Yes, we can do it! This is the shortest way to express the success of our students, who made great results on national exams at the end of schooling. These students are from the St. Francis school sponsored by Franciscan missionaries in the remote village of Subukia.
I am probably the happiest “Father” in the world. Living and working among 300 impoverished children with whom I share my everyday life as a missionary. As the one who is in charge of their education, I am pleased to share that there are 20 of our students who recently completed Form 4 testing and, achieved high results on their final exams. And that means they get a chance to continue their studies at the university level with the support of the Kenyan government. The door to a better life for these children is now wide open. They can leave this distant, undeveloped village as young people with a future. They will make this country better with their knowledge. Their education will be the key to a better life, – one much different from the living conditions in which they were born and their families still live.
Since the school year in Kenya ends in November, the students of the final year approached exams a few days before Christmas. Those examinations are very rigorous and, while taking these exams, students are monitored by the police. Neither I nor any of our professors were allowed to be at the school during the exams.
At the beginning of 2017, we got the news that our students’ results ranked our school among the top 15 percent most successful schools in Kenya. Our leadership team now sees that our struggle for education of disadvantaged children – for their better living and learning conditions is deeply rewarded.
The conditions in which these children are attending school tell the true story of their success. Half of the last school year, about 130 girls were accommodated in the dining room instead of dormitories as we were renovating their barracks. This is a boarding school where children actually live 10 months a year; they have a regular meal and chance to learn. The girls finally got renewed rooms without leaky roofs and, most importantly, they have been given access to running water. No more carrying buckets from the water tank at 5am for their hygiene. Since the missionaries organized this school, nearly 30 years ago, they have showers and hot water for the first time.
The boys don’t have it yet. Just recently, we have renovated the boys’ dormitories, too. These newly renovated spaces, we can accommodate more students to be enrolled in the school to get a quality education.
Regardless of the conditions in which they live and without any exaggeration, these children really love to learn. They want to gain knowledge. Their whole day is pretty booked. In the evening, when they have free time, they organize in groups to play sports or to dance – they love to dance. After we got electricity two years ago, we purchased a TV. Sometimes there are 100 students in the dining hall dancing to music from Kenyan TV. No gadgets, Facebook or virtual ”likes.” They literally like each day of their lives – the chance to be better and to take a step forward.
If we didn’t take care of them – if we left them alone after primary school and didn’t give them the chance to continue to secondary education – they would be on the edge of poverty from which they couldn’t escape without a helping hand.
Franciscan missionaries did give them a hand, but we could never do it without the support of all those who help us. While some people support our work through the sponsorship of students – covering the yearly cost of education of one student – others help us in rebuilding the school. Therefore, this valuable success we have achieved together.
The only social network our students know about are the people who fight for them. Thank you all for helping us to show these children what their lives are worth. On behalf of students of St. Francis school, I am sending you the big ”Like.”
God bless you!
Fr Miro Babic, OFM
Franciscan missionary in Kenya, Africa