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Kenya is a beautiful country, famous for its African safaris, white-sand tropical beaches and stunning Rift Valley; but for many Kenyans, life is not so beautiful.

Out of Kenya’s population of 41 million, 60% live under the poverty line, surviving on less than $1 a day.  Unsurprisingly, Kenya ranks low on the human development index at 147 out of 177 countries; Life expectancy is only 57.5 years (UNDP, 2011), HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is 6.3%, 40% of the adult population are unemployed, and just half of students completing primary school continue on to secondary school.

Kenya is experiencing rapid urban growth – at a rate of 4.3% annually - such that 22.2% of Kenya’s population now live in urban areas.  The capital city, Nairobi dominates the urban landscape, housing 3.4 million inhabitants.  Infrastructure is better than in the rest of the country, with 59% of the population having access to piped water and 13% of homes owning a computer.  Nairobi also commands the largest share of modern sector wage employment in Kenya, although there are 3.5 times as many people in informal employment than in the formal sector.  This is a key indicator of the high inequality that characterises the city.

Kibera slum
The climax of poverty is found in the vast informal settlements around Nairobi’s city centre.  Kibera is the largest slum in Kenya and the second largest in Africa.  The slum originated in 1920, when the British colonial government allowed Nubian soldiers to settle on a hill out of the city centre without land tenure.  Since Kenyan independence in 1963, slum dwellings have been made illegal, although little has been done to re-settle unauthorised squatters.  Over the past 80 or so years, Kibera has grown at an alarming rate and is now home to nearly 2 million Africans, approximately 1/3 of Nairobi’s population.  Living conditions are extremely low, due to the high population density of 300,000/km².  Coupled with poor nutrition, the incidence of preventable diseases, such as malaria and TB is high, and it is estimated that 1/5 of the 2.2 million Kenyans living with HIV/AIDs are residents of Kibera.

The vicious cycle of poverty in Kibera condemns its inhabitants to a life of lack, hunger and despair, constraining them from breaking out of that environment.  Maisha Trust aims to end this hopeless situation by empowering the people of Kibera to fulfil their potential and God-given purpose.

Education in Kenya
The current education system in Kenya was introduced in 1985 and follows the pattern, 8-4-4. Children spend 8 years in primary school (leading to the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education), followed by 4 years in secondary school (leading to the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education, KCSE) and finish with 4 years of undergraduate study or vocational training.

Access to primary schooling has grown phenomenally since free primary education was introduced in 2003.  Over 86% of children are now enrolled in primary school, yet only 32% proceed to secondary school. There is a gender component to this too, because whilst gender parity has been achieved in primary school enrolment, only 41% of students completing KCSE are female.

However, while education is universally available throughout Kenya, it is still not accessible to all.  Even in the case of primary school, added costs, such as school uniform, books, exam fees, tuition fees and school lunch, mean that ‘free’ schooling remains a dream yet to be realised. 

Furthermore, pre-primary or kindergarten school is still not free.  As a consequence, those unable to afford pre-primary school start primary education aged 6 or 7 years with no basic language, literacy or numerical skills, while their contemporaries have already acquired a sound foundation in these areas, putting them at a severe disadvantage. 

Maisha Trust is committed to eradicating this injustice, as we believe that all children are a precious gift from God regardless of where they were born or what community they are raised in, and so deserve the best start to life.

Maisha Trust © 2012