The Jitegemee scholarship program is a very unique program. Under the program, we identify needy children at a very young age and reach out to them with nurturing and assistance. We ensure that they remain focused and motivated in pursuit of academic excellence. We believe it grooms a child at very early age to succeed at school and shapes both their present and their future.
In order to motivate these children to work hard in school, Jitegemee has committed itself to paying for secondary school, and in some cases, college, for those who achieve excellent results on their exams.
Last year, our class eight candidates disproved any one with a notion that street kids cannot excel in their exams. Our six candidates performed so well nearly all of them were admitted to prestigious schools. One boy in particular, Peter Muasya, posted second in the division and joined one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions in Kenya: Starehe Boys Center.
Agnes Kavita, a child who has come through very difficult circumstances, could not be left behind; she scored high marks and joined Makueni Girls High School, another prestigious institution. It is amazing that Agnes scored the highest of all our girls, even after her mother threw her out of the house at a young age. Throughout her childhood, Agnes found refuge in Jitegemee. The Jitegemee Board chair in Machakos, Terry Mutuku, a former school inspector, took Agnes into her own home. We strongly believe that Terry’s mentorship contributed dearly to Agnes’ success.
Kisilu Maweu, George Okoth, Mutheu Muia and Mandi Musyimi performed well too and joined Mwaani boys, Machakos Boys, Masii Girls and Kitonyini Secondary School respectively. Their academic success shows that street children with a will to succeed just need a little support to remove the obstacles that prevent them from attaining their educational goals.
The introduction of Jitegemee’s hot lunch program has contributed to the success of the primary school kids, most of whom walk from their schools to our center daily to eat a nutritious meal. The result has been striking: This year, there were no drop-outs from primary school. Children in our program no longer look gloomy and unhappy due to hunger. The head teacher at St. Mary’s Boys School once commented that “Jitegemee scholars are always very smart.” This has been a dream for the program to ensure that our very disadvantaged children—many of whom are orphans or are from struggling single-parent families—don’t feel neglected and different from other children.
Jitegemee started another exciting program this year to help Jitegemee’s older students understand the needs and requirements of the work environment. We began an internship program that seeks to link high school students and recent graduates with professional mentors to prepare them for employment after graduation. After interviewing students about the fields they aspire to pursue, Jitegemee partnered with various institutions including the local hospital, a law firm and government departments, who provided internship opportunities to five of our students during the spring vacation. The internship helped students sharpen their skills and develop in their respective areas of specialization. The program has so far started to yield fruits, with the students saying that they are seeing life in a different dimension now.
Muthoki Kiilu, a third-year high school student, said her internship at the district office of the Ministry of Information changed her view of her own future. “I did not know I can make it until I worked in the District Information Office,” she said. “This is a kind of eye opener to me in the field I want to specialize.” Jitegemee hopes to expand this program to allow additional students to participate.
Jitegemee is also making great strides in the vocational training program. We have recruited a new class of 25 students who are currently learning life and business skills in our classrooms. In the coming months, we will pair them up with local mentors who will teach them hands-on skills in trades such as carpentry, welding, tailoring, hair dressing, and mechanics. More than 75 youth have benefited from Jitegemee’s vocational program, attaining the skills required to kick start their lives by either venturing into their own small business or by getting employed.
To help our vocational graduates get started in their new trades, Jitegemee has begun a partnership with a local microfinance group who will lend our skilled students small amounts of money so that they can access raw materials to begin their businesses. At the moment, some vocational graduates are working on commission basis, while others have secured jobs and are acting as mentors to younger kids as they continue acquiring skills and experience. This is realizing Jitegemee’s dream of street children teaching other street children. Now that we have accessed money for materials for the skilled youth, the next step is to have a pool of larger tools that Jitegemee’s vocational graduates can borrow as they launch their own small businesses. Your donation will go a long way towards making this a reality and seeing more Jitegemee children become self-sustaining adults.
By Mike Kimeu