Photo By: 
Kevin Mann

Union Teachers Giving Back in Kenya

A Long Island teacher has spent the last 15 years helping educate orphans in Kenya and uniting two teachers unions

Kris LaGrange's picture
Apr 17, 2019

How do you teach students, when basic comforts that we take for granted are not guarenteed. For students in Kenya, especially in rural areas, this is a dail reality.

 Recently, Middle Island Teachers Association (MITA) Community Outreach Committee Member Kevin Mann went to Kenya to meet with the Kenya Women's Teachers' Association a local of the Kenyan National Union of Teachers (KNUT) to learn more about what it is like to teach in Kenya. Mann met with Dorothy Muthoni, National Chairman of the Kenya Women's Teachers' Association, Dr. Linda Patterson, Educational Consultant USA, and Better Opande, Secretary, Kenya Women's Teachers' Association. Muthoni and Opande are the two highest ranking female union officials in the country. While teachers in Kenya face many of the same challenges as educators in the United States, their jobs are made even tougher by local issues. While teachers in big cities like Nairobi are well paid, there is a teacher shortage in many of the smaller, more rural villages. Many of these communities are relatively poor and sometimes lack permanent access to clean water and/or power.

According to Mann, this causes a disparity in the long-term results of students. Students in Kenya are required to take a national, standardized test and the results show that students from the poorer areas of the country routinely score lower than their counterparts in more wealthy and urban areas. This also means that many of the students who end up in college and universities come from these wealthier communities. Mann found that in many villages only one or two students will ever make it into secondary education because the community will pool all of their money to fund their elite student's education.

Mann’s trip to Kenya was a part of a larger program to help provide the resources to change this cycle. He works with a non-profit called Hope Children’s Fund that provides food, clothing, healthcare, and education to some of the most vulnerable children and young adults in Africa. In 2005, Mann and the Hope Children’s Fund opened the Jerusha Mwiraria Hope Children’s Fund Children’s Home in Kenya, which takes care of orphaned children. One of their success stories is Risper Mwendwa, who Kevin and his wife Aida refer to as their “daughter.” Risper, who turned 24 on their recent visit, was orphaned and came to the home in 2005. The Manns have been mentoring her since 2006 and she recently graduated from Meru National Polytechnic with a degree in Business Relations. She now lives and works in the nation’s capital of Nairobi. Before The Children’s Home opened this would have been almost unheard of.

The program shows the power of unity that unions can bring to our world. A teacher from Middle Island NY is able to meet with and help students thousands of miles away because of the common bond of unionism. As part of his outreach to the KNUT, Mann brought with him some swag from his home union, the Middle Island Teachers Association (MITA). “They were astounded that teachers here were supporting them and even knew about them,” said Mann.

But when you look at the goal MITA and the goal of KNUT, that shouldn’t come as any surprise.  “Our focus remains on the provision of want, quality education to orphans and less fortunate and sociology economic empowerment,” said Opande. This is the focus of countless teachers and their unions from around the world. No matter if you are in New York, California, or Kenya, the goal of teachers remains the same to lift up the next generation and educate the future of our world.

If you want more information about the 100% volunteer-run Hope Children’s Fund and their work please click here.

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