Portrait of a Maturing Young Actor: Meet Anthony Musyoka Ngao

Our partner Kenya Connect recently posted an essay written by Anthony Musyoka Ngao, a bright young man who is staying in school and pursuing his dream of becoming an actor with help from The School Fund community. This post originally appeared at Kenya Connect’s blog

672340_origThe first year I joined Wamunyu Primary School in 2006 was the same year I came to know about Kenya Connect. Just like any other new kid in school, I was very keen to explore my school and I recall quite well that was when our old and cracked classroom was renovated and given a new facelift. The dusty floor that had given me a cold for months and the open windows that were killing us in the cold were at last fixed! The school staff room and the head teacher’s offices were renovated too. I later came to know that the people behind this good work were Kenya Connect. I learned that Kenya Connect had partnered our school with a school in America called Mt. View Middle school and that the students in our sister school were raising money to rebuild our school. I was very happy to have joined this school. At the same time, I learned that the students in our upper school were actually paired with pen pals from our sister school, Mt. View MS and were exchanging letters. I was sad that I did not have a pen pal, since I did not know how to read and write well. I promised myself that I would work very hard to know how to write so that one day I could have my own pen pal to write to.  Day after day, I worked hard in class to be the best student. My hard work paid off because I remember I was always the top student in class. This gave me a lot of confidence. I was even appointed class prefect and I begun acting and leading songs in my class performances. I loved singing and acting but then the confidence I earned in class work even boosted this more and more.

Years moved on quickly and in 2009, I was promoted to standard four, the grade that was exchanging pen pal letters.  Wow! My dream finally came true when I wrote my first letter and my pen pal wrote back! This was an amazing experience to talk to someone continents apart. We continued to exchange letters for the next two years. I learned a lot from my pen pal. Though our cultures were different, we still shared a lot in common. I will forever remain grateful for this letter exchange experience. By the time I finished my primary school, our school had benefited a lot from Kenya Connect programs. All the classrooms were now renovated and a water tank was built to provide clean drinking water for the entire school. A hand washing station was also built for us to wash our hands and a de-worming program had been started with all children in my school getting de-worming medicine four times a year! I was sad to leave Wamunyu ABC when I completed standard eight but at the same time I was excited to join a new secondary school. Although, I knew I had to leave and move on to secondary school, one thing was for sure. I would miss the services of Kenya Connect!

As fate would have it, on my final year in primary school, my father who is the sole income earner in my family, had an accident that injured his leg making him unable to work. My dream of joining secondary school was shattered. However, every cloud has its silver lining; lo and behold this fateful event led me to another front of Kenya Connect: their connection with The School Fund!

Through The School Fund, Kenya Connect is providing scholarship for needy and top-performing students in secondary school. After presenting my need, I was lucky to be selected as a beneficiary of this program and that is how I ended up joining my new school- Kitondo secondary school. I feel very happy and most blessed to continue with my education through the support of Kenya Connect. I am even excited to have my profile online to be able to journal with friends and supporters. I am very happy that some of the teachers and guests who visited my former primary school through Kenya Connect visits and loved my performance are now supporting me in my education.  Thank you friends for your support. Asante sana. My dream is to be a professional actor and am grateful to everyone who is supporting me make my dream true.

How a First Job Can Change a Life

BY RACHAEL MILLER, External Affairs Assistant, Educate! 

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Do you remember your first job? Do you remember the pride you felt in your new responsibilities and self-sufficiency? Perhaps you were saving up for a car, a college education, or a home to call your own. Perhaps you saw that hard work was the key to a better future. Whether it was waiting tables, delivering papers, scooping ice cream, or walking dogs, a first job is an invaluable experience.

Educate! Scholars share these goals. Many young Ugandans want nothing more than a first job that will allow them to spread their wings and grow personally and professionally while laying the foundation for a better life. However, for most of these young people, there are serious barriers preventing them from achieving this dream.

