Providing the best education for children in her community – Gladys’s Story
When Gladys Njeri moved to Nairobi’s Mukuru Kwa Njenga in 2002, she dreamt of being a successful businesswoman and worked to establish a wholesale shop.
While running her store, she would often notice children playing around her premises — even on school days. Gladys decided to follow up with the children’s parents and found that they lacked the school fees to pay for their children’s education.
“I value education. It is the key to a better life for our children,” Gladys says. She felt compelled to help, and in 2005, she founded Rehema Daycare Center for children between the ages of six months and three years. Gladys started off with twelve students, and in the last ten years, her school has seen immense success.
Parents were pleased with the education and attention their children received, and they asked Gladys to expand the school, so that their children could receive quality primary education as well. In 2011, Gladys and her son Joseph established Vision Day Care and Primary School.
Vision School charges students a fee of 500 shillings per term; however, Gladys never turns away pupils for their inability to pay. In addition, she has introduced installment plans for families unable to pay the full amount each day. Because of this flexibility, Vision School’s student population soon jumped to 200 students. Delighted by the response from the community, Gladys was nevertheless concerned about providing adequate facilities for her students – a difficult task, considering the majority of the students weren’t paying school fees regularly.
“Toilets were my main concern. Maggots were often around the pit latrines, which was especially hazardous for the young pupils. In addition, it was embarrassing to show visitors,” she says. This changed last year when Fresh Life’s sales associate Dennis Mogunde visited her school and introduced her to an alternative sanitation option: the Fresh Life Toilet.
“In the past, I had had a bad experience with potential partners, so I found it hard to believe Dennis,” recalls Gladys. Dennis visited her a second time accompanied by his colleague Patrick, who invited her to the WASH in Schools training-of-trainers (ToT) program.
“Our school has received excellent support from Sanergy. The installation of Fresh Life Toilets has improved my school’s reputation, and I’m happy knowing my students have access to clean, safe toilets throughout the day,” Gladys beams.
Vision School’s commitment to the WASH training has been impressive. In addition to Gladys, two other teachers, Margaret Wanjiku and Ruth Mwende, have completed the training. Gladys says this makes it easy to teach the students proper hygiene.
Through the initial user education module that accompanies Fresh Life Toilet installation, Gladys, her fellow teachers, and their pupils learned about proper use and maintenance of the new toilet. Gladys cited the instruction on cleaning water storage tanks and consistent hand washing as the most valuable lessons from her participation in the WASH in Schools ToT program. She and her fellow teachers have passed this learning on to their students through the fun, engaging educational activities they learned.
To instill better hygiene practices in the students, teacher Ruth Mwende engaged Class 7 students in an interclass debate: ‘Fresh Life Toilets versus pit latrines’. Sanergy WASH teammate Patrick was thrilled when he attended the debate session. “Students talked about the hand washing culture that is quickly gaining popularity in their school. Cleanliness, absence of odor, and a mirror in the toilets topped the reasons for their love of the Fresh Life Toilets,” Patrick noted.
Gladys also has a lot to smile about: enrolment rates have consistently been rising. Since the Fresh Life Toilets were installed last year, 82 additional students have enrolled in her school. Gladys has realized her dream of becoming a businesswoman in a way she never anticipated, and now she derives great joy from seeing children in school, as she knows they are on the path toward a bright future.