To the Slum Student in the Corner


How do you put into words of the challenges slum students face in getting an education? Think of when you need to get an item that is pushed all the back into the top shelf of your cabinet. You know it's there and you know that it's going to be really hard to get. You don't have a step ladder so you find some boxes and a chair to create a make-shift way of climbing up and reaching for the item. However, your combination of soft cardboard and rickety chairs collapse and you fall to the ground. You might say in that moment that what you need up in that top shelf is not worth the effort or you pick yourself up, get some friends, build a sturdy ladder, and climb up to finally reach that hard to get item. Then you lend the newly built ladder to another friend that has a hard to reach item in their cabinet.

Students trying to get an education in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, and other slums around the world, don't have a sturdy ladder to climb on. To them, education is the item that is pushed all the way to the back of the cabinet. Even though slum dwellers make up the majority of the population in Nairobi, a large number of the school-aged children cannot go to school because their families do not earn enough money to pay the school fees or there is no school in their area. When they are able to get an education, their schools do not have the resources or support to prepare the students to do well on their national tests. That is when their makeshift ladder breaks. 

However, there are a large number of non-profits and local leaders that are creating community schools that provide primary through secondary levels of education. Other organizations such as The Supply are providing civic curriculum and human rights education in addition to the basic studies of math, reading, writing, and science to make these students aware of the rights that they are guaranteed through their country's constitution. They work with each other to identify problems in their slum communities such as drug abuse, health issues, and environmental concerns, and they then create a plan to tackle the identified problems with solutions that involve their communities and leaders from the local level up to the national level.

This is where friends come together to create a ladder that is sturdy and has the necessary support to allow these students to reach and attain their education. And it is a ladder they can pass on to the other student who needs a sturdy ladder to reach for their education. For when slum students finally are able to reach for their education, that is when slums become sustainable communities that don't suffer from open sewers, makeshift aluminum sided homes, or joblessness; they will accelerate the positive change and innovation occurring in their communities and they will join the number of leaders that are working to improve the lives of their families and friends and ultimately their country.

So to the slum student in the corner, if or when you fall off your makeshift ladder, get back up and get your friends to build a sturdy ladder that will allow you to reach and attain your education that will change your life and this world.