A Home to Millions of Kenyans
Mathare is a slum of over 1 million people located in the heart of Nairobi. It is a place where hundreds of thousands of parents raise their children, sometimes without access to education and proper sanitation facilities. When you walk through the streets of Mathare, you can feel the slum buzzing with life. There are colors everywhere, sprawled across buildings, walls, and stands full of vegetables along its streets. There is always a friendly layer of dust bellowing at your feet, and shiny tin roofs as far as thee eye can see. House are packed like sardines next to one another; there are no sprawling green yards in Mathare or vacant properties for sale. Each piece of land is utilized to the fullest, neighbors literally sharing walls, bathrooms, and water faucets at times.
It is difficult to comprehend the magnitude of Mathare. The sheer number of people, houses, animals, and a range of other living things that call the urban community home. If you considered its land area alone, it would be unimaginable how over 1 million people could call this small space home, but in Nairobi, it is possible. Though the conditions may not be ideal, the sense of community is strong.
Mathare Brilliant Academy
Mathare Brilliant Academy is a community-run school with an incredible future ahead. When you visit the school, the entrance begins with a steep stairway seemingly created from mounds of dirt and plastic bags. Luckily the rain doesn’t come often in Nairobi or the school would seemingly be washed away into the river valley. And yet, its setting is lively, crafty, and thought out. With a small plot of land, its founder has managed to create a school where hundreds of students can receive an otherwise unattainable primary school education.
Schools in Mathare often pop up out of pure necessity. They are scarce, under-resourced, and teachers are often untrained, but the children’s education remains the priority and driving force of all involved. Families can’t afford public institutions, let alone private schools, so community driven schools are created to fill the need. Mothers become teachers, and their children begin to receive essential lessons for their future.
Even with tattered uniforms, a few too many students in each room, and a chalkboard that has been erased far too many times, the students persevere for their education, and the parents and teachers make sacrifices to contribute to it. For a mere $30 a month, the mothers, sisters, aunts, and young women of the community have become teachers. The students’ parents also do their best to contribute, and if they can’t, then the school allows them to pay gradually as they can.
There’s no library at Mathare Brilliant Academy and the textbooks are limited, but the children’s joy in learning remains apparent. They use their imagination to learn about people and places that seem like fantasies to their curious minds, and their hopes and dreams encourage them to reach for a better life. The children’s smiles are contagious. They don’t pay any mind to their close quarters or the shaking of the floor when someone walks across the makeshift hallway outside their classroom door. There isn’t a playground for the children to play on in the afternoons or a field where they can learn how to play sports or run off their energy; there isn’t even a room big enough for all the students to assemble for announcements or important events. But, none of this matters because the essential components of learning are present: adults with a desire to teach and children with a desire to learn. However, don’t they deserve even more?
Our Commitment to Mathare
We are determined to support the future of Mathare, by beginning with educating its youth. So many of us were provided with resources throughout our education, which we can now reflect and realize we took for granted. The whiteboards and endless supply of markers, computer labs and libraries, extra pencils and paper, textbooks, our own desk and chair, clean clothes to wear to school, new shoes year after year. This is not a global standard, but we can attempt to make it one.
In 2018, we are committed to supporting the growth of Mathare Brilliant Academy, and we hope you’ll join us.