The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is known as the President’s Award in Kenya, or the PA for short. Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit two very different schools where the Award is being run. Both were girls schools; both were full of engaged and enthusiastic young women. But they were as different as different could be.
Kirigiti Rehabilitation School is the only correctional centre in Kenya for girl child offenders. The children are sent to the school by the courts following sentencing for a wide variety of crimes, some extremely serious.
The school works hard to help the girls turn their lives around. There is some academic study, focusing on the basics of literacy and numeracy. There is some vocational training, including lessons in dressmaking, baking, hairdressing and beauty therapy. The facilities are very, very basic.
But there are also clubs and activities. And these include the President’s Award. About 20 girls are working towards their Bronze, learning new skills and then putting those skills into practice through their volunteering. For instance, they make dresses for other children in the school at no charge.
These children come from exceptionally challenged backgrounds and they have all the odds stacked against them. Many have been abused. Yet their engagement in the Award programme (and in the all girls Scout Troop that the school runs) shows that they can still enjoy the challenge of being part of the President’s Award programme – and can share the same activities as other, luckier, adolescents.
I was overcome with admiration for these young people and their hard working teachers.
I was no less impressed by the girls and staff we met at our next visit, just a few miles away. In the middle of a coffee plantation lies St Anne’s Secondary boarding school for girls. It’s a government school, with pupils drawn from a wide range of backgrounds. The school has about 400 girls – and a quarter of them are participants in the President’s Award.
I spoke at school assembly to the pupils, gathered in the main courtyard beneath two flagpoles – one flying the Kenya flag and the other, in my honour, the Union flag (which had been smartly broken by three Ranger Guides). I then toured the classrooms which included science laboratories that brought back immediate memories of my own schooldays.
The school principal, Mrs Kimemia, was an inspiration. Quietly spoken, but absolutely resolute in her determination to do the very best by her pupils. She has been associated with the President’s Award for many years, introducing it in each school she has managed.
The Award participants put on an entertainment for us of traditional songs and dances, shared food and drink they had prepared and gave short presentations about their Award experiences. They showed themselves to be highly articulate and amusing young women – ready to take on leadership roles within their families, communities and the nation as a whole.
“It is a tradition, you know,” Mrs Kimemia whispered to me as we watched the girls perform, “that all Gold PA Awardees go on to university.”
Two very different schools. One Award programme.
wow!! thank you very much sir for having such a big heart to touch millions of smaller hearts not mentioning the time we had at kenyatta university too. i really liked your sense of humour and wish such ‘CROWD CATCHING’ humour some day too. thank God i never forgot to comment you on that!! thank you again for i now know form your story of Charlie and the fourteen year Johnnie that i should lead, follow and get out of the way!
My account may be similar to yours sir,because I have also had the chance to experience being in the two institutions. My name is Catherine Wangui,a student at St.Annes Lioki.I had the opportunity to have my residential project at the Kirigiti Rehabilitation Centre.Our group of 18 lodged at the centre for 5 days undertaking several activites such as clearing the grass,teaching and making learning aids.The main objective was to intervene in their lives and make them want to be become responsible and successful people in the world.To be honest sir,I believe we did most of the learning.The girls at the centre were bright and enthusiastic despite the challenges they have faced.Some of them have never seen any of their relatives for almost five years and for those five days,we were their family.Our school mates were kind enough to donate toiletries,clothes and writing material to them but they seemed least concerned with the items that we eagerly carried for them.All the cared about was that we took our time to get to know them.In that short time i realised all the girls ever wanted was love.Under the Presidents Award Scheme they received exactly that.An unending bond of sisterhood was formed between St.Annes Lioki and Kirigiti Rehabilitation Centre.I agrre with you sir,that we are two different institutions but we are forever united under one Award Scheme.