In 2007, Mathare Community Educational and Development Organization Beijing School, or MCEDO Beijing School, only had 360 students, with most studying in makeshift structures in Kenya’s Mathare slums.
Now, with a current enrollment of more than 500 students, head teacher Gladys Achieng looks back on the development the school has undergone in the past 15 years since the Kenya China Economic and Trade Association, or KCETA, started funding construction through the Chinese embassy, saying that the results are unbelievable.
During an event by KCETA and the Chinese embassy in Kenya to donate furniture to the school on Thursday, Achieng said the community is happy that the Chinese are investing in the education of slum children, since the key to leaving the slums for many of these children is through education.
In addition, she said the food being donated by the Chinese business community is a great motivation for students to come to school since it sustains them throughout the day. KCETA has been making regular food donations to the school that covers breakfast and lunch for the students and teachers since 2007.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, KCETA has also donated more than $20,000 to the school, including breakfast and lunch and personal protective equipment, to ensure student attendance and reduce school dropouts.
While presenting the more than 200 pieces of furniture that included chairs, class lockers, tables and desks, Zhang Yijun, minister counselor of the Chinese embassy in Kenya, said the donations are a demonstration of the friendship that exists between Kenya and China.
“These donations will renew awareness of the need to promote the right of children to education, especially in disadvantaged areas. I hope all the students will study well and make progress every day, so that they can contribute to their families and society as well as the friendship between Kenya and China,” Zhang said.
Benedict Kiage, the school’s director, said since the school started collaborating with KCETA 15 years ago, it has been enrolling more and more students from the community.
“We rely heavily on the donations from KCETA and the Chinese embassy. The school feeding program also provides breakfast and lunch to these children who live in Mathare and majority of their families live on less than a dollar a day,”Kiage said.
He pointed out that since the collaboration through the Chinese embassy began, more than 1,554 students have completed secondary school education, with 889 of them moving on to technical colleges and 111 of them graduating from universities.
On behalf of her fellow students, teacher Millicent Achieng thanked the Chinese embassy and KCETA for their continued support through the years with the building of classrooms and the provision of resources and food. She said the donations have enabled the school to provide food to the students during the weekends as well, including to children living around the community.