Successfully educating girls in extreme poverty is no small task. A fascinating part of the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy success story is watching founder Abdul Kassim meticulously and strategically address the girls’ needs in order of urgency. Over the years, the needs are met more effectively as well. For example, in 2002 the school had one copy of each text book. During breaks, one girl would copy the book onto the board and the other girls would copy what was on the board into their notebooks. Years later, a shipment of books filled their library and stopped the endless copying. Today, the girls have e-readers that offer them immediate access to thousands of books and learning tools.
A pivotal moment in the story of KGSA was when they started offering the girls free lunch. Shaun, a study abroad student from the US, started the feeding program that still continues today. With even one guaranteed meal a day, the girls started preforming better in the classroom, and Abdul to look to the next step on the hierarchy of needs. This short passage shows the moment Shaun realized the girls needed food even more than school:
Shaun joined Joel and Teka in the classroom, teaching English. During lunch break, he noticed that, instead of eating, the girls put their heads down and slept.
He asked, “Abdul, what’s happening? The kids aren’t eating.”
“There’s no money.”
“Are you serious? They get here at seven in the morning and get out at six at night. There’s no lunch?”
“Most of the girls don’t have breakfast or lunch.”
“Well, let’s go get lunch.”
Shaun brought the girls around the corner to a restaurant in Makina called Fatima Juma. He bought chapati and beans for everyone. And that’s how the feeding program at KGSA started. Shaun asked a couple of neighbor women to start cooking, gave them money to buy greens, beans, and ugali, and the women cooked it at a house around the corner. They all started eating lunch together. Initially it was fifty dollars a month for all the girls to eat lunch every day. He paid it. It was generous, but he just said, “You can’t learn if you’re starving.”
To learn more about how Abdul supports the students of Kibera Girls Soccer Academy, Pre-Order Play Like a Girl today!