Kenyan Grade 12 students Trizah Gatwiri (left) and Lucy Wacera (right) spent 5 weeks in Langley learning about Canadian culture. Miranda Fatur Black Press

Visiting Kenyan students return home for the holidays

Kenyan Grade 12 students Trizah Gatwiri and Lucy Wacera toured Langley schools for five weeks.

A group of young women from Kenya spent five weeks touring Langley schools with a common goal – to increase global student interaction, and exchange cultures with Langley students.

After arriving in Langley, Kenyan Grade 12 student Trizah Gatwiri said she’s noticed many positive changes in herself.

“The trip has helped me a lot because I’ve gained self-confidence, which I didn’t have before. I used to limit myself.”

She added some of the biggest differences between Kenya and Langley schools is that Langley schools allow for more “creativity.”

“The way they [Langley students] study, they have time to show off their creativity, which we don’t have in Kenya. They have great ideas, and the school days are short.”

Gatwiri, three other visiting students, and one teacher, are part of a North American organization called “PA-MOJA” that originated at the Langley Fine Arts school in 2005, and helps Kenyan students pay for school fees at Kenyan secondary schools.

The word “Pamoja” means “together” in Swahili, which is what the program aims to do.

As part of the PA-MOJA program, schools can host various fundraisers to sponsor Kenyan students to attend school in Kenya, and offer Kenyan students the chance to visit Canada.

Kenyan Grade 12 student Lucy Wacera gets her school fees paid for by the PA-MOJA program. She said without the scholarship, she would of had to drop-out of secondary school.

According to Wacera and Gatwiri, many young people in Kenya cannot afford their school fees, so they have to stay at home, find entry-level labour, or marry.

The girls were accompanied by Kenyan teacher Judy Nyambura, who said the purpose of the trip is to “open up [student] imaginations and see the possibilities out there.”

“Students come from quite disadvantaged backgrounds and at times they are unable to push themselves to accomplish what they can accomplish. That helps them when they go back home to bring new ideas for their school and show other students that there’s possibilities out there and they shouldn’t limit themselves,” she added.

Nyambura teaches at Sweetwaters Secondary School in the Kenyan village of Nanyuki.

The school has eight classrooms, and does not have drinking water on site.

When she returns to Nanyuki, Nyambura would like to incorporate more “exploration” into her classes, as she’s seen done at Langley schools.

“Back home, everything is structured and very academic.”

According to Nyambura, having both exploration and academic courses seems to work best because it allows students to work on their passions while getting an education.

“It helps them see the careers they want to take,” she added.

After Gatwiri graduates, she plans on going to university to become a nurse. Wacera would like to become an accountant.

While the students spent a lot of time in Langley schools, they also visited attractions throughout the Lower Mainland such as FlyOver Canada at Canada Place in Vancouver, a BC Lions football game, ice skating, and Whistler.

For more information on the PA-MOJA program, visit http://pa-moja.com/.

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Kenyan teacher Judy Nyambura said the trip allows students to see more “possibilities.” Miranda Fatur Black Press

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