MEET MICHELLE

All she wanted was to stay in school

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On a bright day in June 2015, KEF traveled to Chania Girls Secondary School in Thika, an hour outside of Nairobi. Upon arrival, the Deputy Principal ushered us into an empty science lab full of rows of high metal tables and stools. Outside the window, four girls congregated, standing quietly, apprehensive and nervous by this surprise visit.

One by one they were ushered in, hoping they would receive a KEF scholarship. Each girl deserved this gift, but only one would receive it. 

The final interviewee was Michelle, a straight ‘A’ student, who showed incredible academic promise. Soft spoken with a gentle spirit, Michelle had eyes that sparkled when she lit up her dimpled smile. Immediately, her story spilled out of her in a torrent of words. She began in English but quickly switched over to Swahili. The rapid expunging of troubles could only be expelled in her native tongue.

She explained that her father was negligent. He did not contribute to the welfare of the family, instead spending his meager funds from casual labor on liquor. If it had not been for the support from her primary school teachers and her grandmother, she would not have been able to continue into secondary school. While primary school in Kenya is free, secondary school is not. 

Grandma worked as a cleaner in a district hospital but the funds were never enough to support the entire family. She took out loans but could now barely keep up with the interest fees on her mounting debt. Paying for next term was out of the question.

Tears began to stream down Michelle's porcelain cheeks as she expressed her deep concern for her grandmother. Michelle knew her principal would soon send her home in the middle of 9th grade for lack of school fees. 

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It was clear to us that this girl was in need. Her desperation was urgent. Her forceful presence illustrated her deep desire to rise out of her current circumstances. When we informed her she had won the scholarship, a shy smile crept across her face. She thanked us and shook her head. Unable to comprehend that just like that, in a moment, four years of school fees were paid.

Two weeks later, Michelle arrived for KEF’s Life Skills Workshop. Over the course of three days, she bonded with her fellow KEF scholars, met additional KEF staff, learned vital life skills and received the psychological support every student deserves. It was clear a huge weight had been lifted off her small shoulders. No longer would she have to sit at her desk, dreading the moment she would be called from class and sent home. No longer would her grandmother have to endeavor to produce funds. She could now focus on her studies. On her future.

When Michelle returned to school, her classmates noticed something was different. "People were asking me what's wrong because I'm just happy all the time."

All Michelle wanted was to stay in school.

With your help, KEF was able to keep her there.