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Pathways to Alternative Learning and Education

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

Photos by Rebecca Crook

Rukia is a Metis Fellow in Cohort II. She is a change maker who believes in improving lives of the economically disadvantaged by providing literacy among children. She is passionate about using technology as a force for social change, empowerment, literacy, and the education of young women and girls.

What does it take to support children to believe in themselves and become who they want to be? Learn from Sunflower’s approach in Kibera, Nairobi.

Students head home after an afternoon at Sunflower full of learning, laughter and growth.

Joyce* is a grade six pupil at a local private school in Kibera slum. She was born and raised in Kibera and lives with both parents and four other siblings in a two roomed house. She has been in and out of school for the better part of her school years because of either school fees arrears that her parents could not raise or learning resources that were never there. These factors make Joyce and other girls and boys from the same environment lag behind academically and branded as low performing children. This means that any academic opportunity will be given to the ones who are top in their class. Joyce was one of our first beneficiaries at Sunflower Trust.

She joined Sunflower with an aim of being linked to a scholarship or sponsor who would enable her to smoothly finish her primary education. At Sunflower, instead of finances, we provided her with a space and an environment where she can be heard, where she expresses herself without any fear of victimization, and somewhere she can interact with learners like her who are facing similar challenges. She also has access to learning resources and people she can see as role models. These are people who have stories similar to hers and are now successful. Through Sunflowers after school program, Joyce has not only improved academically, but also her attitude has improved, mental health, behavioral change, and most importantly she has people around her who listen.

A young girl peaks over a car window as she leaves Sunflower to go home at the end of the day.

Sunflower believes in its LEADership principles which are the guiding force behind all programming; we are building LEADers through the active cultivation of Love, Education, Action, and Discipline. Every day, we challenge our Fellows to demonstrate our LEAD principles through their actions towards themselves and one another. We celebrate and track when they do! When children demonstrate a LEAD principle they receive a bead: red for love, blue for education, green for action, and yellow for discipline. They wear the resulting bracelets with pride!

Literacy as leadership and a form of justice is at the core of our programming. Free literacy is not simply the ability to read and write fluently, but the ability to freely express oneself through reading, writing, discussion, and arts. While there are many literate youth in the world, there are few who are truly freely literate; whose voices are heard, whose opinions and beliefs are listened to and taken into account, and who have the ability to fully express themselves and be who they want to be.

The Pathways to Alternative Learning and Education (PALE) is an alternative primary school program for vulnerable girls at risk of ending their education early due to a myriad of different challenges. Our PALE program begins in fifth grade. We work to identify girls at risk of ending their education early and transition them to the PALE program. PALE changes the trajectory of a girl’s life. PALE students receive a holistic, high-quality education from our highly trained educators. We strive to provide Sunflower Fellows with a world-class curriculum emphasizing critical thinking and reasoning, as well as opportunities for collaboration and enrichment activities at our partner schools. A robust after-school program with supplemental art, literacy, technology, and reproductive health programs provides daily enrichment to our PALE students. Bright, driven, and enthusiastic, our PALE students are the future leaders of their community and the world.

This young student is as excited to attend Sunflower as we are to have everyone there!

Joyce is in her second year at Sunflower and the improvement has been tremendous both academically and character wise. We are working with her until her final grade of primary school and we hope to make her dream come true by linking her to a scholarship that will see her through her secondary education.

There are many young boys and girls like Joyce who haven’t gotten a chance to explore their capabilities which enable them to shine academically. Only if we come together can we identify and support these boys and girls to believe in themselves and become who they want to be.

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