|Cardinal Maurice Otunga High School|
In 2004 a group of parents and teachers (Fr. Valerio Valeri, Joakim Koech, Henry Kamande, Paolo Sanna, Veronica Ndungu, Esther Nkatha and Crispus Wawire) sharing the same Christian experience saw a need to propose education as an instrument aimed at developing the awareness of themselves and the students as human beings and of reality in its totality. This desire to communicate education in this way gave birth to the Cardinal Maurice Otunga School, Nairobi, Kenya which opened its doors to its first students in 2005.
This group of parents then formed the Cardinal Otunga Nairobi Trust which owns and runs the school. At the moment, the Trust is in the process of becoming registered as a perpetual succession trusteeship.
The vision of the school is threefold:
- A true education is centered on the student as a person. It is focused on developing the totality of the factors that constitute the person in front of all of reality.
- A real education occurs with a proposal to the youth based on knowledge and meaning of reality conveyed through the experience of the adult.
- The students are asked to involve their freedom by comparing what the adults have taught them with their own fundamental human needs.
At its inception, the school served 25 students, and employed two full time teachers as well as four part time teachers. From 2005-2007, the school functioned by leasing space in the St. Kizito building. In 2007, with the help of AVSI, a building was constructed in the Kahawa Sukari Estate. The school relocated to its new home in January of 2008.
The school is now in its fourth year of operation and continues to grow. Currently, there is one class for each of the four grade levels with a total population of 111 students and 13 teachers. By 2011 the school expects to be responsible for educating 200 students.
General Context- The Cardinal Maurice Otunga School is located 20 kilometers north of the city center of Nairobi. It is within the Thika District of the Central Province of Kenya. The district covers an area of 1,960.2sq km2. The population is estimated to be 654,000.
Educational Context- the district has an estimated population of 240,000 currently in the education system. Of this number, 165,000 children are in primary school while only 75,000 adolescents are enrolled in secondary schools. Secondary schools only serve 70% of the eligible student population and have an estimated dropout rate of 5.2%. The basic lack of schools and resources is the primary difficulty. Currently, there are 98 secondary schools compared to 342 primary schools. The problem of enrollment is made worse by the fact that the Kenyan government introduced free primary education in 2003. Many students are constrained by the expensive fees associated with secondary schooling, forcing them to dropout or not never start.
Socio-economic Context- The educational problem is compounded by the prevalence of poverty within the district. In fact, the poverty rate around Nairobi is nearly 50%. Another major contributing factor is the rise of single parent homes and families. Often these households take the form of a single mother with little to no income raising her children alone.
The feeder areas for the school include: Kahawa Sukari (a middle income area), Githurai, Mwihoko, Huruma and Juja (low income areas) and Huruma and Kariobangi (both classified as slums).
The areas which feed into the Cardinal Otunga School range from slums to middle income areas, with the majority of students coming from places characterized by low income families or impoverished areas. This situation is reflected in the school enrollment and can be clearly seen within the context of tuition payment. Out of 111 students, 50 students come from destitute families living in Mwihoko, Juja, and Huruma; they can attend the school thanks only to scholarships granted by AVSI; 31 live in Githurai and Mwihoko and have partial scholarships, the remaining 30, coming mainly from Kariobangi, are able to pay the total annual tuition.
Current Situation- The Cardinal Otunga School aspires to offer an education to these needy students, particularly those who scored well in the KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) and for those who would not have access to the educational system otherwise. This education is not just an opportunity to attend classes in quality facilities, but to enhance the possibility of students to succeed on the basis of all of their talents and desires. These aspirations typically go ignored or at best undeveloped. The Cardinal Otunga School cannot currently offer scholarships to all deserving students. Scholarship money only covers up to 65% of the tuition fee. Many students still cannot pay the remaining portion.
The school offers an 8-4-4 Curriculum. In this curriculum model, secondary school consists of four years of coursework. The school follows the syllabus recommended by the Ministry of Education of the Kenyan Government.
The school has four major areas of studies: languages, sciences, humanities and technical studies. Within these four subject areas, 11 courses are offered:
Activities for students
- Remedial Classes- additional academic assistance is provided for particular students who are weak in specific areas of study. This work is facilitated both inside and outside the context of normal lessons.
- Outings- the school organizes academic and non- academic outings, always with the aim of using them to educate
- Symposiums- in order to encourage students to follow subjects and topics that interest them, as well as to develop students’ critical capacity, the school organizes symposiums in various subjects such as; math, science, language etc.
- Clubs- there are a variety of clubs in the school, including a drama club, music club, science club, math club etc. These clubs participate in festivals and competitions with other schools.
Activities for Teachers
- Continued training- teachers continue to improve their skills by attending continuing education workshops. Workshop topics include teaching and evaluation methods, as well as discussions about the foundation and fundamental purpose of education.
Activities for Parents
- Open House- During this annual event the school opens its doors to parents and the public at large to give students the opportunity to present all they have accomplished in their various academic pursuits.
- PTS (Parents, Teachers and Students) meeting- Twice a year (once each term) there is a meeting for the parents, students, and teachers to discuss problems, goals and ways to continue encouraging academic success. These meetings help involve the parents in the educational proposal for each student.
- Parent Seminars- Parents are encouraged to attend seminars to discuss issues potentially affecting their children and to enhance their education both inside and outside of school.
- New Parent Orientation- The parents of each new class (form 1) are introduced to the school in a comprehensive way. The goal is to help them understand the aims, vision, mission and method that make the Cardinal Otunga School different.