By Jason Doherty, Founder of Daraja Academy
I can only compare a life without a secondary education to being sentenced to a life behind bars for something you had not done... in fact, something you had worked your entire life attempting to avoid. Behind those bars you watch others live the life you'd dreamt of living, reaching heights in professions you had always aspired to reach, and raising families the way you'd always intended.
Over 140 million children around the world lack access to secondary school because of a financial burden that their families cannot bear. Yet, without a secondary school education, even the most modest dreams of improving one's station in life become just that: a dream. All of the hard work and all of the promise simply fall away due to circumstance; the cell door closes as the life that should be yours drifts farther and farther away.
Daraja Academy is a school that believes that this cycle can be broken by providing a top -end education to some of the brightest and boldest of the demographic mentioned above. Daraja means "bridge" in Swahili, and the teachers and supporters of the school believe that it will serve as a bridge for the students to become the people they always knew they could be... people who can make a difference.
Currently, 128 Kenyan girls, born into economic circumstances beyond their control, study and grow on the rural campus 15 miles outside of Nanyuki. The students hail from 30 of Kenya's 42 tribes, coming from the country's urban centers and remote rural countryside. Often, their only commonality is that they are young ladies, they worked extremely hard throughout their primary school years, and they dream of making a positive impact upon their communities, Kenya, and the world at large.
This dream has not been easy in coming. It was born at the grassroots level through word of mouth in living rooms across Northern California, and it remains grassroots, predominately funded by individuals and organizations across the world that believe the data that shows girls education to be one of the most effective ways to bring about holistic global change.
Surprisingly, there were some who opposed Daraja Academy's goal to educate the "whole girl." Many familiar with Kenya's formidable teaching standards and rigorous three-week examination at the conclusion of secondary school were wary. The school took a risk by deviating from the traditional Kenyan secondary school experience by incorporating project-based learning and the W.I.S.H. program (Women of Integrity, Strength and Hope, a four-year leadership and empowerment class, unique to the school).
However, what began as a risky dream has proven to be really, really working. The results of the 2012 K.C.S.E. national examinations were released this spring, and the marks of Daraja Academy's pioneer class FAR exceeded most of the doubters' expectations, those of us who knew the girls were only pleasantly surprised.
Daraja Academy found itself ranked 92nd out of Kenya's 1,233 private schools. Five out of the district top ten girls' scores were secured by Daraja Academy students, including positions one and two! By receiving the top girl's score in Laikipia East, Daraja graduate Betty Kagwira was awarded the Equity Bank Scholarship, a four-year scholarship to university and a position at the bank after graduation should she choose. The fact that Betty's family didn't have the money to send her to school after the eighth grade lends perspective to her achievement.
Currently Betty, who has a paid internship with Equity Bank, is the only member of Daraja Academy's graduating class not taking part in the school's inaugural Transition Program, a five-month program created to teach the girls the skills to be a success in college, career or their community. The program teaches its participants strategies to succeed in college, computer classes, personal finance literacy, and entrepreneurial endeavors.
Support a Daraja Girl in the Lap-A-Thon: The girls of Daraja are so excited! Part of being a leader in the future, is having a plan and being proactive in the present. The Lap-A-Thon began because the Daraja girls wanted to help raise awareness and money for the school that they love. Help them succeed in doing just that, pledge your support in the 2013 Lap-A-Thon on the Daraja campus. The girls believe this will be their most successful Lap-A-Thon to date, join our team and help make that a reality!
Support the girls of Daraja Academy. Join us today and change the future.
To learn more about Daraja Academy and its students I encourage you to watch this short film