Our 19 STARS were supposed to take the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams this month. The KCSE is the cumulative, national examination that determines if a student graduates from high school and what further education opportunities are available to them. (Learn more about the KCSE and what itâ€™s like for STARS to go to school in Kenya).
In mid-March, the coronavirus changed everything.
Because of COVID-19, the Kenyan government postponed the national KCSE from November 2020 until March 2021. In June, the government announced schools would be closed for the remainder of 2020.Â
Our 4th-year STARS were deeply disappointed. This situation could have set them back an academic year, even though we provided extensive review materials for their KCSE preparation when schools first shut down in March.
The STARS were beginning to suffer from difficult living conditions and social isolation – especially since they donâ€™t have mobile phones, computers, or even electricity. Not being in school also made them susceptible to being recruited by gangs or getting into other trouble.Â
STARS Children Africa and our Kenyan partner, Miwani Community Based Organization, refused to let that happen. With Godâ€™s help, we came up with a plan to educate and mentor the STARS since they couldnâ€™t go to school.
Hereâ€™s how we turned the Kenyan Coronavirus lockdown into a victory for the STARS academically and personally.
We Brought School to the STARS at St. Lukes
Our local partner, the Miwani Based Community Organization arranged the use of the St. Lukeâ€™s Ministry compound and teachers for the 19 STARS.
Pastor Joshua Atieno coordinated the STARS guardians and classrooms at St Lukeâ€™s. He found teachers and organized teaching materials and food. Using the teachersâ€™ expertise, the 4th year curriculum and KCSE examination prep were delivered to the STARS Monday – Friday for 3 Â½ months until their schools reopened on October 12. COVID-19 safety protocols were put into place, i.e. daily temperature checks, use of hand sanitizer, and mask-wearing.
The STARS Received More Instruction and Personalized Attention
In a unique way, this COVID-19 situation has benefited the STARS. The student-teacher ratio at St. Lukeâ€™s was 1:19 compared to 1:40, which is typical for Kenyan classrooms and can sometimes be as high as one teacher for 60 students. Some classes were even smaller since not every student focused on the same subjects for KCSE prep, e.g. business studies.
The teachers had more time to prepare and meet one-on-one with the STARS since they had lighter teaching loads. Under â€œnormalâ€ teaching circumstances, a Kenyan high school teacher grades160 papers for each subject – they teach a minimum of 4 classes with 40 students in each!
The STARS also received customized guidance for how to prepare for and take the KCSE exams from three of the seven teachers who are national graders for the KCSE.
Their Identity and Sense of Purpose Was Strengthened by Being with Other STARS
Prior to COVID-19, the 19 STARS attended four different schools. Studying together in one place increased their unity and support for one another as orphans with high school scholarships. This time together helped and encouraged them toward the goal of changing their futures by getting a high school diploma.
Four of the seven teachers were STARS alumni, which benefited the current STARS in two ways. First, these STARS alumni know what it takes to do well on the KCSE and live a life of success and service. Second, they were able to personally coach and mentor the STARS to help them succeed in life.
Humphrey, a STARS alumnus one of the national graders for the KCSE exams, coordinated all the teachers. He observed. â€œThe STARS are very eager to learn. They are very positive and respond well to tuition. I believe they will make great improvements when they go back to school…they are disciplined and God-fearingâ€
The STARS Received Personal Development and Life Skills Training in Addition to Education
Being at St. Luke’s, the STARS received more focused practical skills and character training than in their regular schools.
Character development was provided daily, e.g. positive habit building, leadership skills, and public speaking. The STARS had frequent opportunities to practice given the unique school set up. A major bonus was that these STARS received hands-on computer training (from a STARS alumna!). Prior to this, many of the STARS had no computer training.
The STARS daily training in life and vocational skills by doing the following:
- Bread baking.
- Raising fish.
- Tree seedling nursery and planting.
- Chicken egg hatching.
- Maintaining and cleaning St. Lukeâ€™â€™ compound.
The STARS gained practical abilities and grew in confidence as they saw the results of what they learned. For example, they fed the group at St. Lukes with the bread they baked, gave some to the widows St. Lukeâ€™s supports, and also sold some to raise funds.
Looking Expectantly to the Future
Despite the initial disappointment of schools closing and not being able to take the KCSE, our 19 extraordinary STARS have thrived.
With your continued support, we believe each of these 19 young men and women will successfully pass the KCSE in 2021 and go on to serve others like they have been served by the STARS alumni who taught them during this unprecedented time.
Given the programmatic adjustments weâ€™ve made and extra costs due to COVID, our annual expenses are 50% more than expected.