by Charlie Waigi
from March 2008 Newsletter (Volume 3, Issue 1)
Why focus on education when there are so many other problems in Africa? Charlie Waigi shared his wise views on this question recently, during our Board members’ visit. Charlie is the founder and Director of Jeremy Academy, a school we support just outside Nairobi, Kenya. He is a Princeton University alumnus who returned to Kenya with his wife Theresia to build Jeremy Academy in 1999. They began by teaching 2 students in their home, and over the years expanded to classes for Kindergarten through 8th grade, plus a special education class. Charlie believes strongly in the value of education in addressing all problems faced by a society. He believes that no matter what poverty, illness, violence or other problems people face, the only long term solution is education. If you educate the average citizen, they will use their enriched minds to collectively find the solutions to all of the other problems. He sees education as the single most distinguishing factor in a society that is flourishing—that the measure of the average citizen’s general knowledge is the best indicator of whether a society will address its problems and take care of itself. That is why the focus on education is so important thing for improving the health, security, and happiness of the people in Africa.
We share Charlie’s belief in the value of education! We also know that the key to long-term success for these children is the quality of their education. As our scholarship students progress to the secondary school level (similar to U.S. high school), we are seeing where educational support in the primary years makes a big difference in their potential success. For example, students who can barely afford to attend primary school are disadvantaged by a lack of tutoring and support in learning English. Since secondary school is taught in English, students who were at the top of their class when Primary classes were taught in Swahili are suddenly struggling just to pass. This is similar to the challenges disadvantaged American children face in high school or upon entering college—families with money are able to better support students’ success with tutors and materials. The Asante Africa Foundation actively looks for and addresses the hidden causes of student struggles and their underlying reasons for success. We aim, to ensure the quality of education, not just the basics of paying tuition. That’s why in the scholarships we provide, we also include the cost of tutors, test preparation, dictionaries, room and board, medical care, etc. as needed.