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Meet Evelyn Wanjohi: From Teacher to Principal to Visionary

Evenlyn Wanjohi

During the 2012 Harambee Travel with Purpose trip to Kenya, we spoke with teachers and principals who had attended courses sponsored by Strathmore University thanks to previous Harambee funding.  Results of the Teacher Enhancement Program, the Teacher’s Self Image Courses and the Art of Leadership Seminars were apparent everywhere.  Evelyn Wanjohi, the principal at the Gachororo School in Kalimoni, one such beneficiary, explained why she had the children paint the school walls with maps, illustrations and scientific equations.  “I call these my ‘talking walls,’ where the children can learn something even during recesses.” With class size hovering around 60 per grade, one can understand her desire to use every moment to reach the children.

In Evelyn’s school of 1500, the government allotment for teachers totals a mere 35.  Since attending Strathmore’s Art of Leadership, Evelyn has enlisted the help of school parents to hire an additional 3 teachers and then to help her build additional classroom space.  When speaking of her mentally challenged population at the school, she says that she teaches them “beading – referring to manual arts – or reading” according to their capacity.  There is no obstacle too big for her and her teachers to confront now that morale and teamwork have improved.  The Gachororo School in Juja northeast of Nairobi, now even has its own “arts” program to teach drama, music and dance, enhancing the children’s diction, poise, memory skills and self-esteem.  These programs are particularly helpful integrating children from all parts of Kenya with the refugee students from Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia who attend Gachororo School as well.

When faced with the challenge of “beautifying” a school with nothing but dirt fields in every direction, Evelyn decided to begin by planting some trees.  After securing the necessary wherewithal and putting in the hard work preparing the soil and planting, the team of volunteers went home, happy at the prospect of a prettier school grounds.  Returning after the weekend, Evelyn was dismayed to discover that goats had devoured the seedlings, leaving her with nothing to show for her efforts.  Undeterred, she resolved to remedy the situation by having new seedlings planted, but this time with a fence around them.  The following week she discovered that the fledgling trees were also eaten by goats; she sadly learned that some people in the area had cut the barbed wire designed to keep the goats out of the school in order to sell it.  Still determined to improve her school for the children no matter what, Evelyn perseveres.  Now she plans to build a brick wall to enclose some space for trees, and eventually, some grass for the school, but first she needs to find donors for her brick wall.  Although this may take some time – since there are so many other needs -, one day Evelyn’s indomitable spirit will prevail and the children at Gachororo School – or their children – may just enjoy a piece of shade underneath a tree outside their classroom, near the talking walls.

talking wall-countytalking wall 5

 A well-trained, highly motivated School Principal and graduate of the Strathmore University Teacher Enhancement Courses, Evelyn, brings creativity and critical thinking to the fore every day in her challenging surroundings.  Besides getting her 1500 children through primary school, she actively tries to find scholarships for her best students to go onto good high schools (where a 4-year education costs approximately $1500).  Now several of the teachers in her school also want to attend Teacher Enhancement Education Programs.  The future generations at GachororoSchool will surely be grateful!