In October 2011 we have visited there the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy (KGSA), a school for girls from the slums.
The educational system in Kenia is threepart. Eight years at a primary school are followed - for those who can afford it - by four years at a secondary school and than another four years at college. Since a school reform in 2003 public visiting primary schools is offered free of tuition fees. This has caused a run of children to the schools especially form the poorer and socially excluded population that schools and teachers just cannot cope with. For the first time in Kenya children from the slums got the opportunity to be educated. But investments in the educational system are low and the proportion is one teacher for 100 students, thus no proper class education is possible, the schools have poor equipment and the buildings are in no good shape. Wealthy families therefore send their children usually to private primary schools where tuition fees have to be paid. For the secondary schools from class nine and above tuition is compulsory in public and in private schools. Education of young people from Kibera therefore usually ends with the eighth class at primary school. But also children of younger ages often do not attend classes because they have to earn their living on their own - sorting waste or charcoal and selling anything of value in the streets. Families, who can afford the tuition fees, invest first and foremost in the education of their sons. Girls in the slums do not get the chance for a formal graduation, and visiting a college or getting an apprenticeship remains for most of them a dream.
The Kibera Girls Soccer Academy was founded in 2006 to overcome those gender inequalities. In 2011 130 girls visit the school with ten to twelve volunteer teachers educating them. Besides the usual topics as required for the recognition of the exams journalism, drama and human rights are on the schedule and - as mentioned - Soccer. Playing football means something very special in Kibera Girls Soccer Academy: While the girls are living under unhealthy conditions sports help them to become resilient, also football encourages their team spirit and trains their capability to accept rules. But most important is the potential of soccer to overcome gender inequality and to help the girls on their self-determined way into life.
There is no space for a pitch between the huts of Kibera. Therefore soccer matches take place on the sports field of a community near by where a fee has to be paid for each match. Nonetheless the KGSA team is very successful, having won the John Packard Family Cup in all recent years, and in 2011 for the first time they send a player to the Soccer Worldcup of Homeless People in Paris.
Education free of tuition is not the only precondition to allow the girls visiting the school in Kibera. It is also necessary to provide them at school days with at least one free meal because none of them could bring something to eat from home. The obligatory school uniforms in Kenya have been sponsored by a French couple some years ago, tells us the head master while guiding us to the so called kitchen where supper is cooked on a fireplace. As plates are rare the girls use plastic boxes from waste to get their share of potatoes and beans, they have their meal in the classroom.
Before sitting their exams the girls often come to school also during leisure time and at weekends, because at their homes there is no space for studies and books are only available in the school library. They are eager to learn, seeing their formal graduation as the first step out of the slums.
To allow the girls to sit their exams also in natural sciences classes Kibera Girls Soccer Academy has set up a physics and chemistry laboratory which seems to be nearly the only room with water from the tap in Kibera.
Internet and computer literacy becomes more and more important also at Kenyan schools and in the near future access to Internet and PCs will become a pre-condition for official recognition of the graduation at KGSA. Internet access is quite cheap in Nairobi, mobile access costs about ten cent per day. New learning offers can thus improve education and the girls will be able to obtain skills they will need for their start in professional jobs.