Around this time each year I write to all of you who have taken an interest in Got Matar to tell you what is going on and where the future priorities lie. More details and photos are available on the website.
One excellent development has been the recent appointment of Dorothy Adera as the second Principal of Got Matar Secondary School. She has already built up an excellent working relationship with the Community Development Group (GMCDG) and, I am certain, will do much to further improve the performance of the school.
Here is what Dorothy wrote to me a month ago: “I want to appreciate the good work that you and other supporters of the school have done. It is indeed a fine school with very fine facilities like no other in the region and I feel privileged to have been appointed to head the school. Following my meetings with the GMCDG, parents and the staff, I have faith that we will be able to work together for the good of the students and the community.”
This year, while waiting for up-to date information to arrive from Kenya, I have been reflecting on what we – and, by this, I mean the partnership between donors and the GMCDG – have achieved through our joint efforts.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that we can reasonably claim to have made a highly successful investment in what economists call “human capital”.
As donors, our money has been transformed into buildings, equipment and bursaries, but the end-product is now a steady flow of 100 to 150 better educated young people from the Secondary School and the Institute of Technology each year into the wider world. Some have gone on to higher education while others are already beginning to apply their greater knowledge and new skills to the betterment of their community and Kenyan society.
This is exactly what the Group’s founder, Grace Ochieng Andiki, envisaged when I first met her in 2001. She told me “We have lost a generation. We must now invest in our children’s future”.
Your donations support the kind of investment that gives young people the chance to build a better life for themselves and their children without having to move away from their homes to the cities or overseas. Speaking personally, I suggest that, if some governments feel a need to slow the flows of immigrants into their countries, it would make a lot more sense to emulate what we are jointly doing to create opportunities and hope for people at home rather than to build fences in Hungary or Calais.
Highlights for 2015 include:
– The first phase of the Girls’ Dormitory at the Secondary School has been largely completed, with funding from the Australian NGO, Bricks and Cartwheels: since September, 64 girls are already sleeping there, and this will rise to 100 in January 2016, subject to the completion of bathroom facilities.
– Two more permanent workshops have been built for the Institute of Technology (IoT), housing the Building Skills and Tailoring/Dress-making classes. The Woodwork workshop is now under construction and IoT students are also building a 20,000 litre underground water tank to store rainwater.
– New IOT classes for training in Hairdressing /Beautician skills as well as in Automotive Engineering have been opened in 2015. The beauticians (who Grace tells me are the most beautiful girls in the community!) will also receive training as informal AIDS counsellors.
– On-the-ground collaboration between Got Matar CDG and Ace Africa staff is steadily growing, including for arranging the second Got Matar 10K Run on Saturday 28th November.
Many people whom I know want to give money to help poor families in Africa to improve their lives but become disenchanted by reports of incompetent and corrupt management. I have worked a lot in in the region and, although hugely aware of these problems, have always been amazed also by the many examples of very efficiently managed initiatives that I have witnessed.
I rank Got Matar as one of these successes. It is successful because the idea of investing in better education as the main tool for addressing the devastating impact of AIDS came not from outsiders but from the Community. The development programme has been planned and implemented by Community members, working as volunteers. It has also been important, in terms of nurturing this sense of “ownership”, that there has been no long-term presence of foreigners, except for a 3-month stint by two very enthusiastic Norwegian girls in their “gap” year. Moreover the Community-Donor relationship is based on mutual trust and respect.
I and the Community want to thank each of you for your commitment. We hope that you will take pride in what you have done and stay with us in this long but exciting process of creating a better future for young people born into an already sorely deprived rural society, brought to its knees by AIDS.
We also want to thank both Associazione SONIA (in Italy) and Ace Africa (UK) not just for serving as the registered charities that manage donated funds but also for their direct engagement in supporting development at Got Matar.
The priorities for 2016 are the following:
– Bring mains water supply to the Got Matar site to supplement rainwater collection: local government authorities will give priority to this.
– Install back-up generator capacity to provide emergency supply during power cuts.
– Build a school office and teachers’ common room, freeing classroom space now being used for these purposes.
– Build a roofed dining area.
– Build the 2nd phase of the Girls’ Dormitory to raise the capacity to 180 beds.
– Finance 200 bursaries to enable qualified children from very poor families to attend the school.
Institute of Technology
– Construct and equip 3 additional workshops.
– Extend mains electricity supply to the IoT site.
One final reflection!
I still receive frequent requests to donate to the school and the university that I am fortunate to have attended. Both have existed for more than 500 years but still call for help. It was just 9 years ago that I accepted the Got Matar Community’s call to help raise funds for their educational programmes. As a result of your help, the community already has a Secondary School that takes in 150 new pupils each year, and an Institute of Technology that will soon reach its planned first phase capacity of 200 pupils –but there is much room for improvement.
To put money matters into perspective, the total cost of 200 bursaries at the Secondary School for a year (£21,500 or Euro 30,000) is less than two thirds of the annual fee for one pupil at the venerable English boarding school that I attended (£36,000). For comparison, the total annual operating costs of the Institute of Technology, with nearly 100 pupils enrolled this year, amount to £16,400 (Euro 23,000).
I hope that we can count on your continued investment in Got Matar this year and for some years to come to create a better future for some of the most deprived children on our shared planet.
To donate, please refer to http://www.gotmatar.org/donations/
With best wishes for Christmas and for 2016,