CES stands for Community Education Services and at the heart of it is community. The organization serves the communities by providing assistance to the children that will flourish with proper education and who will in turn serve there community when there are done. We create circles where everyone is helping each other and overtime communities improve.
I must admit I did not know as much as I would have liked about CES before coming here. Over the past week and a half I have had the opportunity to sit in on many meetings with schools that we have students in and I have learnt a tremendous amount about what we do, how we help and how we can grow. As of 2016, we will have 23 schools signed up with CES, with 5 to 10 students sponsored in each. The students fees are not paid fully by CES but we try to alleviate a considerable amount of the stress. We also urge each school to elect a teacher to be a advocate and mentor for the CES sponsored students. This was such a wonderful idea to me because now these children have someone they can rely on, talk to and confide in. If they are sick and can't make school, we are informed and can help according. These children are the future and we want help as best we can.
You don't realize how much of a gift free education is until you hear story after story of bright, smart students being sent home because they did not have there school fees. Why must these children and families worry about paying large school fees when so many children in the western world get to (comparatively) have a carefree childhood? It is when we are becoming adults that we should be worrying about school payments and juggling the monetary budget of day to day life, not in primary school! At least I can see that it may be partly because of these trials and tribulations these children have in Kenya, that they grow up to become beautiful, smart and courageous people. I have already met so many examples of this in the CES students that have succeeded through higher learning, in the people who are working hard at making education a priority and in the community of Kakamega itself.
The students we sponsor must meet all three criteria of the program. They must be bright, driven and needy. Although CES would wish very much to help all the needy students, by sticking with this criteria, we ensure we are investing in the future of Kenya and hopefully creating a better tomorrow. We hope to see these students able to complete all of there grades in high school, move on to college or university and finally find a suitable job where they are working to sustain there lives but also contributing to their communities.
As I spend more and more time here, I begin to marvel at how hard people work to keep the education system running for all children, no matter the means. The back bone of these schools and their communities, are in the teachers, principals, PTA members, parents, and volunteers of organizations like CES. These are strong, determined people that I feel proud and honoured to have meet and interacted with. The knowledge I have of the things they have gone through to help children get to school is only the tip of the iceberg, that I am sure of. Most of whom get paid little to nothing at all.
How can a society value and promote the education of its future, the children, when they pay teachers so little? I met a recent graduate of the CES program that will move on to become a teacher with a salary starting at 250.00 Canadian dollars a year. This money of which she will try to support her parents and 12 siblings with. How can a society grow and flourish when it's education system asks the world of it's supporters? PTA members, non profit members and teachers are forced to volunteer there time and funds to pay school fees, school supplies, school upkeep, and so much more.
I do not want to dwell so much on the problem but on future. I wish I could tell you more about and sing the praise of every last education fighter I have witnessed but the list would go on and on. I want to let you know that there is power on the ground here. There are community members that value that children need education to grow and will fight for the right of education. I have seen the fire burning in there eyes and I have no doubt they can produce a brighter future for these communities/