Dignitas was founded from a desire to respond to this very call!  When Dignitas founders, Tiffany and Bobby, began to explore the needs, and the strengths present in Mathare, one of Nairobi’s largest informal settlements, it was with a vision to ensure equitable, quality provision of education for all. Equity and inclusion are at the heart of our vision and mission.

Families living in Nairobi’s informal settlements are often excluded.  Excluded by wider society.  Excluded from government healthcare provision.  Excluded from government education provision.  Excluded from basic security, protection and justice.  Sometimes, not even counted, or accounted for, in a meaningful way, which adds layers of complexity to their exclusion.  Add to that, for some, more intensified exclusion as a result of gender, or disability, and the alienation may seem insurmountable.

Dignitas seeks to address equity and inclusion in the education sector by working to ensure our partner schools becomes vibrant places for ALL children to thrive and succeed.

The quality of education that a child receives should never be determined by their economic status, or by where they live, or by the employment status of their parents.  A quality education is the right of every child.

Sadly, on a regular basis, we witness circumstances in which children are forced to settle for less because of where they live, or because of their economic and social status.  Dignitas seeks to address this by ensuring that learning in a Community School in an urban informal settlement is not equal to ‘settling for less’.  Dignitas works to equip and empower educators in these communities so that children receive the excellent education they deserve.

We should not lower our expectations because of where our partner schools are.  We should not settle for less because of the community-wide poverty.  ‘Any school is better than no school’ should never be our mantra!

How we design our programs, which communities we target for outreach, and the management of resources all need to be driven by our core desire to see EVERY child thrive.  In a society that so often offers privilege to those of a ‘higher’ economic and social standing, we must reverse the trend.  In a society that perpetually excludes the already excluded, we must seek to generously bring dignity and hope.  Dignity through education.

I want to share two stories of inclusion that demonstrate the importance of building the capacity of a community, and indeed a society, to include, to offer space, and in so doing, to offer hope.

Angaza Buena Vista School -Kangemi

Inspired by Dignitas training to create space for all children to learn, Teacher Esther, Director of Angaza Buena Vista decided to enroll a 12-year-old boy with autism to her school. Other schools in the area had refused to enroll him. The other schools typically subjected him to assessments during the enrolment interviews, and because he could not write or read, he failed.

The boy joined Angaza Buena Vista in 2018, and Teacher Esther took him for assessment. From the assessment, she was advised on how best to support him to learn and engage him at school.  Teacher Esther was sure to share this with the rest of the teachers and support staff members, so that they also knew how best to support his learning.  The teachers now include him in the learning activities and they have seen real progress!  The boy can now read sounds, can hold a pencil and write, and even does his homework assignments alone.  His mum says he is happy to be included at school!

Luminous Junior School- Satellite

Teacher Rahab teaches Grade 3.  She has a student in her class who she previously described as ‘not interested in learning’. The student never used to participate during the lessons, had poor academic performance, and rarely completed assignments.

During one of her Dignitas coaching conversation, Teacher Rahab confessed that she avoided engaging and supporting the girl during lessons because it would slow down the entire class.

After a Dignitas professional development workshop on Special Needs and Differentiating Instruction, Teacher Rahab gained understanding on different learning abilities, and how to prepare tasks that would cater to different learners.

With Teacher Rahab’s new approach, the girl’s academic performance is improving, she participates in class and is becoming more confident. Teacher Rahab is now more patient with her, and thinks about her while planning for her lessons.

Contributor: Deborah Kimathi – Executive Director