Through other Priory teachers, I met Jason Doherty, a teacher in Vallejo and founder of the Daraja Academy. Jason was so passionate about giving African kids the opportunity of a bright future that it was impossible not to get hooked on his cause.
Jason explained to me that less than 50 percent of Kenyan girls go on to secondary school after completion of primary school. It turns out that even one additional year of secondary school makes a huge difference in levels of poverty and future outcomes for the majority of Kenyans. This seemingly small difference has monumental impact not only on the children, but on what kind of country Kenya will be in the future. And the leverage for girls, being the bearers and keepers of children and of the family unit, is the greatest.
I am now part of a group of teachers, started by Jason, from across the Bay Area that organized to create the Daraja Academy. We have already obtained an existing campus in Kenya and are working hard to begin instruction in January.
Daraja means "bridge" in Swahili and this school is about building bridges. As one of the first free (including room and board) secondary schools for girls and boys in East Africa, the Daraja Academy's goal is to not only educate Kenyans, but connect them with other tribes in the country as well as with the rest of the world.
I spent the summer in Kenya with other U.S. teachers, working with charitable and governmental organizations, scoping the needs of the school, as well as experiencing the issues in person. Viewing the slums outside of Nairobi, the capitol of Kenya, dense with poverty-stricken families, cannot help but change your perspective.
In addition to poverty, Africa is rife with conflict between cultures and tribes. I saw the diversity of people in Kenya and how they often do not get to know each other. A school devoted to bringing these groups together, to help students find that they have more similarities than differences, and to appreciate their differences, is one small way to help heal a continent.
To make this vision happen "Daraja Clubs" have sprung up all over the Bay Area — and Woodside Priory started one of the first of these clubs. Students who participate in the clubs will communicate via the Internet with Daraja Academy students and host an exchange program during the summers, as well as help in fundraising and building awareness throughout the community. There has been incredible support from students who see beyond their own neighborhood, to the impact they can make on the world.
My opportunity to experience the challenges of creating progress in Kenya firsthand has motivated me to share this experience with you. I hope as a result that more people will understand the impact we can have for improving our world.
The Daraja Academy has been funded by grass-roots efforts of the Daraja Clubs and individuals. For more information, go to www.daraja-academy.org or call Jenni Doherty at (415) 699-8335.