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Cradle to Career boosts education in Kenya

Checking In With ... Jene Meece

May 02, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • Jene Meece with an orphan at Fanaka Primary School in Athi River, Kenya.
Jene Meece with an orphan at Fanaka Primary School in Athi…

Jene Meece got involved with Kenya on a whim.

In 2006, the Newport Beach resident read a news story about Father Henry Simaro, head of the African Child Foundation, visiting the United States to raise money for Fanaka Primary School, in the Kenyan town of Athi River. Now, Meece works alongside Simaro as the executive director of Cradle to Career: Kenya, and she's seen results. To date, the nonprofit has sent hundreds of girls through middle school, and it's looking to build a dormitory at Mt. Olive Academy, also located in Athi River, that will house 200 more.

This month, to help raise awareness for her cause, Meece is launching a speaker series in Newport Beach and Irvine, with topics ranging from "Honoring Women in African Arts" to "Teaching in Africa's Largest Slum." (For the program, visit c2ckenya.org.) Meece, who recently stopped in Atlanta for a Cradle to Career fundraiser, took time for an interview with the Daily Pilot:

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Last year, 100% of the middle school girls at Mt. Olive went on to high school. How does middle school life in Kenya compare to in the United States?

That is not an easy question to answer because there are two extremes. There are the elite boarding schools catering to the top echelon of Kenya. Then there are the government schools, which can have 90 children to one teacher. The elite schools are out of reach for the vast majority of Kenyans. The government schools, especially the ones I visited, are not conducive to learning. They were dusty from the dirt floors, the corrugated tin roofs made it impossible to hear when it rained, and there was little ventilation, so heat was insufferable on the hot days.

If you are lucky enough to attend an elite boarding school, then middle school may appear very similar to what we experience in the United States. But if you are part of the majority of Kenyans living on $1 a day, school is difficult at best and not in the cards for most children. While Kenya has offered free education since 2001, the students still have to buy shoes and uniforms to attend, they have to pay for school supplies, and they have to have food to eat. This sounds so simple, but in the poor sections of Kenya, it isn't.

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