Globally, 311 million young people are unemployed, largely due to the mismatch between education and life after school. This problem is most acute in Africa, the world’s youngest continent. (The average age in Africa is 18; in several European countries, it’s 40 or more.) With a lack of formal jobs, 90% of African youth are going to work in the informal sector. Yet education systems across Africa are out-dated and cannot hope to deliver on their most vital promise—spending years in schools focused on rote-memorization and designed for a 1900’s economy does not lead to employment and the opportunity to make a living. For the families who have invested so much to put their children through school, this broken promise is tragic.

We know that the youth of Uganda are an untapped resource for change. Educate! transforms secondary education in Africa to teach young people to solve poverty for themselves and their communities. We aim to create the future of secondary education to develop youth to take leadership initiative, create small businesses, and improve their livelihoods. Educate! delivers a relevant model of education. Through advocacy, practical training for teachers, and direct service in schools, we are working to fully integrate our model into Uganda’s education system.

Our partnership with The School Fund is so exciting because it will fully fund four Educate! schools, allowing our innovative and proven model to reach 350 students per school for a total of 1,400 students! Funding Educate!’s programs in these schools is a sustainable way to ensure that students can stay in school and get an education that will allow them to build a better future. Students are able to use the money that they earn from their enterprises to pay their tuition fees and other school expenses. Together, we equip these young people with the tools they need to be leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers in their communities. These students are solving the problem of poverty in their communities—starting with their very first job.

Bootstrapping into a Different Life in Uganda

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BY LIZ TEXEIRA, TSF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Starting a business is not an easy task. Yet more than a few friends and colleagues have chosen the entrepreneurial route. Whether this trend is a result of job scarcity upon graduation, perennial optimism about being able to make change in the world, or a different sort of rebellion, millennial-style, it seems that the world of startups, new businesses, and home-grown changemakers is here to stay. The Kauffman Foundation recently released a statistic that showed business creation in to be at 0.28% in the US. Meaning that there are around 475,000 new business owners each month throughout the year. This number has in fact declined from recent years, suggesting an economic upswing in more traditional jobs, but the power of entrepreneurship, business ownership, and the skills accumulated during the launch of a company cannot be understated.

The case for entrepreneurship is particularly poignant in the developing world. In countries like Uganda, where the youth employment rate hovers around 83%, the need to be innovative in a troubled economy is essential.  This is one of the primary reasons that The School Fund has partnered with Educate!, an organization that provides leadership and entrepreneurial training to high school students.

At Uplands High School in Kampala, there was a common problem: kids arrived at school with dirty shoes, a dress code violation that often would get them sent home. Students from the Educate! Student Business club saw an opportunity where others only saw frustration. They now manufacture and sell their own shoe polish, which has become very popular with their classmates. Others noted how many students wanted something other than dry toast for breakfast, and started marketing breakfast jam. Others have found a way to use recycled paper bags to package the popcorn they sell. Their products might seem modest: popcorn, shoe polish, jam. But their businesses are booming. When you think about some of the businesses that take off in the US—Eggstracor, anyone?—it appears that these Ugandan entrepreneurs are providing goods that are more vital to the lives of their customers.

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Young entrepreneurs from Uplands High School, Kampala, Uganda.

These students don’t have access to angel investors or the sort of business accelerators that thrive on many American University campuses. Their potential customers don’t have much in the way of disposable income, and money earned is often earmarked for mostly essential needs. Engaging customers in Uganda takes a certain savvy—starting a business in a resource-poor setting, you have to learn to be creative with what you have. Students in Educate!’s entrepreneurial program have no choice but to bootstrap. More amazing, while these students are gaining the skills and confidence that come from starting a venture from scratch, they are not only succeeding, but they are turning a profit. This means more money for books, more money for uniforms, and near and dear to all of us at The School Fund, they are earning more money to stay in school by being able to pay their mandatory school fees.

The facts and figures that we learn in school are undoubtedly important, but the education that comes with learning to assess and measure your own potential, learning to utilize the right tools, and learning to create opportunities for yourself—that is the education that sticks.  We are so proud to support these young entrepreneurs, and honored to be a part of their ongoing educations.

Mary M., Rising From Hardship

We’re continuing a series of short profiles about our students, their lives and what their educations mean to them. Here’s another example of a young person who wants to use her education to make a difference in the world. 

Mary M.

