In North America and Kenya, we are now a little more than a week into the new school term. “Back to School” essentials are the mostly the same: after some relative freedom, its back to enforced schedules, homework, your friends, and those butterflies in your belly. But this might be where most of comparisons stop.
In USA and Canada, going back to school is big business: In 2013, back to school consumer spending reached a near record high of $72 Billion USD on apparel, clothing, school supplies, electronics, haircuts, and more. On average, families with school age children spent an average $634.78 just on outfitting their children for school. All the online gurus of economic growth I read assured their readers that 2014 was set to surpass these figures. (Hurray?)
In Kenya, this is not the case. For sure, families will spend a bit on their kids, but in the communities where WTA works, spending within their limited means is difficult. In Kenya, students have school uniforms that come with rigid guidelines of colour and style. New, these often sell for around $15 or $20. A while ago, I wrote about how much you could buy for one dollar in Kenya, including a notebook and a pen. New shoes? The regulation ones can run you around $6-$10.
My point is: In Kenya, outfitting your kid for school could be as little $40, in comparison to the $634 average American is spending. And yet, this is a struggle for many in Kenya, especially in the brand new communities starting afresh that WTA works with.
We’re not saying this to reinforce how poor many in Kenya are. Let’s just appreciate that there are certain things we take for granted in North America: like buying back to school fashions, like giving some lunch money (or even, having a lunch during the school day), like having a textbook to yourself, like having a school nearby, like being able to go to school at all…
Having a nearby school makes an enormous difference in the lives of students and in the lives of entire community. When donors went to Kenya this summer, many of the returning donors were shocked by how much Shalom had developed from its humble origins.
Now, we’re seeing it happen in Lemolo. A brand new, officially opened, school is here in this disadvantaged, remote community that’s starting off from scratch. It must be a bit of a shock to these kids to step into a brightly painted beautiful school that’s all theirs.
But what about those uniforms? The Governor of Nakuru county, Kinuthia Mbugua knew that it would be a struggle for families in Lemolo. So during the official opening of Kimgul Primary School in Lemolo A, he donated uniforms for every student attending school there. He also provided food for breakfasts at the primary school. Every day, students here will be fed and clothed as they go back to school. This is a partnership that we are very happy to celebrate.
It’s important that we remember these little things, even as we focus as an organization on the major infrastructure projects that have defined us, like Shalom Primary, Springs High School, and now, Kimgul Primary. And we do: we’ve provided textbooks for Kimgul Primary in the early part of spring. With your help, we could be doing more.
We know how much it costs to send a kid back to school here, but for a tiny fraction of that amount, we can help a kid in Kenya go back to school, properly. Let’s not take that for granted.