Nairobi, Kenya is divided into a series of constituencies. One of the main administrative divisions of Nairobi is Kibera. About 250,000 slum-dwellers inhabit Kibera, and as such, Kibera is the biggest slum in Africa and one of the biggest in the world. The average size of a shack in this area is 12 feet x 12 feet, built with mud walls, a corrugated tin roof and a dirt or concrete floor. These shacks often house up to eight or more, with many sleeping on the floor. Only about 20% of Kibera has electricity, and one toilet (a hole in the ground) is shared by up to 50 shacks. The entire community spans about one mile of land. The unemployment rate in Kibera is 50%, making access to schooling critical for those who wish to break free of their impoverished lives.
Anne Wambui is making a difference in Kibera. She is the headmaster of Anwa Junior Academy. The 47-year old mother and lifelong resident of Kibera, is a true inspiration to her 424 students. Anne graduated from high school and worked as a nurse for a while, but having been raised by a single mother in the slums of Kibera, her dreams of attending college and becoming a teacher at first seemed out of reach. Anne married and gave birth to a daughter, but soon after, her husband left her. She had been unappreciated by her husband, but instead of wallowing in self-pity, she decided to become a beacon of hope for children by offering them access to the opportunities she never had.
Despite only having a high school education and no formal teaching background, Anne founded Anwa Junior Academy, a primary school in Kibera. Her goal was to inspire children to reach for their dreams. Anne hosted her first kindergarten class 13 years ago. Anwa Junior Academy has grown to house 424 primary students and eight teachers, all inside a handful of one-story mud and metal buildings situated on a dirt hill. Life is a daily struggle for those living in Kiberia, particularly for women. According to a 2014 report by the Africa Population and Health Research Center, these women often earn less money, are not as well educated, marry earlier and are victims of domestic violence, as compared to men.
Anne is an advocate for her female students and is aware of the unique challenges many of them face, simply for being female. She reminds the girls that they are beautiful and instills in them a sense of pride. She tells them “You can do anything.” Yet, Anne is painfully aware of the daily struggles faced by her students. Most, she claims, “have not taken breakfast”. Their minds are focused on whether or not they will have a meal in the evening. Many are orphans. She keeps the school fees at Anwa Junior Academy low: about $3 per student, per month, yet this amount is often too high for many students.
Anne does a lot of praying to God for the children who cannot afford to attend her school. School fees are constantly growing, as are staff wages and the cost of classroom rentals, but Anne claims that giving her students the opportunity to pursue their dreams, makes the struggle worthwhile. She has educated hundreds of students for over a decade, six of whom have graduated from a university and another four who are currently enrolled in one. These students are grateful and give Anne credit for their success and ability to receive a higher education. Anne Wambui is a true hero, bringing hope to one of the most impoverished regions of the world.