While on a tour in Masai Mara Game Reserve ten years ago, Janet Martin, an American tourist, did not know she would forge a permanent relationship with the neighbouring community.
During her trips, she came face-to-face with the harsh reality facing residents of Kawai area in Narok County.
Pupils at Emurutoto Primary School reported at 9am. This, she later came to realise was to avoid risk of encountering wild animals, which were still wandering around early in the morning.
Mama Janet, as she is fondly known among locals, was touched by the plight of the pupils, whom she felt could not be able to catch up with their colleagues in other safer areas.
“When I travelled back to America at the end of my holiday ten years ago, I felt the burden to change the pupils’ lives for the best as most of them would trek up to 20km to school and go without meals,’’ she explained.
She founded Angels In Africa, a non-profit organisation seeking to provide essential needs to the community. Through support from friends, she gave the Naretisho Women Group in Poultry and Bee keeping a basic means to survive and help improve their livelihoods.
She has injected millions of shillings and built an ultra-modern classroom at the school.
“We have been able to put up a 200-capacity dormitories for boys and girls to a tune of Sh60 million.
This has enabled pupils from Class Four to Eight stay in school full-time and given them ample time to concentrate on their studies which has really improved their performance in national examination,’’ she said.
The organisation has also constructed a dining hall, with a modern kitchen with electric stoves and fridges.
The School Management Committee Chairman Julius Mokita says Mama Janet is highly regarded in the community where she is considered ‘a mother to all our children because of her benevolence’. She is currently sponsoring some 100 students.
The head teacher, Mr Simon Masake, attributed their sterling performance in the 2015 KCPE to the conducive learning environment. They emerged top in Trans Mara West Sub-County.
The institution has erected an electric fence to keep off wild animals from entering the school compound and disrupt learning activities. Teen pregnancies have significantly dropped since pupils are confined in the school compound.
“School population has also improved from 400 to 700 pupils in the last few years. The boys and girls have ample time to concentrate on their studies long enough unlike before when boys would be tasked with herding livestock while girls would be weighed down with household chores thus affecting their performance,’’ said Masake.
The School Parents Teachers Association Chairman, John Morinte, who is a former pupil of the school, narrated that during his time, they would attend school either twice or thrice in a week, due to the long distances and endure hunger pangs.
The pupils also have a balanced diet and are provided with school uniforms, shoes and books. Jackson Kimanjoi, a Third Year student at Kenyatta University, is among the fully sponsored students. He says they will forever remain grateful to Mama Janet for enabling them to be at par with other pupils in developed areas. “We must work hard to ensure that we succeed and continue with her legacy. May God bless her abundantly,” he said.