About Starehe Girls’ Centre
When the Starehe Girls’ Centre first opened its doors to 72 bright and disadvantaged girls in January 2005, a long-envisioned dream came to pass. The Centre has in under a decade, become the first choice national school sanctuary for exceptionally gifted underprivileged girls. The few fortunate enough to have been selected and awarded fully sponsored places, are encouraged to not just experience The Starehe Way but live it in its entirety.
In 2011, the Centre’s Board of Trustees sent a proposal to the M-PESA Foundation outlining the great needs of the institution. It was not uncommon to find a lesson being taught under the Mugumo tree, or a tent serving as the classroom. After a series of site visits, the Foundation agreed to invest in the institution.
The construction of an 80-bed dormitory, in addition to the building and equipping of eight classrooms, staff and students’ ablutions and teachers offices, was financed at a cost of Kshs. 52 million.
“Without this extra dormitory, the Centre would not have been able to accommodate the extra number of girls who have benefited greatly from it,” says the school’s Director Mrs Margaret Wanjohi.
Sandra Faraja’s Story
Sandra Faraja’s is now a Form Three student, Sandra’s 396 marks in 2012 KCPE, was just enough to land her a residency at her first choice National School option. There were over 13,000 applications from all over Kenya for the 120 Form 1 places that academic year.
“My goal was to get into Starehe since I was 12 years old. My head teacher told me that Starehe would be the best place for me to realise my dreams and ambitions. He told me that I would have to get a minimum of 400 marks to get into Starehe.
When I received my results for KCSE at the end of February, I had scored 396 marks, four short of the 400 grade. It appeared that I wouldn’t be able to go to my first choice school Starehe. But she received a letter of admittance to Starehe.
Since its registration in 2010, the M-PESA Foundation has focused on funding innovative and sustainable projects that centre on human and economic development. Forming partnerships with reputable organizations like Starehe Girls’ Centre, allows the charitable trust to have a maximum impact on its key focus areas of education, health and the environment.
In addition to the classrooms, dormitory and offices, the M-PESA Foundation invested in a sports centre. Physical education at Starehe consisted of one uneven pitch. Surprising and considering the dearth of facilities, the Centre excelled within Nairobi County and at the national level when it came to sporting events.
On 16th September 2014, the Foundation officially inaugurated the state- of-the-art sports centre. There are netball, volleyball and basketball courts in addition to the tennis court. The football pitch was also redeveloped and a 400-metre running track added on.
With the sports centre in place, Starehe Girls hopes to play a significant part in contributing to growth of sport in the country for girls like Sandra.
“I’m on the tennis hard-court. I set my feet on the baseline, toss the ball up and serve. It goes into the net! Not what I wanted so I try again. I prepare my stance, concentrate and toss the ball in the air. This time my racquet connects squarely with the green ball. It’ll be a good shot, I already feel. I can see my partner scramble to return the ball. Will Wangui get it? Where will she put it?
Yikes! She’s returned it with interest! I didn’t expect that and my forehand return lands short of the net.
‘Love – 15’, Mrs Mwaura calls out. ‘Sandra, concentrate! Expect the unexpected and always be prepared’, she says.
I nod in response. But in truth, the score-line doesn’t bother me yet. This is beyond the unexpected for a girl like me. It is beyond what I dreamed.
For Sandra, the M-PESA Foundation’s investment allows her to live out a dream and fulfil her potential in personal advancement. Not only will the sports centre promote good health and wellbeing, it advances key values such as honesty, teamwork, fair play, respect and observation of rules.
“There is something beautiful, elegant and powerful about this sport. Serena Williams is my role model and I greatly admire her. Every time I get a chance to watch her, I do so closely. I like the way she attacks the net and batters her opponents. She is so athletic and covers a lot of ground. I want to play like her and now I can, here at Starehe.
In addition to the sports centre, M-PESA Foundation constructed a wastewater treatment plant. It is the first school to have this kind of facility on its grounds “When the second dormitory was constructed, the existing sewage disposal could not cater for the growing population,” the Director remarks. It was decided that a waste water management plant would be advantageous to the Centre.
The impact of the M-PESA Foundation funded computer laboratory has been nothing short of amazing. Before the lab, a class of forty students would have access to just five computers. Now, each student is guaranteed access to a computer interface as teaching is going on. “Students have become highly motivated in learning computer packages so much so, that we shall be starting e-learning next year,” says Mrs Wanjohi.
“This was the first place I was exposed to a computer. To be told that we had to learn how to use it was as scary as it was exciting. Looking around at my new classmates, I realised I had nothing to fear. All of us were in the same boat in this first time experience.
Now I research on the Internet. Most times I want to learn more on conveyancing Law. That’s what I want to be when I graduate from university.” Adds Sandra.
Sandra Faraja’s story would have been very different had the M-PESA Foundation not come to Starehe Girls’ Centre’s aid. Over a four year period, the Foundation has invested shs. 105 million in the educational facility. It is this investment that has allowed the unique Centre to thrive Director Wanjohi freely admits.
“We saw what it is they were doing for the poorest but brightest girls,” Les Baillie, the Executive Director of the M-PESA Foundation states. “To take a girl who has the potential to carry on but whose parents cannot afford to keep her in school and now they attend university; we wanted to be part of that story. We have put a lot of money in education at Starehe Girls’ Centre and we have seen the benefits of that investment,” Baillie adds.
It is this relationship that has allowed Sandra to flourish at her purple patch.