AFG December 2018 Update

We have done much for some of the world’s poorest children.

With the help of its generous supporters, Gatoto Community Primary School achieved noteworthy gains in 2018, its 25th year, despite significant challenges, according to Betty Nyagoha, the head of Gatoto.

She sends her thanks to all of the supporters at American Friends of Gatoto for being loyal supporters of the school.  With the year coming to a close, it’s a good time to look back on the strides made in 2018–and look ahead to the challenges of 2019.


Gatoto’s achievements came despite historic flooding in East Africa that disrupted school operations and took a painful toll on the region and the Gatoto community. During that time of increased need, the World Food Program abruptly canceled its support of Gatoto’s free lunches and passed responsibility for the program to the Kenyan National Government, which has rarely acted to support “informal” schools such as Gatoto.

American Friends of Gatoto was able to provide help on short notice to help mitigate both of these crises, underscoring the vital role your donations play in the continued success of the school.

In 2018, Gatoto’s successes included the following.

  • The number of Gatoto students who sat for Kenya’s Certificate of Primary Education examination rose to 127 from 97 in 2017.  This year 62 students scored above average on the exam, up from 48. Gatoto’s mean score also increased to 250.2, from 249.4. Betty predicts that 2019 results will be even better.
  • There are now 145 Gatoto alums in post-primary institutions (high school or university) receiving some level of scholarship support from Gatoto.  
  • Ten Gatoto alums in secondary school qualified to advance to university.
  • Four new students were accepted into the Education for All Children program, which offers a broad range of support (mentoring, peer groups, internships) to promising students from the poorest backgrounds, during their high school years. In 2019, this will bring the total number of former Gatoto students with EFAC to ten.
  • Through a partnership with the Education Development Trust, which provides teacher evaluations and continued training, Gatoto continued to improve the quality of its teaching staff.
  • Although the national government continues to provide no financial support to Gatoto and other slum schools, it did for the first time classify Gatoto as an Alternative Provision to Basic Education (APBET), an incremental advance toward formal recognition and, ideally, some level of financial support from the government.  


This year has also been one of notable accomplishments for American Friends of Gatoto. Our support of the school’s 2018 operating budget, individual programs, and specific initiatives totaled almost $200,000, our largest annual contribution to date.  It’s also worth noting that two important parts of our support—providing flood relief and funding the canceled lunch program—were unplanned responses to urgent circumstances. Key elements of our support include the following:

  • $100,000 funded almost one-third of Gatoto Community Primary School’s annual operating budget.
  • $25,000, provided on very short notice and dispersed frugally in and around Gatoto, offered immediate relief and helped the school and its students recover from the flood far more quickly than would otherwise have been the case.
  • $30,000 repaired and renovated Gatoto’s largest toilet structure, providing 32 improved, private toilets, with separate areas for girls and boys. This new structure will be fully functional by the beginning of the school’s first term in January and will particularly benefit adolescent girls.
  • $15,000 provided a hot breakfast every school day for every one of Gatoto’s 1,100 students.
  • $6,000, also provided on short notice, paid for hot lunches in the third term, after the World Food Program unexpectedly canceled its school lunch program.
  • $4,500 subsidized fees for six Gatoto alums to participate in the thorough, multi-faceted Education for All Children development program for underprivileged high school students in Kenya.
  • Almost $20,000 in professional fees was paid to Gatoto’s architect, engineer, and quantity surveyor for their efforts in designing buildings to replace the school’s rusted metal sided classroom structures for seventh and eighth graders.


In 2019, American Friends of Gatoto is committed to providing the following support to the school.  

  • For the fourth year in a row, AFG will donate $100,000 to Gatoto to support its annual budget.
  • Through a $15,000 restricted donation, we will again pay for a breakfast of hot porridge for every Gatoto student.
  • Should the World Food Program and Kenyan national government extend their termination of hot lunches for Gatoto, we will fund those lunches at a cost of $25,000.
  • We will provide scholarships totaling $10,000 for the now 10 Gatoto alums to continue to secondary school through the Education for All Children program.  (Our next newsletter will feature these students and the EFAC program.)


A few years ago, Nancy Scanlon and her husband, Ken, met Betty on one of Betty’s fund-raising trips to Oakland, CA, with American Friends of Gatoto. Nancy was so impressed with Betty and her story that she told Betty she would like to visit Gatoto someday. In July, Nancy and her family did just that.

Nancy has written powerfully about her family’s visit in her letter, “Reflections on Our Gatoto Visit.”  We urge you to take the time to read it in its entirety. It is yet another testimony to what a remarkable oasis Gatoto is in an environment that is in so, so many ways merciless and uncompromising.

In her letter, she describes the warm welcome that they received at Gatoto, where they were met by “a massive allée” of happy children who entertained them all morning with songs and dance.  Like many who have had this indescribable experience, she “struggled to keep the tears at bay.”  

Of Gatoto’s children, Nancy writes, “They were all so proud.  Their eyes held sparkle and promise and their spirits were so alive.  What I believe we were witnessing was pure happiness. I cannot emphasize enough that this happiness was not seen in just a few of the children, but in all of the children.”

After several hours at the school and its neighborhood, she came away with a haunting question, “How can those who are so disadvantaged and are facing such adversity on a daily basis be so happy?”  

For Nancy’s three teenage sons, the day at Gatoto is “their favorite part of our Africa travels.”  She knows that “those beautiful memories of a few shared hours spent at Gatoto will surely last a lifetime for my family.”

In appreciation, Nancy and her husband, Ken recently made a generous donation, accompanied by a note.  “We know the need is great.”

Their impromptu recording of one of the performances they saw follows.


Your support is crucial to continuing our record of substantial support of this low profile but remarkable institution.  Gatoto is exceptional in so many ways. Now 25 years old and with an enrollment of 1,092 students, the school remains independent and not religiously affiliated. Its student body is roughly 50/50 boys and girls, who come from varied religious and tribal backgrounds.  

Through your support, you are giving the students of Gatoto educational opportunity, nourishment, refuge today, and the hope of a substantially better future tomorrow.  Please support Gatoto generously.

Or send checks to:

4320 Tuckerman Street
University Park, MD 20782-2145

AFG is a 100% volunteer, not for profit 501(c)3 corporation. AFG’s limited direct costs are paid by restricted board member donations. 100% of all other donations to American Friends of Gatoto are forwarded to Gatoto. Receipts are sent to all donors for their tax filing purposes.

Amazon Smile:

American Friends of Gatoto is now on AmazonSmile. Please consider shopping on and choosing American Friends of Gatoto as your charity.

You can do so by signing into your account, selecting “YOUR AMAZON SMILE “ in the “ACCOUNT” drop down. Type in American Friends of Gatoto and click SELECT.

To donate securities:

Please contact Stuart Kerr ( or Peter Edwards (


The current repair and renovation of Gatoto’s largest toilet facility is moving quickly toward completion.  We are still seeking donors to fund this project, which yields diverse benefits, especially to adolescent girls.