He walks for nearly 18km everyday….. Education, for many children in Kenya, is a ticket out of poverty. He laughs at my astonishment of the distance his body bears every day. ‘This is normal for me,’ he affirms. Through Bukisamika Eagles programme, which he started Yusuf Kasidi, a 2nd year student of medicine at the University of Nairobi brings together high school students from five villages in Voi, Taita Taveta County, Kenya. He offers free tuition because he fully understands the value of a good education.
His main motivation arises from the fact that there are many illiterate youth around his home with very few having the chance to obtain higher education. Yusuf is an exemplary young Kenyan, having started his volunteer mentorship program and tuition when he was still in high school. By then, he was assisting children in primary school. Yusuf attributes his encouragement to the Equity Wings to Fly Program, which sponsors needy but bright children through school. He got inspiring insights from the conferences they would have during the school holidays. Having schooled at the Alliance High School, he noted with concern that not every child is privileged to have all the facilities including science labs.
The more you give, the more you have. Yusuf recalls that when he was in form three, one of his teachers in high school assigned a form one class for him to mentor due to his outstanding performance in school. Even after he left high school, he continued to follow up on their progress. Three of the students from that class appeared in the top 100 list during the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination.
Currently, he is a volunteer mentor with the Equity Wings to Fly Program and works with students from Aquinas High School in Nairobi. However, Yusuf emphasizes that he is keen on ensuring that more children from Voi proceed to good secondary schools and universities. As a result of the free tuition and mentorship he offers, he has seen students being admitted to other national schools such as Lenana School and Meru School.
His hope for the next ten years is to see more children being exposed to opportunities that shape how they view the world. For example, when he was in high school, he had the chance of participating in a three week exchange program in Uganda where he learnt new tactics of excelling in education. Mentorship and volunteering has been a life changing journey for Yusuf.
Like a candle which consumes itself to light the way for others, so is a teacher. We need to get to a point where teaching in our country is seen as a service, where it is done with passion and interest and where our teachers are well paid and motivated to keep leading the way. In addition, schools should be equipped with adequate stationery and meals so that students can stay focused.
At the moment, there are seventy children from the five villages who are being impacted by his efforts. He uses his time when schools are closed or during lecturers strikes to teach and offer mentorship. His friends come in as volunteers. So far, they have had two successful sessions in August and November 2017. Many parents are often exploited by people who are only interested in making money by offering to provide extra coaching through academics yet they don’t do it well, a norm Yusuf is working hard to change. He explains concepts and gives assignments so as to check on the progress of the students. Further, he is still in touch with his teachers from Alliance who always update him on the changes in the syllabus.
His mentorship activities incorporate spirituality, sports, public speaking, community work such as cleaning public places like dispensaries and life skills; aspects that are important in the wholesome development of a child. This also includes academic clinics where they have one on one interaction with the children so as to identify the personal challenges they may be facing and which may hamper good performance in class. Yusuf wants his students to be responsible citizens. This pushed him to work with the local authority during the planting season where some of his students serve by helping to plough and plant.
While Yusuf is very determined to meet sustainable development goal four on education, he faces extreme challenges. Aside from the long distances, he also lacks resources such as textbooks which would facilitate the sessions which run from around 8am to 1pm for at least two weeks. Life is hard for many school going children in the area with good schools located long distances from their homes.
In 2014, UNESCO indicated that fifty seven million children in Africa are out of school. However, through proper investment in the sector, this number can reduce. Africa and Kenya to be specific, needs to focus on this area and Yusuf is no ordinary student who is doing his little thing in contributing to the lives of children.
‘Life is more meaningful when you give back to your community. Service is what brings joy to the heart. Live for others,’ advises Yusuf Kasidi.