. Today, Pathfinder Academy’s model is being replicated in other countries. Lift the Lid has complete faith that Lenana Girls High School will become a fully operating, self-sufficient haven of learning and development for vulnerable girls.

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Kitale is an agricultural town in western Kenya (roughly 200 miles from Nairobi), situated between Mount Elgon and the Cherengani Hills. In 2011, Common Ground for Africa (CGA) started working with local communities to identify 16 acres of land near Pathfinder Academy in nearby Kiminini, and to source the materials needed to start building Lenana Girls High School.

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CGA has registered the school’s name with the registrar and has support letters from the Ministries of Education and local government. They have also begun businesses such as agriculture, bee keeping, and dairy production, which, once developed fully, will provide enough income to cover the school’s running costs. Like at Pathfinder Academy, the students of Lenana Girls High School will be taught entrepreneurial and life skills, in addition to their traditional subjects.

The challenge we face now is to finish the construction of the classrooms and a laboratory. We are also seeking donors who are willing to pay $1000 to sponsor a student at Lenana Girls High School. In turn, the students train an average of 75 families on organic farming methods. According to Joshua Machinga, the Program Director of CGA, “We believe that with our experience, and our presence in the community, we are in a strong position to see this project through to the ultimate objective of offering a high-quality education for girls.”

The majority of underprivileged women in Kenya are destined to live a life of poverty and cultural oppression, where they are exchanged for cattle and cash. In some tribes, e.g. Maasai, a woman is not allowed to divorce except in the most severe cases of physical abuse. Neither is she allowed to remarry, even if the chosen husband is an old man who dies while she is still in her teens. Instead, she becomes the property of one of her husband’s brothers. She will be one of multiple wives, and will have many children, regardless of her health or ability to provide for them. She will spend her days walking miles to water points to launder clothes and to collect water. She will gather heavy loads of firewood and carry it back home, balancing the jugs of water on her head. If she is lucky, she will have a donkey to share her burden. She will live a life of few physical comforts, dependent on a husband and a family she did not choose. Her life expectancy is 45 years of age.

An educated woman will know her rights and have the confidence and independence to stand up for them. She will choose whom to marry and when to marry.  She will have fewer children and they will be healthier and better educated than the previous generation. She will not circumcise her daughters. She will have economic security. She will spend 90% of her income on her family, compared to 35% that an educated man would spend. She will help support her parents. She will not forget where she came from.

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Young Turkana Women

Lenana Girls High School, through Common Ground for Africa, operates under the Ministry of Gender, Children & Social Development in the Republic of Kenya, Registration No. TN/XX 4660/08/2000.