Mary M., a seventeen year old from Zambia, understands intimately how circumstance can change the shape of a life. She points to specific factors that impact quality of life and educational opportunities for her and her peers: poor housing facilities, poor water supply, bad sanitation conditions, teenage pregnancy, early marriage and high levels of poverty. She’s got a mind for public policy and has big dreams—she wants to “eradicate poverty levels at home and in my community.”

Mary’s impressive goals have a painful origin. When she was eight, her father died. She describes that time as being “like a nightmare.” Not only did she lose her beloved Daddy, but his death had ramifications beyond her terrible grief.

Her father had supported the family and paid the kids’ school fees. But with him gone, money ran low. Mary’s mother, who has a disability, could not get a manual labor job. Mary and her six siblings began to see their futures slip away. Mary was forced to drop out of school for a year.

But then things started to turn around. Mary learned about our partner KnowledgeBeat, which renewed her hope for her future. She took and passed her grade nine exams. Through TSF she was able to secure a spot in the school of her choice. And she’s doing well, dedicating her time to learning and “planning for my future of becoming a lawyer.”

Sometimes, many times, our greatest leaders find their beginnings in hardship. They suffer or see others suffering, and in trying to make sense of that experience, start down a path toward making the world a better place. Mary is well on her way toward creating a better life for herself, but her commitment to changing her community’s cycles of poverty speaks to something greater.

As Mary studies, we see one of Zambia’s future leaders coming of age.

Learn more about Mary and support her education through The School Fund.

A Story of Two Marcias

We’re continuing a series of short profiles about our students, their lives and what their educations mean to them. Here’s another example of the opportunity one of our students found, once she had the support to continue her studies. 

Marcia G.

Marcia G. was an only child and grew up in Quito, Ecuador, in two-room living quarters attached to the house where her mom served as domestic help. Her mother’s employer—also named Marcia—helped raise the young girl, treating her almost like her own daughter. Marcia was her namesake afterall, and the older Marcia invested her time in helping the younger Marcia with her studies. She was her teacher, her mother’s boss and a surrogate caretaker.

But then in 2007, the elder Marcia died suddenly. It was a personal loss complicated by additional hardship. The elder Marcia had made no provisions for the then twelve-year-old girl. The situation left Marcia’s mom jobless; mother and daughter were homeless.

Marcia’s mother suffers from multiple disabilities and had trouble finding work. With no family to help and now all alone in Quito, mother and daughter rotated from house to house each night. It took until a year after Marcia entered high school for her mom to secure a job.

That, fortunately, was a time of dramatic turn-around. This was also when Marcia began to receive support from The School Fund, by way of our partner The Condor Trust for Education.

In 2012, Marcia graduated from high school, but her success doesn’t stop there. Marcia is now studying Tourism & Hotel Administration at the Instituto Cordillera in Quito (with continuing support from Condor Trust). She dreams of working in the tourism industry in Ecuador, of eventually going abroad herself. She longs to see more of the world. As part of her coursework, she’s already getting to travel to new parts of Ecuador—a thrilling experience for a young woman who had never before left Quito.

She hopes to eventually earn enough to lift her mother and herself out of poverty, and in the meantime, Marcia serves as mentor and inspiration for younger Condor Trust students. She wants to show them exactly how much one person is able to achieve, given the opportunity to receive an education.

Forced to Drop-Out: A Girl Still Dreams of Becoming a Teacher

Today, we continue a series of short profiles about our students, their lives and what their educations mean to them. So often, we tell our supporters that they have changed a life. “Education is opportunity,” has become our tagline. It’s all absolutely true. Here’s what that truth looks like from the perspective of our students.

KrishnaDevi

It’s heart-wrenching to lose your mother. But for Krishna D., her mother’s death was a double blow.

A young girl living in India and the only remaining female in the family, women’s responsibilities now fell to her. Krishna’s father was more inclined to spend his money on educating her two brothers than on sending Krishna to school. After all, he reasoned, she would eventually get married and in the meantime someone needed to tend to the house now that her mother was gone.

Still dealing with the grief of losing her mother, Krishna watched as her brothers left each day for school, while she stayed home to cook and clean for the family.

