By Carleigh Morgan
With an estimated 2 million residents, Kibera is Africa’s largest and most challenging slum. Kibera is also home to TNP’s Nyanya Preschool, which is staffed by two accredited teachers and funded by school fees – as well as the tireless work of TNP’s grandmothers. Until recently, the preschool was able to keep its educational mission alive by relying on full financial support from TNP.
In early summer, 2011, however, TNP provided treadle sewing machines to the grandmothers. Now the grandmothers bring in enough additional income by making and selling school uniforms to help support the preschool. By early 2013, the Preschool will be completely self-sufficient.
The sewing center, called Dwight’s Place in honor of the founder’s late brother, Dwight, was built on the playground behind the Nyanya Preschool and contains 10 treadle sewing machines that the grandmothers have been professionally instructed to use and maintain. In addition to a bathroom inside the preschool, two outdoor toilets were built near the sewing center, a unique feature that is lacking almost everywhere in Kibera. Local women from Kibera also come to Dwight’s Place, renting the sewing machines in order to sew whatever they like. This generates income for themselves and helps cover daily operations of the preschool.
In July 2012, a fundi (tailor) was hired to teach the grandmothers how to make school uniforms, which they now sell in order to keep the preschool sustainable. In addition to the early success of the sewing center, all of the salaried staff members at the preschool have elected to reduce their salaries so that the goal of achieving financial self-sufficiency can be successfully maintained in the future.
“We are all happy to pitch in and make our preschool stand on its own feet,” reports Julius Okatch, project manager for TNP in Kenya. “No one else in Kibera is doing such a thing. And the grandmothers are very happy to learn new skills and are excited to sell their uniforms. They sold 10 uniforms after their second week of training.”
In addition to sewing uniforms, TNP grandmothers continue to work part-time in the preschool and use this income to provide food and school supplies for their grandchildren.
As a result of the extraordinary efforts of Julius, the educational staff, and the grandmothers who have exerted enormous effort and dedication, TNP no longer pays for the lease on the preschool. With minimal financial contributions from TNP, the preschool is now operating independently, fulfilling TNP’s original mission: to foster self-sufficiency for the grandmothers. Now, the grandmothers are also helping to create an educational center that is sustainable – a model, we think, that can be replicated throughout Africa.
We could not be more thrilled and are so pleased to share this exceptional and groundbreaking news with all of our friends!
As Julius says, “The grandmothers have become even bigger role models for the women in their communities. Whether the women are young or old, they see what our grandmothers are doing and say, ‘If they can do this, so can I.”