Newest WISER Graduates Set the Standard for Students Nationwide
WISER's sixth graduating class is one of note. It is impressive enough that these students represent the sixth WISER class to achieve a 100% graduation rate in a region where only 7% of girls finish secondary school. But these alumni took their achievements to even greater heights - 100% of this class qualified for tertiary education.
That means that every single one of the WISER girls celebrating her graduation in 2019 scored highly enough on her national exams to continue on to college or university. This is despite the fact that only 43% of all Kenyan students across the country this year accomplished the same feat. On top of this, 69% of WISER graduates this year earned government scholarships to attend university. That makes WISER girls more than five times more likely to earn university scholarships than their peers across Kenya.
Despite WISER's location in one of the most remote parts of Kenya, our students are setting the standard for achievement nationwide. WISER graduates are powerful problem-solvers with high levels of agency and ability to lead their communities. Perhaps the Chair of the Teacher Services Commission for Migori County said it best when she addressed the school at the graduation ceremony: “I love this school. And I love this school for one reason: it is producing and empowering women of substance."
WISER Clean Water System Triples in Size
After more than a year in development, WISER's clean water system now serves more than 15,000 people in Muhuru Bay - an historic increase from the 5,000 people in our previous catchment area.
Thanks to our partners at USAID, the Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Project, and the Muhuru Bay Community Water Board, WISER's campus now houses and cleans enough water to distribute to 14 community water kiosks and 21 schools, businesses, and homes in Muhuru Bay. In a region where water-borne diseases take a heavy toll on the lives of everyone from experienced fishermen to bathing children, WISER is working to make safe water accessible to thousands.
In addition to the system's obvious health benefits, the project is also a testament to WISER's sustainability efforts in Muhuru Bay. The pumps that allow water to flow onto WISER campus for treatment and out into the community are entirely solar-powered, making WISER's water system the first water accessibility project in the region to run on clean energy.
Solar Energy and Hands-On Learning at WISER and in Muhuru Bay
In 2018, WISER partnered with We Share Solar to bring clean, reliable energy to WISER’s campus and to the campuses of eight other schools in Muhuru Bay. To build on this work in 2019, we returned to our partnership to install more solar power units throughout the community and to train both WISER girls and local teachers to construct and deconstruct solar units themselves. The result? A brand new form of hands-on STEM learning based on renewable energy has been introduced in all Muhuru Bay secondary schools.
In these solar training sessions, students cover everything from the mechanics of electrical systems to the far-reaching implications of global energy access. Most importantly, these sessions are driven by hands-on interactions with a set of "solar suitcases" - the exact same type of solar power units that light WISER's classrooms. This allows students to explore themes relevant to their studies, such as electromagnetic principles and design-thinking, using more experiential methods that fall far outside of traditional textbooks.
For WISER, solar power and girl power go hand-in-hand. In an area where many girls are not able to finish secondary school, and women entering STEM fields is still stigmatized, WISER girls put on their goggles, rolled up their sleeves, and became the first students in rural Kenya to participate in this training provided by We Share Solar.
A WISER Girl Becomes a WISER Teacher
This year, WISER is experiencing another exciting “first” by welcoming one of our former students back to campus as a teacher. Everline, an alum from WISER’s first graduating class in 2013 proudly joined the WISER staff this year as an English teacher.
“This was my profession right from childhood; to be a role model to others," says Everline. "I knew I should not waste the knowledge that was imparted to me, I should pass it along to others.”
Standing in her classroom, Everline shared with us the fond memories she still has from her time as a WISER student. “The teachers kept mentoring us, saying ‘You’re the next teachers, the next lawyers, the next doctors.’ One couldn't imagine in 2013 how quickly it would go.” With this, Everline gestured across her classroom “…and then here you are, teaching first year girls.”
Current WISER students appreciate Everline's understanding of what it means to be a WISER girl. “I have a different relationship with the students," says Everline. "Aside from teaching them, they want to hear from me (outside of the classroom)....It is really an achievement, seeing one of their own come back. It is something valuable for everyone at WISER.”
WISER Partners from Around the World Join Us In Muhuru Bay
2019 has been a special year for visits to the WISER campus. Our team has been happy to welcome several of the longest-running partners in our organization's history to Muhuru Bay including Johnson & Johnson, The American School in Switzerland, and Dwight School in New York City.
Our friends from Johnson & Johnson took time out of their busy lives to lead WISER workshops on every topic under the sun: from mosquito biology to marketing to neuroscience to watercolor painting and more. The curricula delivered by J&J volunteers was specially created to both enrich girls’ learning experiences and to emphasize skills that have been determined by WISER to be critical for life after secondary school. The hands-on sessions targeted communications skills, introspective evaluations on leadership style and personality, and critical applications of STEM skills that are relevant to the Muhuru Bay community. Skills like these will be invaluable to students as they take the next steps toward their bright futures.
Students at The American School in Switzerland (TASIS) and Dwight School (NYC) also helped WISER with a number of skills-building sessions during their respective visits. While learning about Muhuru Bay and WISER's place in it, visiting students were able to collaborate with WISER girls on projects in the WISER computer lab, library, and classrooms. By fostering these international peer-to-peer interactions, WISER girls take part in a rewarding cultural exchange that strengthens interpersonal communication and encourages WISER students to lead - serving as the local experts and teachers for their visiting guests.
While our international campus visitors do change year-to-year, we are proud to say that the WISER team is already in the planning stages for visits that will welcome a number of the same faces from 2019 to join us for more in 2020.