Krishna had long dreamed of becoming a teacher. Instead, she was forced to drop out, and as she managed the family home over the course of two years, she felt that dream slip farther and farther from her grasp.

This is when Krishna met with some of our partners from Milaan, whose Swabhiman Programme focuses on dropout girls in rural Uttar Pradesh. It’s a program that not only helps young women transition back into school but also offers support to help, when necessary, to persuade families that educating their daughters is feasible—and worthwhile.

With help from Milaan and financial support from The School Fund’s donors, Krishna headed back to school. Thus far she’s been able to pass her Class X (grade 10) examination. Just as important, her confidence has been restored and her dream of becoming a teacher again feels within her reach. It’s a dream not just about her own future—but one of improving her community through education. If anyone understands education’s value, its inherent ability to change lives, Krishna does.

Mosqoy Holiday Match!

Starting December 18th, The School Fund’s donors will double their impact. When donations are given to any student on TSF’s website, our partner Inner Fire Yoga Apparel will match that same amount and donate up to $3,000 total to our Mosqoy students in Peru!

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Here’s how the match will work:

  • Any donation made to a student on The School Fund website—starting December 18that 12:01 am PST and up to $3,000 total—will be matched by Inner Fire Yoga Apparel with a donation to a Mosqoy student.
  • Donations will be matched at 100%, meaning a $40 donation to any student on The School Fund website triggers an additional $40 donation to a Mosqoy student. If the original donation is to a Mosqoy student, the donation doubles (but not necessarily to the same Mosqoy student).
  • Matching funds will be distributed among Mosqoy’s students based on need at the end of the match campaign.
  • If funds exceed Mosqoy students’ total need for the current funding cycle, we will devote excess matching funds to Mosqoy students’ following funding cycle.
  • Matching funds for the current funding cycle will be applied within two weeks of Match Day.
  • Only online donations will be matched.

Mosqoy is dedicated to promoting educational and cultural rights for Andean communities in Peru. On average only four percent of Quechua youth continue their studies at a technical institute or university (compared with a national average of 43 percent). Theirs is a culture that is threatened by a steady flow of tourists and a government that local communities describe as corrupt and neglectful. But through The School Fund, Mosqoy students get the opportunity to pursue their educational dreams and prepare to rebuild their communities.

Teaching is her “Perfect Match”

Today we’re beginning a series of short profiles about our students, their lives and what their educations mean to them. So often, we tell our supporters that they have changed a life. “Education is opportunity,” has become our tagline. It’s all absolutely true. Here’s what that truth looks like from the perspective of our students.

Pammi Singh

Pammi Singh is from a big family—one of seven supported by her father, a farmer. Together they live on about 25000 Rupees (roughly $460) a year.

After Pammi finished primary school, her father could no longer afford her educational expenses. Instead he started looking for a “perfect match” for her. In some ways, that outcome would have made her much like her peers. In India, 47 percent of girls are wed before adulthood; 18 percent are married before they turn 15. These young brides often show signs of sexual abuse, post-traumatic stress, are twice as likely to report being beaten, slapped or threatened, and often experience depression.

But Pammi wanted more. Fortunately, she found a program run by TSF partner Milaan that helps girls who have dropped out get back into school and prepare for their Class X (tenth grade) exams. She knew her father would not spend another penny on her education, and says that only made her more determined to enroll in the program.

It was a turning point.

Today, with the help of her teachers and the support from TSF funders, Pimma has passed those exams and aspires to be a teacher one day, so that she can spread the importance of girls’ education to her community. She wants every girl to fight for this right.

A Summary Report of the TSF Summer 2014 EDVenture Trip

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By Maho Amos – TSFTZ Chief Operation Officer in Tanzania 

Excerpted by the Blog Editor

The trip began when the US TSF team travelled from Karatu to Iringa on June 24th, 2014. With a midnight curfew in Iringa, the police blocked all roads within 10 miles of town. After being stopped and questioned by the police and with much begging and pleading on our part, we finally were allowed to go.

All students and teachers arrived at Ummu Salama School on the morning of June 25th, 2014. After a brief welcome speech from Mr. Mohamed Said, the Vice Chairman of TSF Tanzania, the first workshop began.

