More than 6000 school going children and youths from Nakuru informal settlements have benefited from free education and vocational training, courtesy of donor funded Live and Learn education center.
The Live and learn Education Center Kenya founder Ms Brique Zeinner said the center was started with the aim of transforming lives of less privileged children from the slums to help them realize and unlock the hidden potential in them.
The center, she added started small but has made headway empowered by monies from well-wishers abroad who willingly support the center that has for over a decade been a safe haven for the needy children.
Ms Zeinner, who has been the mentor for the children, said the center was currently hosting 690 vulnerable children drawn from slum areas and is providing them with a platform to exploit their potential.
The 54-year-old German national says that she has an emotional attachment to Kenya having visited the country 25 times in a span of 15 years and after interacting with locals in low income settlements concluded that education would be the best way to get them out of poverty.
She added that it took years of fundraising from her friends in Germany, China, Netherlands, Brazil and the United States of America to establish Live and Learn Education Center Kenya, a center that has since been transforming the lives of poor families in Nakuru County.
The Center which has been in existence for 16 years, sponsors children throughout their primary education and thus offload the school fees burden from poor parents or guardians.
During the December holidays, parents receive Christmas care baskets from the school consisting of cooking oil, meat products, flour and other basic food items.
According to the center mentor, the institution also manages a fund that provides scholarships to bright students from poor families to enable them pursue education in secondary schools, tertiary institutions and universities.
The center also offers food relief programmes for a number of families and counseling sessions for the parents, which according to Zeinner gives holistic health coaching to create emotional healing for individuals and families who have undergone trauma and tragic life events.
Vetting teams from live and Learn Education Center work with the local administration to identify needy pupils to join the facility. They ascertain the financial history of parents or guardians to ensure that only underprivileged children are admitted to the school.
The Live and learn Education Center mentor has been a champion of community-led change, believing that it is pointless to attempt to lift slum dwellers if the beneficiaries are not involved.
“We must recognize the talents that exist in marginalized communities and unlock this potential to drive durable social change,” said Zeinner.
Initially, the center targeted children from low income settlements of Baruti, Mwariki and Ronda before expanding to Kaptembwa, Kivumbini, Bondeni and Flamingo slums.
The venture, which started with only two teaching staff members, has 16 teachers who also mentor youths.
Ms Zeinner indicated that their biggest challenge remains the overwhelming number of pupils who turn up for interviews and cannot get the opportunity to join the school due to limited facilities.
The Center is also a slum school where youths from poor backgrounds converge and acquire computing and information technology skills and vocational training such as tailoring, hairdressing and shoe making among others.
Apart from computing and information technology skills and vocational training, the youths as well benefits from entrepreneurship and communication skills short courses.
Through funding from the donors, the center has sunk a borehole and put in place a cutting-edge water treatment facility that can pump up to 30,000 litres of the commodity at a time.
The center manager Kennedy Branda, said it has been challenging managing the facility but adds that what keeps them going are the success stories of the children being transformed.
Mr Branda says his greatest motivation was seeing poor children living in slums finish school saying by so doing they encourage others to follow suit.
“In low income settings you do not use force when trying to instill discipline in children, they will become rebellious. You inspire them through what they don’t have and make them know they can get it,” notes the Manager
Branda envisions a future where Live and Learn will also operate fully fledged Technical Vocational Education Training Institute targeting needy students, and a children’s rescue center and home.
Esther Wambui, a member of the Center’s Parents Teachers Association (PTA) in charge of Grade Five is among those with a happy script.
She said the center assisted her four children go through school. The last-born she added is in Grade Five and another one was sitting for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations this year.
She adds: “It has been a journey of hope and determination. The sacrifice by the management is what motivates our pupils to work hard and I am glad most have qualified to join national, provincial and sub-county secondary schools.”
By Esther Mwangi and Dennis Rasto