A bubbly student of Standard 6 outside of Nairobi, Leah loves to read storybooks in her spare time, and to talk about big plans for the future.
Things were very different for Leah before the Summer of 2019. Unable to read, and behind in most subjects at school, she struggled with low self-esteem and rarely spoke up in class.
That Summer, Leah’s teachers placed her in an accelerated learning program supported by the Discovery Project, in partnership with the UK Government's Girls' Education Challenge initiative. The program’s remedial classes for upper primary students are especially designed to teach basic literacy and numeracy skills to children who have fallen significantly behind grade level.
Since participating in the program, Leah is seldom seen without a book in her hands. Her reading comprehension, writing, speaking and class participation scores have all improved, and she has developed a keen interest in her studies. But the most dramatic difference is in her confidence. She is among the first to answer questions in class, and is often chosen by teachers to lead group work.
Leah also has a new goal now, and wants to be a general physician when she grows up so she can help her low-income community, which lacks adequate medical facilities.
“When I was a baby, I fell sick and my mother didn’t know what to do,” she says. “Our neighbor rushed me to the hospital, but the doctor said he could not treat me unless money was paid.”
Luckily Leah’s father, who digs boreholes in the Nairobi area for a living, was able to arrange for the payment in time. But had he not, she could have died like many other children have before due to poor medical facilities.
“I want to be a doctor so that I can help those who cannot afford to pay,” she says.
At school Leah loves learning more about other countries in the world. She also enjoys her girls’ club where she watches the new My Better World series – a part-animated TV show produced by Impact(Ed) and based on the life skills curriculum by CAMFED. A recent episode of the show on the importance of staying in school made Leah even more committed to school.
“In our neighborhood, a number of boys and girls don’t go to school,” she notes. “And so, they loiter around or take drugs. Some girls even have babies.”
The risks faced by children, particularly girls, living in poverty are substantial. Girls across the world are 1.5 times more likely than boys to be excluded from primary school (UNESCO UIS), and fewer girls than boys are able to transition to secondary schools due to barriers such as early marriage and domestic responsibilities. For Leah, these challenges underscore the importance of staying on her goal.
“I want to stay in school so that I learn and keep away from bad habits, and become a doctor,” she vows.