NAME: Lilian Achieng Obora
ROLE: Founder & Head Teacher
SCHOOL: Vigil School

In honor of World Teacher’s Day this past month, we profile Lilian Achieng Obora!

Lilian never planned to be a teacher. She thought she would be a nurse. Her brother paid her school fees and convinced her to become a teacher. She completed her training at Shilida Teachers Training College in Nairobi. After five years, realizing her strength as a teacher, Lilian reflected on how she could extend her skills to impact as many children as she could. She thought of the children in the informal settlements of Kawangware, and after deep thought resigned her position to start her own school. She started Vigil School with two children in 2006. Once the lowest-ranked school in the area, Vigil is now in eighth place with 288 students and growing. Read on for A Day in the Life of Lilian!

4:30am: I wake up early every day to pray for 30 minutes.

5:00am: I start preparing my 3 children – ages 5, 12, 16 –for school. I make them breakfast and help the smallest get dressed.

6:30am: After getting my children to school, I also go to school by matatu (small public bus). It usually takes about 15 minutes. Driving through the informal settlements, I’m reminded of my primary and secondary level schooling in Turkana County, a place with lots of challenges. I can recall going to school without food, with no clean drinking water. This has made me a strong teacher today. I understand where my students are coming from.

8am: Every morning I get a hug from my learners as they walk in the classroom. This makes me happy and keeps the fire burning. I always feel young at heart when I work with the children, especially when we are colouring, singing, dancing, and drawing.


9am: We light our candles as it is dark and we don’t have electricity. Health is one of the co-values of Vigil School, even though the environment is not very conducive. We have no proper drainage system, creating stagnant water. And yet Vigil School is a place where learners are nurtured holistically, talents are identified and promoted. I was a happy teacher last year when we did our national exams for the first time and passed well.

This year is different for me as I take on mostly administrative work and teach two classes per week. Last year, I taught a class every day.

10am: Here comes a learner who has overcome many challenges. This pupil would often soil and urinate on herself for three years. I volunteered to wash her every time this would happen. I started having her go to the toilet more frequently. I appreciated her all the time. Slowly we built a close relationship. I was surprised to see her changing drastically both academically and behaviorally. During Parents Day, her parents bought for me a new kitenge [dress] as a sign of appreciation. Seeing my learners prosper gives me great joy.

12pm: During lunch I eat with my staff. Often I also meet with Paul, my co-leader. Three times a week the staff also meet to sing and pray in the staff room. Once a week I observe Teacher Paul (read more about Teacher Paul, who just graduated from the Dignitas Leadership Institute!) in his classroom and facilitate a coaching conversation where I provide feedback and he sets goals for his future classes.

3pm: The Ministry of Health is here again. They come occasionally to deworm learners. I once heard a nurse say, “I better stay with my dying patient rather than stay with these noisy children,” and it made me realize how great I am to embrace noise. Not everyone can be a teacher.



5pm: It has been a full day. On the way home, I think about the educational trips I’ve taken thanks to Dignitas. Last year we visited Makini School and it was amazing to see how education has gone high in technology. Their learners are using computers in their computer lab. We were also introduced to a program whereby pupils can read story books through mobile phones. This could be an affordable thing to introduce to Vigil, since we have no electricity and no single computer.

6pm: After my children and I return from school, I help them with homework and cook dinner.

8pm: I have made it a routine to write in the evening how my day was in my journey journal book. I focus on my feelings, emotions, responses. Being in touch with my feelings has made me to be in good relationship with my learners, teachers and parents. I still need to work on the security of the children, parenting and learning outcomes.

10pm: I retire for the night and look forward to a new day of learning.


Lilian recently received a teaching award by the CfBT Education Trust, an NGO in Nairobi, and was also presented with the Wisdom Award after our Nawiri Leadership Institute in August 2016. Thank you, Lilian, for your tireless dedication to the education and empowerment of children and teachers!  

Sneak preview: Stay tuned next month as we profile A Day in the Life of a Dignitas student!