Rehema is Bridge International Academies’ 50,000th pupil, admitted January 2013
Rehema is a typical Bridge pupil, but quite an extraordinary little girl. Seven years old, Rehema lives in a small hut a 10-minute walk from the Bridge International Academy in Kiembeni, Bamburi, Mombasa. She lives with her grandmother Bahari (40s, exact age unknown), mother Mariam (23), aunt Fatima (30), brother Ali (2), and cousins Saumu (15), Asha (14), and Zeitun (13). They have no electricity or running water.
Bahari is the family’s primary earner. She makes and sells tembo, a homemade liquor distilled from fermented coconuts. On a good day, she sells 3 liters of the brew. Rehema’s mother Mariam tries to work when she can, but work is scarce, especially when she only has a fourth grade education. The family’s monthly income averages $84.50, of which $23.90 goes towards rent. Not surprisingly, the family must be very frugal with its spending. School fees have always been a problem.
“Many children attend government schools,” explains Brian, the Academy Manager at the Bridge International Academy in Kiembeni. “The fees are quite high – often adding up to $11.40 per month. What’s hard is that those fees trickle in small amounts for various things over the course of the month. Parents then think they’re getting a ‘free’ education, while they’re actually contributing money for homework, report books, desks, water, toilets, substitute teachers, uniforms, and more.”
Rehema herself attended public school in the past, though not regularly. There were months when her family was able to afford the fees or when she was granted a compassion sponsorship, however there were many months when she stayed home.
“Rehema is extremely bright,” says Cynthia, Rehema’s Class 1 teacher. “She’s very disciplined, always sitting tall, focusing on her work, and obeying her teacher.” “She’s very dedicated to her work,” Bahari adds. “She doesn’t like playing.”
Rehema offers a rare smile when she is praised. In addition to attending school, she fetches water, washes dishes, watches her brother, and runs miscellaneous errands for her family. She’s beyond grateful to Bridge International Academies for opening an academy in her village and offering “engaging classes and a kind, smart teacher” at a price point her family will be able to afford. Rehema says she learned more during her first three weeks at Bridge than she did during her entire previous year in government school.
When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, Rehema responds that she wants to be a lawyer. But she’s more specific than that. “I want to be the good kind – the kind that helps good people.”