Without some form of basic education, many street children have no hope for the future and end up dying on the pavement, victims of drugs, violent crime, and disease. Jitegemee reaches out to street children and helps them return to school, giving them their childhoods—and futures—back.
We are committed to helping street children overcome all the obstacles that interfere with their success in school—hunger, a lack of money for books or school fees, embarrassment about inadequate clothing and shoes, and/or inadequate or non-existent social support. Jitegemee strives to pay for each year of a child’s education, for as many levels as the child can attain.
At a cost of roughly $100 per child per year, Jitegemee provides books, school uniforms, shoes, food, school and exam fees, tutoring, and emergency medical care for former street children in elementary school. Many students are performing at the top of their class. At a cost of roughly $500 per child per year, Jitegemee provides board, school fees, and tutoring for Jitegemee scholars who have earned admittance to the region’s first- and second-tier secondary schools.
When Kenya introduced free and compulsory education for children under the age of 14 in 2003, many drop-in centers for street children closed, leaving no place for children over 14 to eat lunch and spend their days. Many of these older children, too old for primary school, were forced back into the streets to face a bleak future.
Recognizing that vulnerable children were falling through the cracks, Jitegemee dramatically expanded our vocational program to support more teenage street children in becoming self-sufficient. Our vocational training program, comprised of three phases, has achieved impressive results:
- Some 80 percent of our vocational graduates earn money from their trades.
- About two-thirds of our graduates are now the primary breadwinners in their homes.
Jitegemee’s vocational students start with a five-month pre-vocational rehabilitation program. The curriculum covers basic math and literacy, business education, communication skills, and self-esteem and “living values” education. The program emphasizes punctuality, honesty, cleanliness, and the importance of giving back to the community. The first phase ends with a week-long workshop for vocational students and their guardians that introduces them to a variety of trades. The workshops are conducted by qualified tradespeople with the assistance of the Undugu Society of Kenya, a well-respected organization with a successful vocational program in Nairobi.
In phase two, Jitegemee’s vocational students are placed in a one- to two-year apprenticeship program where they learn a life-changing trade of their choosing, such as carpentry, welding, electronics, hair-dressing, and tailoring. As apprentices to local tradespeople, students learn their trade and the folkways that govern professional behavior. Many students also earn a commission. During this phase, the vocational students continue to meet every day for a hearty lunch, as well weekly with Jitegemee staff for continued business skills training, “living values” education, and social support.
Once the apprenticeship is completed, Jitegemee provides vocational graduates with the help they need to go into business for themselves. Each graduate receives a set of start-up tools, and as they begin to earn money from their trades, Jitegemee staff members assist them with saving money to purchase their own tools. When they are established in their trades, they teach the skills they have mastered to the next generation of Jitegemee vocational students.
Jitegemee is determined to provide the social support our students were deprived of when they ended up in the streets. This social support is critical to keeping them in school even in the most difficult of circumstances. It includes a sense of belonging, genuine caring among community members, a sense of pride and self-accomplishment, and mutual respect and acceptance.
Jitegemee’s programming focuses on building social support and self-esteem by giving them the opportunity to give back to their communities and other destitute children. Students are frequently asked to reflect on how they contribute, and what would enable them to play a larger role in helping others.
Other ways Jitegemee provides social support include:
- Providing daily lunches where students can come together as a community.
- Hosting a yearly Children’s Day to recognize our students.
- Offering tutoring after school and during school breaks.
- Providing counseling and adult encouragement and guidance.
- Organizing internships for secondary students during school breaks at local hospitals, businesses, and government offices.
- Organizing motivational speakers and visitors to inspire students to dream big.
- Providing HIV/AIDS education, yearly medical screening, and emergency health care.
- Organizing educational field trips to the National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi.
- Taking students on overnight camping trips to Mombasa, Nakuru, and Naivasha, introducing them to Kenya’s natural wonders.
In addition, Jitegemee works with parents, guardians, and families to plan income-generating activities, such as cooperative farming, and poultry production. Jitegemee also works with parents, guardians, and families to develop a healthier, more positive environment for youth.