Now that WISER has welcomed all of our students back for a successful and safe academic year, it’s difficult to imagine an alternative to WISER’s COVID-19 story. This week, Jill Filipovic for Bloomberg Businessweek shined a light on the immense cost that COVID-19 school closures and disruptions has had on girls’ lives throughout Kenya.
You can read the full article here.
Flilpovic takes us through how food insecurity, gender inequity, abuse and neglect, transactional sex, educational infrastructure, and pressure for early marriage all combined to create a perfect storm for female students throughout Kenya. From rural to urban contexts, many girls did not have what they needed to remain students, instead having to take on caregiving or breadwinning roles within their households, or having to turn to sex for money to make their survival possible.
WISER is shared here as an example of what can successfully disrupt this devastating cycle: “What seems to work best to keep girls in school even during a crisis is a network of dedicated adults who have the resources required to help students and their families.”
Filipovic specifically highlights Principal Dorcas’s efforts: “Dorcas Adhiambo, principal of a 240-student secondary school in Western Kenya run by the nonprofit WISER, was able to keep almost all her girls attending class by coordinating on-campus distribution efforts and home visits to issue smartphones so girls could learn via WhatsApp. The educators also brought necessary items—sanitary pads, soap, maize, beans, sugar—to ease the pressure for girls to contribute to the family’s income at the expense of their education.”
WISER supporters know the way this story goes. Wellness visits, resource provision, and a robust remote learning system made it possible for WISER students to return in early 2021. WISER saw virtually no change in early pregnancy or marriage as compared with students throughout the rest of Kenya.
Why was WISER’s story different? “This was possible because Wiser is a private program with limited scope, funded by donors who stepped up to meet specific and rapidly changing needs. It only works ‘if there’s heavy funding and heavy follow-up from all quarters,’ Adhiambo says.
‘When it is a big scale, the size of Kenya, if you have a school with over 4,000 students and you don’t have access to a platform where you can meet regularly, then you leave it to chance.'”
Madam Dorcas points us both to what works, and to what needs to change throughout Kenya. The dedication and responsiveness of our donors made WISER’s COVID-19 outcomes possible. Our students are thriving because of the dedicated WISER team, from our funders to our fundraisers, our incredible teaching faculty to our committed staff.
As we near the grim two-year anniversary of COVID-19 shutdowns in Kenya, WISER stands as an example of what works in an almost-impossible situation. We are so grateful to our donors who have stepped up, again and again, to make our students’ education possible.