Despite Government’s best efforts, education in our country is far from what it should be. One can only imagine how far behind we would be, were it not for help from companies that put in money and effort to supplement Government’s input into the sector.
Being behind in education matters is not just being behind. It manifests further into poor quality of life, diminished livelihoods, loss of crucial support systems in communities and ultimately the vicious cycle of poverty that plagues so many areas in our country. When children are out of school, they are easy targets for abuse, exploitation, and outdated cultural practices like FGM and early marriage for girls. When children lack education, they are less likely to educate their children in future. This is the cycle that needs to be broken. Educated people are in a position to pursue better economic activities and hence uplift themselves and their families.
One of the many areas where Safaricom shines for education is the Lewa Safari Marathon which the telco has sponsored since inception twenty one years ago. The annual marathon in which participants get to run in the wild is in high demand the world over and the proceeds go to not only conserving wildlife, but also improving the lives of communities around the conservancy.
Among Safaricom’s pillars for community empowerment is education and the marathon is one of vehicles through which it has made significant strides in partnership with Lewa. The investments in education are not only in books and classrooms but also in amenities that make for an altogether conducive learning environment. By this we are looking at dormitories, lavatories, boreholes, teachers’ houses, and kitchens to name a few.
The marathon is a charity event and each year, proceeds earmarked for education are divided between the schools and then assigned to different projects depending on the priorities of each school. This is done through the Lewa Education Program which is an umbrella for different education projects. The program which has been running since the year 2000 has its work divided into school infrastructure, reading, supportive equipment like science and computer labs, water, irrigation, and digital literacy.
The digital literacy arm is headed by Simon Mwangangi, an education technologist with a passion for digitization of learning. Partly through his commitment to use of technology for education, all the 23 schools under the Lewa Education Program are digitally linked and have access to digital learning facilities. So far, 6,448 students have received digital training and 328 digital devices have been distributed to assist in furthering the use of technology among the students. Mwangangi and his team are currently piloting an Internet For Education program to further enhance e-Learning.
Irrigation and sustainable farming
Each of the 23 schools has an irrigation program for improved food security through sustainable farming. All the groundwork for, and management of irrigation systems is done by experts who also train students on improved crop production methods which they can go practice at home. With the area being arid and semi-arid, proper management of water is crucial and systems towards maximizing use of the little water there is have been strengthened by Lewa. The irrigation initiative has replaced the feeding program because schools can now grow their own food.
As is the case with other community projects run by the conservancy, the Lewa Education Program which supports primary, secondary, and tertiary education is very impactful. No one is left behind as there is also a bursary wing that helps the underprivileged to complete their studies. 454 children have so far received full scholarships through this. Add to that the creation of employment by taking in 57 members of staff and the all-round picture of the impact is clear.