Education in Action: Effie’s Story December 3, 2013 by Nick Johnson
In Kenya, going to school can be confusing and frustrating—or at least, paying for it can be. Students and their families often worry about finding money for school fees that can increase dramatically from one year to the next. Uncertain about their future, students can lose motivation as their delinquent fees pile up. In short, getting a school scholarship takes a huge burden off their shoulders.
This situation is typical, especially for residents of Kibera. Take Effie, for example:
As many young Kenyans do, Effie moved from her rural home in Western Kenya to Kibera in Nairobi to access educational opportunities that were beyond her reach. Back home, Effie’s mother is raising eight children on her own. While subsistence farming feeds the family, there was no money for education.
But Effie’s ambition to go to school drove her to find a way to pay for it. Shortly after arriving in Kibera, where she lives with her uncle, she applied for and won a CFK scholarship for secondary school. Now, she is a junior in high school with only one more year left before graduation. Effie will be the first in her family to graduate from high school, including of all her siblings and even her parents.
But Effie is just getting started. She has already begun using her skills to actively pursue her life’s passion to educate others about the importance of family planning.
Her passion comes from a very personal place. After watching her mother struggle with such a large family, and also after seeing the difficulties of other mothers who aren’t able to meet the basic needs of their children, Effie started speaking to expectant mothers—and anyone who would listen—about the importance of thoughtful family planning. Effie’s mother supports her daughter’s work, admitting that while she loves all her children, she wishes she had heard more about family planning methods in the past. When asked if there is a “right” amount of children families should have, Effie said, “If you can take care of your children’s needs then even ten children is great.” It’s clear to Effie that the question isn’t about the number in a household but about everyone being adequately cared for and supported.
Convening a group of five young women from all corners of Kibera, Effie and her team work to get the message out to women and men. Through CFK’s partnership with Ashoka’s Youth Venture program, Effie has now been able to access support for building her family planning project and herself as a community change-maker.
With encouragement from both CFK and Ashoka staff and volunteers, Effie continues to speak with Kibera community members about family planning. She admits the work is tough, acknowledging that “men say it’s hard to find condoms, women are afraid family planning methods will make them sterile and many people continue to believe that having lots of children will contribute to a family’s future security.” Because she does not have to worry about finding ways to support her education, she can focus on doing well in school and educating others about the things she cares about most.