In the town of Kona Baridi, Kenya, located just 20 miles south of Nairobi, the next generation of women begin their day walking to Hekima Hills Learning Center. They pass through a farm, referred to as a shamba, where their school grows food for the fresh meals it provides to its 253 students. Classrooms at Hekima Hills have no more than 30 students and teachers create structure and discipline without using physical punishment. Soon, the students’ curriculum will involve computers and internet access, with the help of a grant from Brother’s Brother Foundation.
Hekima Hills Learning Center is not like other schools in Kenya; many of which are private and unaffordable to the 17% of Kenyans who live in extreme poverty. Low-income families must rely on public schools instead, where upwards of 75 students can be packed into one classroom. Despite being outlawed, it’s common for teachers to use corporal punishment as a form of discipline. This is why, three years ago, Kate Fletcher opened Hekima Hills Learning Center.
Fletcher moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Nairobi, Kenya in search of a purpose after losing her husband in the early 2000s. Upon hearing experts’ prediction that 20 million children in Africa would become orphans as a result of the AIDS crisis, Fletcher, who spent part of her childhood in an orphanage, felt compelled to act. In 2005, she opened “Hekima Place,” an orphanage for vulnerable Kenyan girls with a history of experiencing abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
Initially, Hekima Place paid for girls’ school fees at private schools, but their exposure to crowded environments subject to corporal punishment encouraged Fletcher to start a new school from scratch. Hekima Hills Learning Center not only provides quality education to the 44 girls at Hekima Place, but to other boys and girls as well. Tuition offered on a sliding scale in addition to scholarship opportunities give children in Kona Baridi and the surrounding areas access to an affordable education.
Signed in December, Brother’s Brother Foundation’s grant will support Hekima Hills’ mission to create Kenya’s next generation of empowered and educated students by enhancing their access to technology.