Got Matar
Got Matar, meaning Bare Hilltop, is an area of dispersed rural settlements in the Sub-County of Bondo in Siaya County in the west of Kenya, near to Lake Victoria. The area is amongst the poorest in Kenya and suffered the highest level of HIV infection in all of Kenya around the turn of the century. AIDS killed off many of the community’s working age population and left over one third of the children living as orphans.
See 'Two Pandemics'

The Got Matar Community Development Group (GMCDG) was formed by local leaders in January 2002 to respond to the crisis. The Group accepted that they had ‘lost a generation’ and that the priority was to assure that their children could all enjoy a decent education.  They first improved conditions in the 10 Primary Schools, then built a Secondary School with 600 places, and are now well advanced in the creation of an Institute of Technology that offers diploma courses in a range of practical skills.

The Secondary School
The decision to build the Secondary School and to seek donor funding for this was taken by the GMCDG in September 2006. By the end of January 2007, the first classroom block had been built and furnished, teachers had been recruited and 112 children had been enrolled in Form 1. All the essential classroom buildings were completed on schedule and within budget by 2010, the year in which the first pupils graduated.

The management of the school was passed by the Community to the Department of Education which meets most running costs and employs the staff. Donors have funded additional facilities, including a Girls’ Dormitory, and have financed a bursary programme for 40 students entering the school each year. Other infrastructure has been provided by the Kenyan government. The School has an excellent performance record and now caters for about 1240 pupils creating a demand for new classrooms and teachers which we hope can be met by the government and local sources.

The Institute of Technology
From the outset, it was envisaged that the Secondary School should offer some training courses in practical skills, but this could not be fitted into the standard curriculum. In 2012, when the financing needs of the Secondary School began to fall, the Community opened a 2-year diploma course in dressmaking and tailoring and began the registration of the Got Matar Institute of Technology (IoT) as a community-managed institution. Since then 9 more training subjects have been added.

In order to allow the IoT to grow quickly and to reduce risks, all courses were initially run in rented buildings. Since 2017, the IoT has been constructing and equipping purpose-built training workshops on its campus on land provided by the Community. Nine of the planned initial 10 new workshops have been completed and are in use. The new computer training centre will be ready to accept pupils from January 2022 and the first phase of the girls' hostel is fully occupied. Because of Covid-related restrictions, pupil numbers stayed at around 230 in 2021, but are expected to climb to at least 300 in 2022.

The origins of external financial assistance to Got Matar date from Andrew MacMillan’s first visit to Bondo in 2000 in connection with his work with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Once GMCDG has been set up, he and his extended family made occasional donations towards upgrading the Primary Schools. In 2006, after his retirement, he accepted the Community’s formal invitation to raise funds for its educational programmes. Rather than set up a new charity, he sought to engage in partnerships for the management of donations with existing registered NGOs with similar goals. In Rome, Associazione SONIA, founded in memory of her daughter and run by Vanda Altarelli, a former FAO rural sociologist, manages funds contributed by donors in Italy and the rest of the Euro zone. The London-based Ace Africa (UK) is the custodian of funds raised from UK and elsewhere and transfers them to western Kenya where its sister organisation, Ace Africa (Kenya), shares its experience in coping with the problems faced by AIDS-damaged communities and through mentoring GMCDG.

Arrangements are in place that ensure that all donor contributions via the two partner charities go to priority GMCDG programmes. In 2022, most donations will be used for the construction of a school office and, if funds permit, an additional new specialised workshop and the second phase of the girls' hostel.