KIWOCE (Kilimahewa Women’s and Orphan’s Center for Education) began as a group of mamas from a subsistence farming community, who came together to find a way for their children – unable to attend formal schools – to keep learning. These women and their children gathered each day under a tree on the property of their leader, (Mama) Grace Lyimo.
From under the tree, instruction moved into a small two-room turquoise building on the property where volunteers (local and foreign) taught the children English and math. In 2010, KIWOCE’s future changed radically when three of these volunteers joined forces to make it a focal point of their newly-created 501-c3 non-profit, EdPowerment.
In 2011-2012, EdPowerment refurbished the original building, upgraded the outdoor patio to serve as additional classroom space, and funded a more sanitary toilet space. More importantly, EdPowerment financed a successful Water Well, critical for the Center’s growth.
Since 2012, funding from another US based non-profit, Go Campaign, for two classroom buildings, and a $53,000 Rotary Global Grant have catapulted KIWOCE’s capacity. EdPowerment remains the engine behind its operations, staffing and educational schemes.
TODAY, KIWOCE operates as a full-service, community-based educational center. EdPowerment’s three key concentrations – core academics, employability skills and personal development – all have a place at this officially registered “Open School.” Within each of these areas, teachers and staff work to activate critical thinking, nurture positive behaviors and build the foundations that will lead students to secure a better future.
KIWOCE IS A MODEL OF WHAT EDUCATION CENTERED ON STUDENT CAPABILITIES AND NEEDS – ACADEMIC, PERSONAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL – LOOKS LIKE.
In truth, many post-primary adolescent students cannot continue in the Tanzanian secondary schools because of family and economic constraints. KIWOCE offers these youth another way to secure a recognized secondary school degree. Using diverse teaching strategies, hands-on and on-line educational tools, and individual attention, the Center works diligently to (1) compensate for the deficits that most students have coming from poor areas with marginalized schools and (2) reconstruct mindsets that are open and able to learn.
EdPowerment structured KIWOCE’s first computer program in 2013, providing an initial group of laptops, projector, softwareand instructional guides. In 2015, the program was taken to another level by a Rotary Global Grant that encompassed complete Internet infrastructure including solar energy panels and additional laptops and other equipment. Today the Center’s IT program compare favorably to any other in the area and instruction, led by Frank Fidas, is second to none. Some of our impact stories attest to the very real change that our program can bring about in students’ lives.
Fundamental to job seeking and self-employment in Tanzania is the ability to speak English and use the Internet. Through a range of computer and IT training options and English courses, KIWOCE targets under or unemployed young adults and workers who seek better prospects. The Center also works with groups who want to use its facilities and teachers to train employees.
The local component of the Rotary Global Grant awarded KIWOCE and supervised by EdPowerment’s Kerri Gilbert, was development of husbandry projects to produce some income while teaching best practices to neighboring subsistence farmers. Having tried several ventures, not all successfully, KIWOCE now includes a variety of crop production projects, including its greenhouse facility. Students participate in these activities to learn ways to choose appropriate crops, maximize small plot output, and seek and access local markets. Partnerships with organizations such as SEVIA (Seeds of Expertise for the Vegetable Sector of Africa) help KIWOCE bring needed advice and coaching to the community.
Standard 7 students complete primary school in early September, taking the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Exam) that determines their next step to “O”rdinary level secondary school. As they wait their results and placements for the following January, these students, generally 12 – 14 years, have nothing to do. KIWOCE invites students from the neighboring government schools to an approximately 10-week program that reinforces key English language and math concepts, teaches other academics subjects, introduces students for the first time to the computer, and offers life skills training and other activities that challenge them to reason and read independently. Activate, nurture and build are the corners of this vital program offered at a fee structure manageable by local families.
Begun in 2013, the KIWOCE library is the only library for locals. Books include both Kiswahili and English fiction and non-fiction offerings at many levels. Especially valuable for students from area government schools lacking books are the library’s sets of review books for Form 2 and 4 National Exams. Motivated students now have a place to prepare themselves for these exams on Saturday mornings or even in the late afternoons. Locals who want to read newspapers and educate themselves further on subjects, both practical and theoretical, now have a place to do so and young people can work on their English and gain exposure that reading provides.
Each summer KIWOCE invites local secondary school students on the last week of their semester break to enjoy hands-on learning and active participate in 6 daily sessions: English, a math/science combo, healthy living practices, art and/or music, physical exercise and computers. In 2018 the Camp reached its maximum enrollment of 150 teenagers, who for the first time experienced a “fun” way to learn through the use of internet resources, classroom and field equipment and group activities. It’s only one week, but it may light a spark, brighten an otherwise empty month-long break, and expose local teens to a place where they can always supplement their formal classes.
Saturdays now offer KIWOCE students and neighboring teens inspiration, practical skills and an introduction to things they have never encountered even within their own environment. Meeting together and separately, these Clubs demonstrate the emphasis that EdPowerment, through KIWOCE, places on employability skills and personal development. Sessions range from Female Health and Positive Thinking Seminars and local crafts demonstrations to knot-tying and cooking lessons. Local entrepreneurs and professionals visit the young people to motivate them, coach them on activities such as presenting to a group and make them aware of what we call “soft skills.”