The US TSF brought with them a suitcase of hands-on learning materials such as Kidizens and about 10 Rasberry Pi units to be installed and made available to teachers and students alike. These technologies allow us to access very rich and selective educational contents such as Wikipedia, Khan Academy, C-12 contents, Medline contents, etc. even if no Internet connectivity is available.

Student and Teacher Workshops

Teachers were taught how to use computers to extract teaching and learning materials. Some teachers even paid to buy Rasberry Pis for their personal studies.

Yunteng and his son, Andrew, provided Physics lessons. Our students now know much more about electrical circuits.

IMG_6952With the help of Kidizens that came in a big suitcase, Matt’s class learned a lot about how to build well organized and well planned cities. I believe that when students learned these skills, they will be able to build their own cities when they grow up. I learned that the hands-on, learning by doing, approach is an excellent way to learn. There were no bored and idle students in this class. They were all too excited and busy planning their cities.

Dr. Cari with her assistant, Cathy, they truly transformed our students from passive to active participants. The students were given opportunities to express themselves in front of their peers and teachers. This concept of teaching is quite refreshing for me because African teachers tend to give lectures but not ask students what they know and think. I also learned from them that in order for the students to continue to learn well, they do need short breaks to get some fresh air, relax and unwind. This way, they can return to the class rooms fresh, and eager to learn.

Lynene taught the newest TSF students about the internet.  Most of them had not used a computer before. Through her and Jessie’s assistance, the new students started posting to their Journals with ease.

The workshops and classes for teachers and students were an incredible success we cannot wait to apply what we have learned. We are looking forward to seeing you all again in the near future.

The School Fund Tanzania’s Vice Chairman’s Speech to Guests From Abroad

This summer, members of The School Fund’s US team and Summer Fellows, visited TSF students living and attending school in Iringa, Tanzania. Upon their arrival, The School Fund Tanzania Vice Chairman Muhammed Said welcomed the guests.  The following is the speech he delivered:

While most people live in homes, in palaces, and in selected places on this land, there are a few people who live in the hearts of other people for immemorial ages.

While some great men and eminent men have monuments in bronze and marble set up for them, some men of divine fire manage in their lives to become enshrined in hundreds of hearts of people, with the divine fire in their hands.  We praise them.

Sadly 97% of the 6 billion people on planet Earth are inward looking, selfish, and maintain their own status quo throughout their lives.  Only the remaining 3% of the people move the world.  These individuals are men and women of action with strong faith that enables them to overcome the fear of failure.  They move people from survival to stability, from stability to success, and from success to significance.  They equip people to pursue their purpose with passion and perseverance.

For the whole of my past speaking I was in fact talking about our honorable guests from the TSF family from abroad.  Mr.  Matt [TSF Founder Matt Severson], Madam Judy [TSF Tanzania Director Judy Severson], Drika [TSF CEO Drika Weller], and the whole delegation from the United States of America.  You are warmly welcome to Tanzania, welcome to Iringa, welcome to Ummu Salama Education Center.  It is not a hidden fact that it is you who plotted TSF and developed it, and you have brought our children a life changing course that will take them towards the future life, which will bring them to fulfillment and significance.

I have accorded these assertions with confidence in order to revive your kindness and morality to continue to uphold this mission until it results into unprecedented achievements.

After this juncture, may I congratulate the resident TSF Chairman, Mr. Fuad Abri.  His commendable effort and role in facilitating functionality of the organization cannot be left unsaid. In spite of his numerous duties, he makes sure the TSF wheel spins to fruition.

May I express sincere gratitude to the TSF Iringa coordinator, Mr. Amos Maroa, who untiringly works with children to ensure TSF objectives are reached.  I take another opportunity to express thanks to my fellow headmasters and teachers from partner schools (Miyomboni, Highlands, and Lugalo) for participating in this colorful occasion.

Again may I congratulate all TSF students, who have attended the workshop.  It is my hope that at the end of the program each of us will reap benefits necessary for bringing about change to the whole community in Tanzania.

Lastly, may I welcome all parties to Ummu Salama Center and with that I declare the workshop open.

Thanks,

Muhammed Said