“I call it historic!” exclaimed Janet Helms, Co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Kenyan Christian Education Partnership (KCEP). She was reporting the results of the Kenyan Primary exams held in the fall of 2017. For the first time, eighth-year students from Tumaini Academy were sitting for exams.
The school was founded eight years ago with just one grade level. Now, those fi rst students were sitting for exams and hoping to score high enough marks in order to be accepted into secondary school.
When the results of the exams were released, Tumaini Academy was the best school in the district, ahead of 19 other schools. In fact, the top seven students from the district in 2017 were all Tumaini students. One student, Boro Hakano, who earned the highest marks of all students in the district, is experiencing his dream to become a doctor draw closer to reality.
Tumaini Academy is located in Sololo, in Marsabit District, close to the Ethiopian border where more children are engaged in child labor than are attending primary school. So, how did such a remote area produce such stellar students?
In 2008, (now Bishop of Marsabit) Qampicha Daniel Wario from northern Kenya was attending Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania and met fellow seminarian Janet Helms. He shared with her the plight of the Christians in northern Kenya. While Christians are a majority in Kenya overall, in this Northern region of the country, they remain the minority. Due to the nomadic lifestyle, chronic poverty, and reliance on an arid landscape prone to drought, families have a difficult time surviving, let alone providing quality education for their children.
After much discernment, Qampicha and Helms determined that the best way to help was to build a Christian primary school. At the time, there were no Christian schools in the region. KCEP was founded to empower the Diocese of Marsabit to build and operate the school.
Qampicha believes that Sololo children can be strong students, despite coming from families of nomadic herdsmen. The daily difficulties they face make them strong and disciplined. Qampicha knows that with God as their helper, these children are driven to accomplish great things. Tumaini Academy opened in December 2010 to give these children the opportunity to become so much more than what was expected for them.
Since then, the school has grown from a plot of land to a campus of eight classrooms. There are two large water tanks (a necessity in this region) and a newly completed administration building, funded by The Anglican Relief and Development Fund (ARDF). There are also staff offices, a library, and a kitchen. The diocese operates five preschools in three locations, offering opportunities for younger children. Currently, there are more than 280 students on the main campus and 200 children in the preschools.
In Northern Kenya, ethnic and religious tensions are high. Even so, Tumaini Academy’s reputation for excellence means that parents of all religions – Christian, Muslim, and traditional African religions – desire to enroll their children. Consequently, the school has the opportunity to share Christian values with the entire community. Indeed, over the past seven years, the school has become an educational, spiritual, and economic center of the community. “Even though sixty percent of Tumaini students come from Muslim homes, they all experience the love of Jesus,” says Helms.
“Tumaini” means “hope” in Kiswahili, the unifying language of Kenya. “We spread the Gospel through education and the meeting of physical needs,” Bishop Qampicha says. This is the mission of his diocese in a nutshell, although they also spread the Gospel through worship and Bible studies.
Students graduate after completing their eighth year, or primary education. What happens now for the graduating children who did so well on the national exam? All seven of them have been accepted into regional Christian High Schools and will continue their education, thanks to scholarships provided by KCEP donors. God is preparing them for something so much greater.
The Diocese of Marsabit’s “tumaini” is to build a high school in order to expand opportunities for secondary education. They have secured land and have funds to start building the first classroom. The goal is to continue the Tumaini tradition by providing excellent Christian education for secondary students in Sololo.
Arise and Shine (Isaiah 60:1) is the motto of Tumaini Academy. KCEP is partnering with ARDF in order to bring this dream to fruition so that more children will Arise and Shine in Northern Kenya. With God’s help, Tumaini Academy students are living out this motto.
Christine Jones is the Director of Mobilization for the Anglican Relief and Development Fund.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” - Isaiah 60:1