Despite the fact that my school days were a very long time ago, I have no trouble casting my mind back, recalling how it felt to sit in a chilly, echoey school hall, preparing to sit my O-Levels.
First thing this morning, before I’d even arrived at the office, I received a WhatsApp update from our women’s empowerment group facilitator, Eva Jefa. Kenya is 3 hours ahead of us at the moment, so while I was getting up, the Mothers of the Forest were just about to sit down on day two of three days of end of year exams. They’re taking place under the watchful eye of their educator, Michael Jefwa, and with help from invigilator, fellow teacher and wife, Judith.
If you’re not familiar with the incredible academic journey of the Mothers, please see the footnote to this post. In summary, 25 of the 40 women never had an opportunity to go to school at all. Most of them couldn’t even hold a pencil properly because they’d never developed the fine motor skills in the muscles of their hands. The other women had a smattering of primary school and some had a little secondary school learning too. When they were offered the opportunity of an adult education class covering reading, writing and arithmetic, they all seized it. Their dedication to learning has been outstanding.
Here’s Eva’s report on their progress:
“Today, we came together and our meeting began with a word of prayer that included the exams and I could feel how nervous they were.
The Mothers were quieter than usual and after briefly going through what we discussed in the previous meeting, I told them my story of how my palms would sweat just before exams, making jokes now and then until the space was filled with laughter of the Mothers sharing how they each felt at that moment. It was beautiful.
Michael arrived and together we read your heartfelt message of encouragement to the Mothers with Michael doing translation for the few who didn’t understand English well. Oh my goodness, it was like you guys were standing right there next to all of us. We could all feel the love and the Mothers were really touched. Then they dived into their first exams and afterwards, we had a lovely meal of rice, chicken and fruits.
Yesterday, the Beginners did arithmetic and the High Flyers and Brain Drivers did arithmetic and environmental. Today, the Beginners are doing English while the others are doing English and composition.
We closed the meeting with a word of prayer.”
Here in the UK, it’s fair to say we take education for granted. Learning how to read, write and count have changed the Mothers’ lives in positive ways that exceed all my powers of description to convey. Perhaps one of the most amazing changes to their daily lives is they’re now able to take spare commodities from their trees to market. They’re able to write out signs with prices for the goods they’re selling and most importantly, they understand how to count out a money exchange.
Thank you for your ongoing support of our reforestation, education and women’s empowerment. It is – quite literally – priceless!
PS: Hop back to previous blog posts from February 2019 to find out how they got started on their learning journey: