In Africa a Little Help Can Go a Long Way
When Mercy Senteu first began school in her home town of Kajiado, Kenya, she had two strikes against her. She grew up poor–one of five children–to parents who were traders in the local market and struggled to make ends meet. And she grew up with poor hearing, possibly the result of an untreated illness.
Despite these hardships, Mercy was a top student who excelled in the lower school grades, but was facing the possibility of not attending high school because of the costs. Then Mercy met Rod Van Sciver, founder of Education for All Children (EFAC), a US-based nonprofit that provides scholarships to talented Kenyan students in need. EFAC is an Aid for Africa member.
“Although high school in Kenya is technically free, there are many fees, including for uniforms, books and living costs that would have prevented Mercy from attending school,” Van Sciver said. “Of the million students who finish primary school each year in Kenya, half drop out because they cannot afford to attend high school,” he said.
Mercy was accepted into the EFAC’s program in 2009, the organization’s first year of operation. In addition to receiving support to attend Vanessa Grant Girls School, the organization arranged for Mercy to meet with an audiologist who fitted her with hearing aids.
Thanks to her support, Mercy graduated from high school in 2013 at the top of her class. She qualified to study economics at the University of Nairobi, where she will complete her Bachelor of Economics degree in February 2018.
EFAC supports some 400 students throughout the country, according to Van Sciver. Once out of high school, students “give back” by undertaking a community service project prior to advancing to college or technical training. Mercy taught science and English at her primary school in Kajiado. While at the University she and other EFAC college students have been mentoring young people who need peer support in the Kibera slums outside of Nairobi.
“We discuss with them topics that will build their confidence, social skills, life skills, self-esteem,” said Mercy. “Academics are also an important part of our discussions with them, teaching them how to set realistic and achievable academic goals, how to balance their academics, social life and co-curricular activities.”
Mercy has also taken advantage of EFAC’s employment program, which helps find internships for students. Mercy interned at a cement company and hopes to work as an intern with the Bank of Kenya.
Thanks to Education for All Children Mercy has been able to use her talents and hard work to change the course of her life and is helping to do the same for others.