Who really knows the value of education?

by Angus McV, Year 13.

Who really knows the value of education? I ask this question in all sincerity. It is often said that we don’t appreciate what we have until it is gone, but it is not often that we find ourselves in such a position that our education is threatened in such a way. I am very privileged: not only am I in a country where my education is protected by law, but I am fortunate enough to go a school such a Gordonstoun. Thus, how could I possibly know the true value of education?

This summer I found out. I took part in one of Gordonstoun’s international service projects in Kenya, where we spent two weeks teaching and also building a classroom and carrying out essential building work at Kirongoi School. The project was jointly organised with the founder of Grace Children’s Outreach Missions, Chahalee. I spent time with Chahalee and his friend and co-worker James, learning more about the work they do across Kenya to keep children from poorer backgrounds in school. It was a few nights into our stay in Kirongoi that I became engaged in conversation with Chahalee and James, who exposed to me the more challenging side of their work. This conversation had such a profound impact on me that I promised I would share their story, so later in the week I filmed an interview with them. My own words could not do the matter justice, so here’s an extract of James’ explanation:

"We have so many girls in the rural schools, who are going through the normal menstrual period every month and they are unable to have their parents support them in buying sanitary towels. Therefore; it becomes a need for them to look for ways to get these pads. As we do our own research and speak with different children, we see the ways that they get this money and we have learned that there are men who take advantage of this. These men give the girls money to buy the pads, in exchange for sleeping with them or performing sexual acts, from as young as ten. So, we have a lot of children dropping out of school early due to early marriages, pregnancies or being forced out of their homes. Many of them also contract HIV."

Chahalee then went on to explain how the community allows this to happen, because a girl’s education is not as highly valued and many families know that they cannot afford these essentials for girls, and thus turn a blind eye because whilst on their period without pads, these girls cannot attend school. I cannot stress enough; just how eager these girls were to learn. During their lunch break they would remain in class to keep listening to my bad explanations of photosynthesis, or my teaching of geography. They would ask questions and would laugh at my hand gestures, whilst diligently making notes, fully aware that their education was the only way to a better life. These children - some the same age as me - have never ventured much further than their village, and many were orphans to HIV. It was soon apparent that the girls were most keen to learn, because through having their education threatened by a natural process they understand its full importance. This is not to say that the boys did not work hard, but the gender inequality in these rural communities is amplified by this factor in the girls schooling. With a simple supply of sanitary items, this problem could be alleviated.

I promised Chahalee that I would share the work he does and try and set up a supply of these essential items to these rural communities in Kenya. I made a video of an interview I did with him, and have since shared it and sent it to various charities such as Zana Africa, The Obama Foundation, Fem International and the DFID. I have had a few responses, but none have fulfilled the aim of reducing the threats to the girls’ education - and ultimately their quality of life.

Through this experience I can conclude, that these girls know the true value of education, and they can help teach us the value too.

I have set up a Just Giving page - https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/keepgirlsineducationinkenya with an aim of raising £3000 to help Chahalee keep girls from poorer backgrounds in education. Any help you are able to give would be very much appreciated.