Milele Elimu Centre, Mombasa
The history of our school
by Nadja Kaufmann
The idea to open a school and help needy children in the slums of Mombasa came up at the end of 2012. We were three people initiating this project: Mark (the School Director since beginning, for many years), Jane & me. In December that year everything was planned, organized and prepared. In January 2013 the school opened under the name “Precious Vision Care Centre”. After the first week, we had 80 children coming to our school. At the beginning the necessary infrastructure for the classrooms was not available, this was supposed to be bought later, when more funds came in. This means that no desks, no chairs and also no books were available. Only teachers had an exemplary book of each subject from where they taught their kids in the most simple way. Besides getting educated, nourishing the children was another priority of our project, as most of the children didn’t get enough food at home and therefore lack the energy to learn. Our offered lunch was the biggest reason for most parents to send their children to our school. At the beginning of the school I was around, but my time in Kenya was limited and in February 2013 I left the country to follow my further private plans.
For school the year 2013 started with 80 children, increasing up to 150 children by the end of the year. We started with one mixed up Nursery class and Primary classes from 1 to 3, while by the end of the year we expanded with Kindergarten classes 1 to 3 and Primary classes from 1 to 6. We had 5 teachers by the opening of the school and by end of the year they were increased to 10 teachers. Financially our plan didn’t come out as we thought it would. Most parents didn’t see the necessity of educating their children (because most of them are also not educated) and therefore weren’t willing to spend money on it. The children continued to come to school and enjoyed the free lunch. The characteristics and the thinking of most parents was heading the wrong way and it took a lot of time and efforts to make them understand the whole concept of getting educated, of being responsible for their children and also do family planning. The more children they have, the more efforts they need to make to educate, shelter and nourish them. Because money was missing in school, a crisis began. There wasn’t enough funds to pay teachers, their salary was already on a minimal level, but sometimes they went home with only half the salary or even nothing. Rent also became a problem, where we started paying in small installments. By this time I was in Switzerland and found a solution on how to help our school from closure: in May 2013 the NGO “Forever Kids Kenya” in Switzerland was founded with some of my family members and close friends. The goal of the NGO was to support needy children with education in Kenya. Thanks to the NGO and some financial and material donations internationally and locally the school was able to run and even expand. By November 2013 I went back to Kenya for a short visit and was in school before the school year closed. What I saw was many children with happy faces, enjoying their schooldays and seeming to live a carefree life. The school at least was saved and it took the load off our mind, although still a lot of work lay ahead of us.
The year 2014 was the turning point of the school. From a fundraising we received the first batch of school textbooks, where at least a few children were able to share a book during class. We were also able to build some extra classrooms in the school compound to avoid the crowded classes, where sometimes two classes had to share one room. Later on our first newly made school desks came into our school, and no more children had to sit on the floor or squeeze themselves in old desks. These improvements were essential and finally available for our children. In July 2014 I left Switzerland and came to live in Kenya for a while. Of course I was an active part of school again and took over the financial department and helped out wherever I was needed. In September 2014 we had another big change: Jane, the third of us from the school project, has resigned due to early retirement and therefore the project was left to Mark and me, where Mark took over the task of running the school as the Director and I went back to what I knew best, the financial department. With the beginning of a new era we also came with a name change of our school: the old name “Precious Vision Care Centre” was changed into “Milele Education Centre” (today: Milele Elimu Centre). The year 2014 ended with more growth, we now had a Babyclass, Kindergarden classes 1 to 3 and Primary classes 1 to 7.
In the beginning of 2015 we finally got our official and very unique school uniform from a fundraising, which was loved by everybody: children, their parents and even our teachers. Reaching this step we made a name for ourselves in the neighborhood. Our school has meanwhile also transformed from very poor standards to middle class standards. A big achievement was reached by the end of the year 2015. Our very first graduating class, which is class 8, was able to do their national K.C.P.E. exams, which means by passing they’ll receive the official certificate of completing their Primary education. This was a proud moment for our school.
The latest milestone was reached when our first ever graduated kids of 2015 with our support were able to move on to the Secondary education in February and March 2016. Even if they have left our school, they are still part of our “Milele Family”, and we will continue to support them in the future whenever needed and wherever we can.
2019 was the year when our oldest kids, our pioneers, graduated from Secondary education. This was a big moment for us as we walked hand by hand with them from Primary school to finishing their Secondary education. Since we’ve reached this far already, we can’t stop just there.
Once again, we are very proud to say that we can even continue to support them further individually: it’s the year 2020 and we have the first two candidates after finishing Secondary school who qualify as students for University education!
I am so happy to be part of such a big family and will keep the children’s laughter, cheekiness and memories forever in my heart. May they grow to live a successful and happy life!
The Milele Elimu Centre was founded in January 2013 and is located in Shauri Yako, a slum area of the Kenyan metropolis Mombasa. This day school provides quality basic education as well as day care services and recreation facilities to underprivileged kids from the local slum area.
The aim of the centre is to educate, engage and nourish the kids and keep them off the street where poverty, violence and drugs are part of the daily life. Apart from education and day care service, the daily balanced lunch is a strong incentive for many parents to send their kids to school.
Currently, the Milele Elimu Centre has almost 300 registered kids and students. They are allocated to two kindergarten classes as well as primary classes from 1st to 8th grade.
For further information on Milele Elimu Centre click on the following link: