The educational situation in Kenya is problematic and has been for some time. A study carried out by the Kenyan Ministry of Education found that 1 in 4 children of primary school age either left school without any qualifications – or have never been to school in the first place. In some areas, those who regularly go to school have to share their textbooks in groups of 17 students.

By donating a-ACADEMY to Kenyan schools, Avallain Foundation has taken the first step towards providing high-quality education to thousands of children in some of the most deprived areas of the country, such as the Mathare area of Nairobi. And though this may appear insignificant when viewed against the backdrop of one of the largest slums in the country, it was in Mathare that we truly realised how even first steps could improve the lives of entire communities.

Meet the children of Hanka Educational Centre in the Mathare slum

The Mathare slum is home to some 500’000 people, many of which have never gone to school. Before a-ACADEMY, the children of Hanka had to make due with the most basic of learning materials: blackboards, some finger-sized bits of chalk and sponges used as erasers. In the Mathare schoolhouse, divided by cardboard walls into individual classrooms, classes of 20 children or more are taught by teachers on a monthly salary of about $34. Mathare schools like Hanka Educational Centre simply do not have the resources necessary to provide each student with high-quality learning materials to unlock their true potential.

Turning things around, one step at a time

In early 2017, we started a large-scale crowdfunding initiative to bring a-ACADEMY to thousands of children of the Mathare slum. Thanks to the initiative, Hanka Educational Centre was given a laptop which was regularly used by teachers to enhance their sessions. For most of the students in Mathare, this was the first time they have ever interacted with a computer at all. Thanks to the technology, they were able to gain both a fundamental education as well as valuable digital literacy skills which will ultimately help them succeed in our modernised world.

Having learned to work wonders with the limited resources of Mathare, the teachers and their pupils quickly came up with ways of working effectively with the one laptop they had – They would prop it up on a box so that the entire class could watch the screen, and the teachers took great care to ensure that every student had a chance at interacting directly with the machine during class. As Dr Martina Amoth, Director of Education at Avallain Foundation notes: “The children of Hanka Educational Centre realise that education enables them to achieve their aspirations and dreams. With the help of both their dedicated teachers and our advanced education technology, they know they can succeed even in the adverse conditions of Mathare.”

Some students were in danger of getting left behind

While having their laptop to run a-ACADEMY was a marked improvement over the previous situation in the Mathare school, opening up the world of digital literacy to them, the situation was still far from ideal for some children. For example, one of Hanka’s students, Daniel, has a visual impairment that makes it all but impossible for him to see the small laptop screen propped up on a box in front of the class. And though a-ACADEMY features a number of audios to support students with issues such as Daniel’s, they could not fully compensate for a learning environment as strained of resources as Mathare. Daniel was in danger of being left out when his schoolmates were working on visual tasks. Far from having the resources to outfit every single student with their own workstation for a-ACADEMY, how could we make sure that Daniel could benefit from the same education his friends did?

How a small donation made all the difference

The situation at Hanka Educational Centre had warmed our hearts. The teachers and their pupils had almost nothing to work with – and they did more with that than we ever thought possible. Their drive to aspire to their full potential was what made us determined to find a way to help Mathare students like Daniel specifically.

It was then that Avallain Foundation received a generous private donation of $500. Dr Martina Amoth remembers that day: “Where others might have thought this was a mere drop in the ocean, we were inspired by the passion with which Mathare teachers and students were using a-ACADEMY – and by their ability to use the few resources at their disposal to effect lasting changes.” We came up with a plan.

Helping Daniel to succeed

With the $500, we bought a new laptop and a large screen, matching the donation with a powerful projector as well. Now, the new laptop still sits on a box in front of the entire class. But everyone – including students like Daniel – can comfortably see everything a-ACADEMY offers them, as the materials are projected on the screen for everyone to see. Thanks to what amounts to only a fraction of a month’s wages in many countries in the West, students in Mathare now have easy access to some of the most advanced digital learning materials available, ensuring that even visually impaired children like Daniel can unlock their full potential. Fred Amoke, Director of Hanka Educational Centre, assures us: “The donation will be a major boost to the school as it will make the learning using digital literacy much easier and better.”


Primary school students of Hanka Educational Centre in Nairobi's Mathare slum use a-ACADEMY digital learning software


Primary school students of Hanka Educational Centre in Nairobi's Mathare slum use a-ACADEMY digital learning software

Making a change in Mathare

When we work on the ground with underprivileged learners, such as in Mathare, we sometimes feel overwhelmed by just how much there is still to do. But when we look at the small Hanka Educational Centre in the middle of Nairobi’s largest slum, we are reminded how even seemingly small donations can change the lives of children, allowing them to unlock their potential and ultimately benefit their entire community. As Miriam Ruiz, Executive Director of Avallain Foundation puts it: “Lives can be changed in big ways or small ways, from donating a-ACADEMY to underprivileged Mathare schools to helping students like Daniel with what may seem like only a small donation.”


Miriam Ruiz