Kenyan organization offers learning platform for slum children

Kibra, a sprawling slum, faces challenges in its public schools. With limited resources, overcrowded classrooms make it difficult for teachers to give individual attention to the more than students in a single classroom. Scarce textbooks further hinder academic progress, leading to some students struggling and failing assignments. Additionally, frequent evening blackouts in the area disrupt study time.

To address these issues, Brandon Francis Okoth, came up with a solution: the Watoto Library, an initiative that provides students in Kibra with a place to study, access textbooks, a tutor for free remedial teaching and a space that is equipped with solar power as a backup during power blackouts. Brandon was inspired conduct a research on the newly introduced Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) in Kenya where he saw the need to increase access to education materials. The library has textbooks, storybooks, revision books and revision papers.

Many students from the neighborhood who have completed their classes have been donating their books to help others, along with donations from supportive donors who believe in and support his mission.

Currently, the library serves learners from Pre-School to Form 4. “We are even preparing candidates for this year and we are keeping our hopes high for their success,” said Brandon. He expressed: “I am really proud of some of the students here in our organization. There is this boy who joined us with a score of around 180 marks and now he has been consistently performing well in school, scoring around 300 marks. Those who were initially scoring 300 marks are now reaching 420 marks and above. It’s truly amazing to witness their progress.”

“I have also received feedback from teachers who have noticed significant improvements in some of the students I have been following up with at school. It’s incredibly encouraging to see that my efforts are making a positive impact.”

The library also has six computers for computer lessons and It can accommodate up to 120 students at a time. The library being small, having fewer books and with only one tutor for the group are some of the challenges they face. Their greatest dream is to expand the size of our library so that it can accommodate more students at once. They also aim to have more trainers for the students and acquire additional resources for the library.

Community Support
The organization, however, has received a good reception by the community. Brandon explains: “It’s heartwarming to see a good number of parents of the students who study at the library and other community members volunteering to join in the cleanup efforts at the river. They have named this project “Kibera Local Water Forum” which is a sub- program at Watoto Library and it has become a regular weekend activity for them.

“During our cleanup sessions, we focus on removing any obstacles that blocks the passage of water in the river. This allows the water to flow freely and maintain a healthy ecosystem. Additionally, we take the opportunity to collect and separate waste products that have accumulated in and around the river. We carefully place them aside, allowing them to dry out before we properly dispose them off. To ensure that we handle the waste responsibly, we reach out to the City Council officers who help us dispose of the waste that we can’t utilize or recycle.

Speaking of recycling, we have found a way to turn some of the materials we collect into cash. This extra income greatly supports our daily operations at the organization. It helps us cover expenses like rent, electricity and even acquiring new equipment for our ongoing work,” Explained Lucky Odhiambo, the chairperson Kibera Local Water Forum. The Kibera Local Water Forum has a total of 45 volunteer who do cleanup once a week.

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