AMERICAN VISITORS TO GATOTO
At the suggestion of an AFG board member, Rene Johnson, along with family and friends visited Gatoto in June as part of a safari trip to Kenya. She made several observations about Gatoto on her return, including:
- The kids are just amazing. They were happy and outgoing and very confident. They shook our hands, addressed us directly and politely, and eagerly jumped into games with us–totally outshone what you would see in an American primary school.
- Gideon Kilei (the school manager) is obviously stepping into big shoes. He seems to be well liked and very earnest and hard working. Our Kenyan guides, who came to the school with us, commented that they had never seen such cooperation among school administrators. One of the guides, a fourth or fifth generation British Kenyan who has visited several schools like Gatoto was really struck by how well everyone in the administration seemed to get along. (I was on the board of a private school for years. That is no small feat!).
- I love that the school has teachers who had been students at Gatoto and they had several former students volunteering for the summer as well. That is so cool and seemed to be so inspiring for the kids.
- Gideon told me their biggest need right now is books. They have changed the curriculum for the upper grades, and they need all new books. As it is, their book ratio is 3 kids to one textbook.
IMPRESSIVE ACHIEVEMENT IN THE NATIONAL PRIMARY SCHOOL EXAMS
Gatoto’s students once again outperformed expectations – and the national averages – on the annual Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam. Students are tested on their English, kiSwahili, Math, Science, and Social Studies knowledge, and Gatoto scored higher in every area than the national average. In total, Gatoto’s boys scored 5 points above the national average, and their girls scored 19 points above! In addition, whereas only a quarter percent of students nationally earn more than 300 points, making them eligible for admission to the highest-rated public secondary schools, fully thirty-two percent of Gatoto students achieved this result.
In addition to these overall impressive results, Gatoto’s top scorers this year did exceptionally well. The top scoring boy, Kennedy, earned a score of 398, placing him approximately in top one percent of scores in the entire country (fewer than 1 percent of students score above 400 nationwide)! Kennedy attributes his score to his hard work, burning the midnight oil while studying, and having access to Gatoto’s library: He said, ”I have been coming during breaktime and my free time and I have learned in the peaceful environment. The new classroom building has provided students with light[ing], and you can come so early. I come and start learning before the rest of the school arrives. The feeding program provided also helps us a lot because you cannot do anything when you are hungry.” (AFG donor Rachel Brass, funds the entire annual feeding program, which provides two hot meal per day to all 1000 students.)
The top scoring girl, Angela, earned 380 points placing her among the top 10 percent in the country. Angela says “my secret to passing was just following the teachers’ advice…the Gatoto Primary teachers are the best in the whole county. I am sure I’m becoming a doctor in the future…I am looking forward to saving other peoples’ lives.”
1,214,031 students took the exam across the country.
YET AGAIN - GATOTO’S CHOIR AND ELOCUTION TEAM WIN NATIONAL RECOGNITION AT 94TH KENYA MUSIC FESTIVAL
After a two-year break, the 2022 Kenya Music Festival, sponsored by the Kenyan Ministry of Education, returned this fall with great anticipation. Gatoto turned in strong performances in the regional competitions – which sent the Gatoto performers to the Nationals – a three-day competition held in Kisumu County in western Kenya. 71 Gatoto students and 9 teachers joined 130,000 other participants at the contest. The school’s Choir, Public Speaking and Poetry teams excelled, and the school received national awards for “Composition for Primary School Chorus” and “Best Public Speaker for Juniors” category.
Extra-curricular activities like these are particularly important for Gatoto learners. They give students ways to train to project themselves and to excel outside of traditional academics. These trips also allow students to leave the tightly packed Mukuru settlement, often for the first time. They passed through the Kenyan countryside away from crowded urban areas – allowing students to see the Rift Valley and Lakes Naivasha and Victoria. With steep inflation and higher food prices this year, Gatoto’s tight budget would not bear the expense of this trip. This experience for the students, and the awards and recognition, was made possible only by a generous American donor supporting this experience through American Friends of Gatoto.
See more at Gatoto School TV
IRELAND AND NEW TIES IN EUROPE AND BEYOND
Gatoto has a long history of support from Ireland. Many Irish students have volunteered at Gatoto over the years and for many years the school’s largest supporter was Irish businessman and philanthropist Denis O’Brien. Irish friends continue to be well represented among donors to Gatoto. Now a group of longtime Irish backers has taken up the torch and incorporated a charity – The Gatoto Fund, Ireland. The Fund’s aim is to provide at least €30,000 per year to support Gatoto. The school also received notable support from Switzerland. Primary school students in Basel, taught by former Gatoto volunteer held a fundraiser to support their peers in Nairobi. Gatoto has also received significant support from Stichting Dioraphte, a Netherlands-based charity. Gatoto is currently exploring avenues for assistance from Brazil through the Amani Institute. In the U.S., in addition to AFG, Education for All Children (EFAC) continues to be a great help enabling top Gatoto graduates to attend high school and college. If you know of foundations, family funds, or other potential sources of support for Gatoto’s students, please contact us. Thank you.
GROWING PAINS WITH THE NATIONAL TRANSITION TO A NEW CURRICULUM
In 2021, the Government of Kenya Ministry of Education began the rollout of a new “competency-based curriculum” (CBC) for primary and secondary education in the country. For decades, Kenyan students have had eight years of primary school followed by four years of high school. As such, Gatoto has served students in classes 1-8 (as well as hosting pre-primary, or nursery students). With the new curriculum, Kenyan students now have six years of primary school, three years of junior secondary school, and three years of high school. Junior secondary schools were supposed to be separate schools, but Gatoto just learned it will instead have to add junior secondary, meaning it is expected to serve an additional year of students – the equivalent of 9th grade in the U.S.
While intended to improve the quality of education and better prepare children for today’s work world, the rollout of these changes is costly and difficult on the ground.
For Gatoto, this means a sudden need for new teachers (who hold junior secondary teacher credentials), at least one new classroom, and some way to teach lab science. Manager Gideon Ndambuki is working with the regional Education Officer on solutions to this late breaking news. He is requesting grants from the government to cover these new and unexpected costs, but it is not clear that he will receive a positive response. Because Gatoto is a Community School in an unincorporated settlement, the government is not legally required to support them.
On a more positive note, thanks to the generosity of an AFG friend who visited Gatoto during the summer of 2022, Gatoto has successfully purchased and implemented new curriculum materials for the CBC primary curriculum. Their first class of students just finished the new Kenya Primary Education Assessment (KPEA) exams in December 2022.
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