Kennedy Ochieng Omollo’s story is an example of some of the challenges children in Kenya face when trying to complete their education. Unlike free public education in the US, schools in Kenya charge fees to attend every year beginning in primary school. Mandatory academic testing and annual school fees often cause students to stop their education. Luckily for children without means in Kisumu, Mama Dolfine stays connected to her community to find and support able students who are struggling due to these factors.
Kennedy was born December 11, 1998 in western Kisumu. Belonging to a poor family, neither of his parents had steady employment, and both worked odd jobs while he was young. In 2006 Kennedy began attending primary school near his home. His first year he was able to skip ECDE, Kenya’s kindergarten equivalent, and that year he tested at the top of his class for Grade 1. While attending Grade 1 Kennedy’s mother passed away, leaving him in the care of his father and eldest sister. His father remarried a few years later while he was attending Grade 4. His stepmother then required him to sell bananas in the town during the day for extra income. Because he sold them during school hours his grades began to suffer and he stopped attending. Kennedy’s teacher recognized his potential and reached out about his absence, and he rejoined school. Despite these setbacks, that year Kennedy had the third highest test score among all students from 8 area schools. He continued selling bananas throughout primary school to afford his fees each year. This lifestyle took its toll however, and when he sat for his exams for admittance to high school (secondary school) in 2013, he scored only just above passing. With lackluster test scores and no way to pay for the higher secondary school fees, Kennedy did not enroll in the Kenyan Grade 9 equivalent.
It was at this point that Kennedy’s former teacher referred him to Korando. Mama Dolfine agreed to take Kennedy on as a student in Grade 8 and allow him to live at the center. Students at Korando are not required to contribute fees, so Kennedy was given the opportunity to complete a remedial year and test again for entrance to secondary school. That same year, Kennedy’s father was arrested, but Kennedy pursued his studies in earnest despite this trouble. Kennedy thrived with the security and support Korando provided and when he sat for his exams a second time he scored very well. Mama Dolfine agreed to cover his fees at a local high school provided he kept his grades up.
Kennedy credits Mama Dolfine and Korando with giving him the skills to succeed in life, and he has done well academically the last three years. He is now in his final year of secondary school, and is looking forward to attending university in 2019. Kennedy hopes to become a lawyer at the national level who can represent his area with pride and advocate on the people’s behalf.