Meet Jane Mugweru, Founder and School Director at Riruta Jubilee Academy
As we celebrate women in March, we’re highlighting amazing women who are a driving change in education!
We spent time with Jane Mugweru, learning more about her journey and her passion to empower children in the community through education. Jane is the Director at Riruta Jubilee Academy and she is part of the cohort that is currently undertaking our Leadership Institute Training. (Learn more) From my conversation with Jane, it is evident that she is very reflective, passionate, wise and authentic. She is soft spoken and tells her story expressively, painting the picture of when she started and her plans for the school. Here’s the interview:
Why did you decide to start a school?
I have a passion for children. I was initially a Secretary and I changed my profession from that. I went and did Montessori training and then I started teaching. After working for two years, I decided to start my own school. When I started the school, I felt that we needed to educate the whole person. Montessori takes care of everything, the whole person, basic training, how to do various tasks, training the child to be independent, responsible and respectful. My school motto was; – Educating the whole person. I really enjoyed taking care of the children.
How long have you been running the school?
I started a long time ago, maybe you were not yet born! We started in 1989, so in 2019 we will be 30 years old. For the longest time, I mainly focused on Pre-School. We started with Nursery and Pre-unit classes. I believe that when you give a child a strong foundation in the formative years, you can mold a child to be the person you want them to become in future. My heart has always been in pre-school, though due to pressure from parents, I went on to add the primary section!
Tell us your experience when you first began the school?
For the longest time, I was the only one managing the school. I was the teacher, the cook and the cleaner. I wanted to do things the right way. So, at the beginning, I went to the City Council of Nairobi to get the requirements of starting the school. The requirements were not easy, and it took me a long time to get the change of user, the licenses, the public health certificate.
Discipline plan: before working with Dignitas and after Dignitas training
Students during the assembly
Riruta Jubilee: Kindergarten section
I finally managed to complete all the requirements and started with only two children. The children were twins and they were coming from a difficult background. I would go to my house and get food; give them lunch and make them a cup of tea. I did this for two years. I did not think about earning money at that time. I always remember that without these two children, I would never have started my school, so I always thank God for them.
Starting was not easy, by the end of the first year, I had six children. The numbers continued to improve in the second year. Any undertaking is not easy to start and build.
Favorite moments as a teacher?
I am happy when I see disciplined children. I also like it when I can follow on my students after they leave. I have attended so many weddings and graduations because the students still remember where they came from. Actually, I attended a wedding last year of a girl we taught here when she joined in Baby Class. She came here when she was only three years old and she has never forgotten us. She did a Civil Engineering course and graduated but she kept telling her mother that she wanted to become a teacher like me. So, she changed her career and did an early childhood course last year. I am planning to meet with her soon and talk about her decision to switch careers since I am very curious to know more.
How long have your teachers been at the school?
I thank God for the teachers we have. Our Head teacher has been here for ten years and other teachers have been here even longer, like Tr. Catherine has been here for fifteen years. I greatly appreciate the people I work with. As you know with HR, it’s the relationships that you build with your team that matter in the end. We want teachers to come to our school and fit in and make sure that they all have a responsibility so that we can make progress together.
What are some of the strengths in your team members?
It took me a while before I could identify someone who I could trust and delegate assignments to. Now, when you see me delegating and doing it right, it’s because we have reached that place of confidence. I learned that you need to pick a person and make sure they understand your vision and they own it. Nicholas (Head teacher) has owned responsibilities in the school, and he is running with the vision excellently.
What are some of the sacrifices you have made in your journey so far?
From where we are as a school, we don’t send children away because of school fees. We have children who do not pay a single coin for their fees. But looking at where they are coming from, you realize that if you send them home, they may never be able to go back to school. Here, they will have a cup of porridge at break time and a meal at lunch. For some students, these meals are the only ones they will survive on for the day. If I was to think of my school as a business, I would give up! I feel proud when we are grounding children in the word of God, teaching them values and educating them. We feel that we are doing something to impact the community and that keeps us going.
We are catering for marginalized students, so sometimes we want to offer quality education, but we have limited resources. Other times, we struggle to pay our teachers, but we keep moving with what we have. We are optimistic that we will succeed at the end of all this.
What initiatives do you hope to start in the future?
I want to continuously follow up on all the children even after they leave Riruta Jubilee. I would want to have a network that goes on beyond the school. Occasionally we have invited alumni to come and talk to our students to motivate them. It would be good to have an alumni group.
What is your dream for your students?
We want children to come out of Riruta Jubilee and stand out and be different. We want them to succeed and do great things in their lives. We get a lot of good feedback from the parents as they are impressed by the level of discipline from the students. I see some of the core values that we teach such as honesty, discipline, love, diligence, hard work and respect manifest in the students’ behavior.
Jane is one of many educators who are striving to make a difference in the education space. Dignitas is proud to be working with Jane to improve her school and transform opportunities for the next generation. As this year’s theme for International Women’s Day suggests, we will continue to #PressforProgress!
We would like to hear from you too! Share with us stories of women you are celebrating.
Contributor: Gloria Omuya – Senior Communication & Operations Officer