“If you could change one thing about your community, what would it be?”
When Tiffany Cheng Nyaggah asked that question in Mathare Valley, Nairobi, back in 2007, the consistent and overwhelming response from parents, teachers and leaders was ‘Education’.
Mathare Valley is the oldest informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. In addition to extreme exclusion and poverty, the community has minimal access to government public schools.
However, the community in Mathare believes a great education can be the catalyst for positive change and has established a great many low cost private schools. These small schools seek to provide education to a community neglected by the public system, but struggle to maintain high quality. As a result of limited resources, the schools lack trained school leaders and teachers.
There are only three primary schools in Mathare Valley to serve over 150,000 school age children.
Tiffany had a background in education, community organizing, and leadership development. She saw an opportunity to strengthen what the community had started and raise the bar for education in marginalized communities.
After that initial visit in 2007, Tiffany and co-founder Bobby Lee founded Dignitas in 2008 in partnership with community leader Steve Kariithi. They began working closely with these community schools to better understand their strengths and needs.
In 2011 Dignitas launched the Leadership Institute – a multi-year partnership program designed to develop dedicated teachers into highly skilled and motivated school leaders and educators.
Since 2011 a total of 186 schools and 1,029 school leaders and teachers have participated in the Leadership Academies. Dignitas has expanded to several new communities, and the team has grown significantly! However, even as the organization grows in size and impact, the belief in community potential remains central to our philosophy and our story.