Rehema is Bridge International Academies’ 50,000th pupil, admitted January 2013.
Rehema is an extraordinary 7-year-old girl who attends a Bridge school 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). Rehema’s family has 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 three liters of the brew. Rehema’s mother, Mariam, tries to work when she can, but work is scarce, especially when she finished school in fourth grade. The family’s monthly income averages $84.50, of which $23.90 goes towards rent. Not surprisingly, the family has to plan any spending very carefully. School fees have always been a problem.
“Many children attend government schools,” explains Brian, the Academy Manager at the Bridge school 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. People think they’re getting a ‘free’ education at government schools, while they’re actually contributing a lot of 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 lots of different errands for her family. She’s beyond grateful to Bridge for opening a school in her village and offering “engaging classes and a kind, smart teacher” at a low cost her family can afford. Rehema says she learned more during her first three weeks at Bridge than she did during her entire previous year at 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.”