Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Celebrating the Girl Child
ISSUE 102, October 1-31, 2014
Helen Machuka: A teacher dedicated to seeing girls excel in school By Antony Zoka The ever skyrocketing cost of living has left many parents struggling to keep their children in school, as the number of cases of bright students forced to drop out of school increases due to lack of fees. Perhaps this was the reason 46-year-old Helen Machuka, Principal of Kombeni Girls’ Secondary School in Rabai sub-County had in store when she came up with an innovative way to initiate a bursary kitty in the school. “I forfeited my one month salary in 2009 to start the bursary fund, and todate, the programme has picked well, with other stakeholders, including parents supporting the initiative,” she reveals. When we visited her for an interview in her office, her broad and welcoming smile was an evident indicator of a public servant who is ready to work with anybody for the benefit of the next generation. According to Machuka, what motivated her desire was how bright students were excelling at Starehe Boys’ Centre, courtesy of the bursary initiated in the school. Earlier this year, she was among the few individuals in the country who were awarded for being the best public servants. “I take my teacher profession as a calling from God and at all time I am accountable to Him, that is why I dedicate all my energy, knowledge and mind to achieving the best,” says Machuka. She adds: “What inspired me was our school motto back in high school at Butere Girls, which simply said, ‘For only the best’ and I have been striving knowing that I am the best.” An alumnus of Lugusi Primary School, in the rural parts of Malava in Kakamega County, Machuka proudly says she’s now a mother of 662 children, saying she has been coping well in dividing her time to all the 647 students at Kombeni Girls, her 4 daughters and one house help, to have all of them feel comfortable regardless of their family backgrounds. Since she joined the school, Machuka has been keen in her leadership role to ensure the school prospers in its mandate of instilling education
and discipline among girls to help them be self-reliant in their future. “When I took over as the principal about seven years ago, the school’s mean score was at four points, but with good team work together with other teachers and the non-teaching staff and the management board we have stabilized at six now aiming for eight for this year’s KSCE,” Machuka asserts. The school has been supporting its students acquire bursary despite similar help from various County government’s programme and the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). At the beginning of the year, about KSh300,000 from the school bursary was distributed to 61 students. Machuka reveals that the bursary kit has received support from the selling of their bakery products to other schools around the area. According to Machuka, the school received KSh2.4 million funding from the government of Finland through the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, after tabling their proposals for the project which was officially launched last year. Machuka was recognised with an award during the Huduma Ombudsman Awards for being among the best servants in individual category at an event that was presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta. “I was awarded with a distinction in efficiency, innovation and servant hood. I have been hearing people talking about our efforts but rarely did I know that it was going to go nationally. I believe it’s the hand of God that is working,” she said during an interview with The Reject. Machuka was honoured for her efforts in initiating income-generating projects in the school geared towards in improving the learning in the school. The key projects were the bakery, dairy and fish farming within the school that supply the students with milk and fish while the surplus makes its way to the community around at a fee that ends up in the bursary kitty. Since the start of the bursary, the school has rarely been sending students home for school fees, a move that has witnessed the school raise the number of students joining university to over 50 percent.
“Last year, 62 out of 142 students who sat for KCSE qualified to joined public universities, which to me, is a good sign,” says Machuka. She adds: “The bursary kitty is open to donations from everyone and that’s why we have been advising parents and other stakeholders to market the strategy so that more people can make donations.” On efficiency, Machuka was awarded for being a role model who has been enjoying working with all the players in education sector and love to students that has posted good results. “I take most of my inspirations from the Bible that says . . . ‘if you want to be the greatest you need to be a servant of all’,” she says. Machuka’s call is to all school principals and public servants to deliver the best at their work stations, saying that God rewards hard work “The bosses might not see you using your time trying to improve things but let’s remember we have been given the chance to work and we earn from the same, so it is time we directed all our energy in producing our best,” she says. Machuka insists that school heads should consider going to class to teach and be in a position to compare their results with other staff in learning institutions for better results. Machuka holds a Master’s in Education, Planning and Administration from Mount Kenya University; a Bachelor’s degree in Science, Agriculture and Home Economics from Egerton University and a Post-graduate Diploma in Education from Kenyatta University.
Hellen Machuka, Principal Kombeni Girls’ School during the interview in her office. Inset: Machuka, poses with the trophy she won as Principal Of The Year 2013 and other that she received during the Huduma awards. Pictures: Antony Zoka
Study calls for Early Childhood Development By OMONDI GWENGI There is need to establish systems for wealth creation and Early Childhood Development interventions in Siaya County, according to a study. The Rapid Baseline Assessment on Integrated Early Childhood study that was conducted in Siaya, Kisumu and Homa Bay counties found Siaya County to be worst performing in early childhood development despite appreciating the benefits of savings among the caregivers. Perform The study’s findings, which were released
recently at a hotel in Kisumu, found Siaya to be performing well in HIV/Aids testing during pregnancy, performing below average coverage on water treatment, among other early childhood development concerns. “The County governments have not established support systems other than bursaries for needy and bright children who are graduating from primary to secondary education,” says the study. The study was sponsored by Child Fund in collaboration with UNICEF and shows that children who have missed ECD/school in the last two weeks stood at 38.9 percent while those with toys or existing materials for play-
ing at home were 32.6 percent. The Study indicates, “Homa Bay County had the highest indicator of households with an average monthly income above Shs5, 000 at 44.2 percent, followed by Kisumu (43.2 percent) and Siaya at 1.1percent.” Indicate Other concerns in the study were low indicators on exclusive breastfeeding of children under five with Homa Bay at 16.8 percent, Kisumu at 47.4 percent and Siaya at 38.9 percent. The study attributed the low exclusive breastfeeding on poverty and lack of knowledge on health benefits of breast-feeding.
“Most of the parents are young with low income and could therefore not find time to practice exclusive breastfeeding. Most of them spend long hours doing casual work, leaving them with little time to be with their children,” adds the study. The study through its findings, therefore recommends that business management skills training targeting Siaya, Kisumu and Homabay counties be conducted. “We also recommend that support structures for the governments and communities to be established to support community resilience and education activities,” the study recommends.