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How love for art, environment drew student’s route to fame

By Phares Mutembei | May 29th 2013

By Phares Mutembei

Nairobi, Kenya: Rose Koech, a Form Five student at Nairobi’s St Elizabeth Academy, is a darling of her schoolmates and teachers. Her excellent academic performance aside, she is starring in many co-curricular activities, showcasing her artistic streak in various competitions —and winning them!

Her environmental artworks are winning numerous accolades. Rose has been awarded by environmental conservation organisations for her conservation efforts and artwork.

At 18, she has appeared on the cover of the African Habitat Journal of the School of The Built Environment, University of Nairobi. She has become a regular winner in environmental protection essay and art competitions, winning admiration and trophies in the process.

Drawing talent

“I am a lover of the environment and my wish is for us to do everything within our power to protect our wildlife, at whatever cost. It is true I have won in all conservation competitions I have participated, but winning is not the reason I participate. I always want to use my drawing and painting talents to present my ideas,” says Rose.

To improve her skills, Rose enrolled for a course at the School of the Arts and Design at the University of Nairobi.

Her teacher, J S Mayienga, says, “She has a natural talent. She has great aptitude and has a great future in her creative mission and vision.”

Rose has just been awarded by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW Giraffe Centre) after her entry won in the 2013 National Environmental Competition. Primary and high school students from across the country participated in the competition, whose theme was ‘Green Economy our Future’.

“I used my drawing talent to illustrate how we can harness available resources to achieve sustainable growth, without harming the environment. My artwork demonstrated how we can tap solar energy, wind power and bio-fuels in our production activities. The sun is readily available, meaning it’s a source of energy at our disposal till the end of time! It does not pollute our environment, and it is free. There is no need for us to use non-renewable resources that only contaminate our environment and expose us to many dangers,” opines Rose.

‘Pride of Kenya’

Her entry clinched first position in the high school category.

“It was my mother who drew my attention to the competition and encouraged me to submit an entry. Other competitors chose to write essays but I chose to express my idea through a drawing. I was very surprised when I got news that I had won!” she says.

The multi-talented Rose was also awarded by the Born Free Foundation and Kenya Data Networks when her entry was adjudged the best in Kenya, during a project dubbed ‘Pride of Kenya’ to sensitise the public on the decline in lion population.

“I did artwork on the lion. I love painting the lion — my favourite animal. Unfortunately, Kenya is losing many of them due to State agencies laxity to adequately protect them. Lions are our pride, so you can imagine our loss if we do not take good care of the remaining ones,” a serious-looking Rose says.

For her efforts in submitting her case for the lions of Kenya, KDN awarded her a laptop and a treat for five of her family members. “I was also honoured to have lunch with Dr Julius Kipngetich, the former director of Kenya Wildlife Service. It was a memorable day for us!”

To put an icing on the cake, Rose appeared in the KDN calendar for the year 2010 for her commendable conservation promotion artwork.

Last year, together with her younger sister Suzanne Chepkirui, they won a drugs abuse awareness competition organised by Childline Kenya.

Gifted children

“We did drawings to show how drug abuse has ruined young people’s lives.”

Last year the Ministry of Gender published their works in booklets to be distributed to schools and public to educate on effects of drugs abuse.

Her mother, Beatrice Koech, a lecturer at UoN’s College of Architecture and Engineering, says, “We noticed her talent in art at an early age and we encourage and supported her because we want her to achieve her full potential.”

Rose’s father, Maj Alex Koech, says all parents should not only commit to help children who are gifted in academic subjects but also those who have abilities in creative and performing arts, sport, design and others.

He says parents should contact their children’s school to find out what activities there are and how the children can get involved with activities and resources which help to stretch and challenge gifted and talented students.

Future plans

“She is a keen learner. She handles her school and her personal timetables with commendable discipline to ensure her grades don’t suffer. We are proud of her,” says Koech, a KWS pilot.

“I might do both interior and graphic design at the university. I am also becoming very interested in piloting,” says Rose, adding that in the meantime, she will do her bit in protecting the environment.

“I have been planting trees since I was very young and I am still doing it. At our rural farm and home in Kericho, we have planted more than a thousand trees,” she Rose, who has also been awarded the Total Eco-Challenge certificate and badge by Total Kenya for promoting conservation of trees.

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