The community formed Gatoto in 1994 because they understood that their children would not receive education without their action. However, as could be expected, the lack of funds and experience meant that the academic and co-curricular standards were fairly low. Today, the school has changed dramatically. Gatoto competes alongside well-funded private and public schools in many areas, from standardized test scores to sports competitions.
Even with its very limited resources, Gatoto manages to score extremely well in standardized tests. In 1994, Gatoto scored dead last in its Division in academic results. Today, the school is ranked in the top 10 of community schools in Nairobi by academic results. Furthermore, the amount of children sitting the Kenya Certificate Of Primary Education (KCPE) has steadily increased since the school began. In 2011, 91 students sat the KCPE. This compares with ~50 candidates each year in the last decade.
Additionally, the school has made significant advances in the retention of students. Three significant reasons for the vast improvement in academic results are the food program, improvements in the qualifications of the teachers and donations of basic school text books.
The community of Mukuru kwa Rueben started Gatoto because they knew that their children would not receive an education if they did not act. While the community knew that something needed to be done, they did not have the funds or experience to provide the quality of education they wanted. In 1994, 5 untrained teachers taught 370 students in one four-roomed wooden building. The school finished dead last in the division academically and did not provide facilities for co-curricular activities.
However, after hard work and with help from outside sources, the school has grown significantly. Over the years, multiple new classrooms, a library, kitchen, an office block and toilets have been built. The school now has 24 teachers and 14 support staff.
Furthermore, the quality of academic and co-curricular opportunities has increased. The students have smaller class sizes with more-qualified teachers, as well as a number of choices of co-curricular activities, from sports to drama.
GIDP has been in constant touch with the Ministry of Education on the issue of absorbing Gatoto’s teachers into the Teachers Service Commission but is yet to succeed. Our position on absorption of the teachers who have shown commitment and been faithful to the children of Mukuru Kwa Reuben for so long is a just reward to the community in the sense that continuity will be guaranteed, the programmes GIDP runs within the school outside of primary education will continue and the children will continue to be successful.
Long-term financial sustainability remains a key challenge for GIDP and the school. We have achieved considerable success in securing capital funding and donations-in-kind. However, core running costs remain the top priority and are the most difficult monies to raise. GIDP is currently working to increase its fundraising capability, to broaden its funding base and to secure longer-term commitments of support. The long-term goal is that we are not dependant on one person or organisation for survival.
For details on how you can support Gatoto, click Support.
In the developing world, women are often not given the same opportunities as men, both in education and the job market. This is not the case at Gatoto. Girls account for 50% of the students and they attend the same classes as the boys. Furthermore, girls generally hold a representative number of the top academic places in the school. They also participate in as many sporting and co-curricular activities as the boys.
The majority of the teachers are women. The Director Betty Nyagoha, who has been a major reason for Gatoto's survival and success, provides a strong, positive female role model. Gatoto believes that gender equality in the school creates opportunities for women, as well as teaching children to treat everyone with respect, regardless of gender.