Class of 2018

These are the students in 8th grade as of 2014 who are entering Secondary and will graduate Secondary in 2018.

Brian Onyango Orwa, 14

When Achungo found Brian and his younger sister, Wendy, they were living with their grandparents with Brian spending his days fetching wood from the forest and water from the river.  

His father, a policeman in northern Kenya, had been killed by cattle rustlers and some years later his mother, Rose, took sick and died. 

Brian has been at Achungo for 3 years with Science his favorite class and Mr. Mwai, his favorite teacher and someone Brian can talk to when frustrated or angry. Brian hopes eventually to attend Kenyatta University, Nairobi, and become a pilot to “fly to other countries and interact with people there,” he says.     

 

Clement Onyango Oswago, 14

Clement lived with his grandmother since the loss of both of his parents when he was 6. Because she didn’t have money for him to go to public school, he stayed home most of the time, helping with chores.

The best day of his life, Clement says, was “when (Achungo Director) Michael brought me here.”  Clement has the top math scores in the county and has consistently been one of Achungo’s top academic performers since he arrived three years ago.  It should be no surprise that Clement plans to study to be an accountant.

 

Winfred Edith Ochieng, 14

When Winfred was three, her father died in a car accident, and her mother died 4 years later.  Since age 7 she has lived with her grandparents, aunt and cousin.  

When she arrived at Achungo, with her twin 6-year-old siblings, she was shy and struggled academically, but she worked hard, sometimes one-on-one with favorite teacher Madam Asha. 

Now Winfred is the top girl performer in class 8 and Captain of the girls’ dorm. Winfred always tries to be “polite, loving and humble—something my mother taught me.”  Winfred already has a lot of qualities she’ll need to fulfill her dream to be a TV journalist in Nairobi.

 Sharon Mecril Obano, 14

Sharon was 7 when her father died in an accident in 2006 and her brother, Steve, was 4, and sister, Ida, an infant.  When their mother died the following year, they moved in with their grandmother in the village of Rodi Kopany, where Achungo is located.  Feeding and clothing three young children were a struggle, let alone paying public school fees.  Sharon remembers the day that changed--“the best day of my life.”
    “A man showed up at my grandmother’s house, and she told him about the problems we’d been having. [Achungo Cirector Michael Nyangi] said he would like to take care of me, my brother and my sister by bringing us to Achungo,” Sharon shares. Then my grandmother prayed and praised God. She was very happy.”   

“Here we’re able to eat well, get a uniform, an education and good advice from our teachers. Teachers here care about children,” says Sharon.     Sharon is struggling academically, but, she’s only in her second year at Achungo (one of the highest performing schools in the county).  She studies evenings and weekends now that she’s in the girls’ dorm and her teachers are helping her catch up and prepare for the national exams.

Becky Cynthia Adhiambo, 14

Unlike many in her class, Becky enjoys studying Swahili (her third language, after her native Luo and English) and wants to turn her interest in language into a TV journalism career. She’d like to study at University of Kenyatta or University of Nairobi after secondary school.   If she doesn’t get into journalism, Becky wants to be an actor, since she loves telling jokes and acting in dramas led by the matron in the girls dorm. 

Becky is working to improve her math skills before the national exams. Her math instruction in public school was very weak and she feels lucky to attend remedial math classes at Achungo.   Becky appreciates Achungo so much that she wrote a song about it, and, her best friend Sharon says she sings it every morning.

Steve Ouma Juma, 14

Steve’s parents died before he turned eight. He moved in with his grandmother and his diabetic grandfather, but they couldn’t afford to buy the food, school uniform and supplies he needed to attend public school. When Achungo’s headmaster met Steve in 2012, the boy had not attended school for seven years and owned no shoes. Three months after moving the 20 km to Achungo, Steve was at the top of his class.  

Social studies and science are his favorite subjects. He wants to be a heart surgeon even though it may take 10 years after secondary school to meet his goal.    When he was 12, “I had a dream,” he says. “I was doing an operation, wearing a white overall. I was examining a mother with a heart problem.” He then proceeds to draw freehand a human heart, correctly labeling each part.  

Steve shares the role of weekend pastor with his teacher, Mr. Selim. Together they conduct Achungo’s Sunday worship services for the 19 boys and 19 girls who live in different dorms. Steve says he’s also translating the Bible from English to Swahili.

Cynthia Adhiambo Juma, 14

Cynthia is Steve Juma’s half sister.  Their father’s 2 wives, their mothers, had different households, so after his death, they lived with different relatives and enrolled at Achungo at different times.  Both had often been absent from school because they couldn’t pay public school costs. Like her brother, Cynthia’s favorite subjects are science and social studies but that’s where their similarities end.  

Where Steve is a chatty extrovert, Cynthia is a soft-spoken introvert and where Steve is near the top of his class. Cynthia is struggling in Math, English and Swahili though she missed much less school than her brother. Luckily, the devoted teachers at Achungo are working with Cynthia to improve her grades and prepare for the national exams.  
Cynthia’s struggle illustrates a common problem that Kenyan girls face when they attend day school and return home in the afternoon. Family expects them to do hours of chores—farming, hauling water, cooking and cleaning—leaving little time or energy for homework. And most homes have no electricity and so, no light to study after dark. Only one of six girls in the 8th grade is in the top half of the class.
Cynthia wants “to be a journalist for a TV station and marry a man who will have only one wife.”

Wycliffe Mwok Ochieng, 15

Wycliffe’s mother died when he was very young and his father was killed by his own brother.  He was living with his stepmother and widowed aunt in a village about 20 kilometers distant when he was first brought to Achungo three years ago. 

Since then he has boarded at the school, only going home on the long breaks because of the distance.  Wycliffe and his friends at Achungo entertain each other by telling stories about their lives – they have grown to trust, support and encourage each other in this safe and nurturing environment. His dream is to eventually go back to his village to help the extreme poor that he grew up with.

Wycliffe appreciates the Achungo teaching staff. “They’re well-trained and teach well,” he said. “In the public schools, teachers don’t always teach; they just talk and are sometimes absent.”   He plans to study cardiology and neurology and to seek a career in medicine.

Peggy Awuor Orako, 13

Peggy is one of our first students, having been at Achungo since joining the preschool in 2005. She likes living in the new girls dorm because it has electricity, unlike home where she lived until this year with her mother and grandmother.

Living in the dorm gives Peggy time to study the subjects that will be covered on Kenya’s national certification exam in November. She’s working hard to score high, so she can attend a good secondary school and eventually become a nurse. Her dream is to live in the U.S. for a while and study nursing here.   

In the meantime, Peggy and best friend Mercy, from class 6, will treasure their time together skipping around the grounds, playing ball, and sharing stories, both real and imagined. 

Benard Otieno Orwa, 15


Benard is a natural and humble leader, an athlete, and a diligent student. He’s in his element whether he’s singing a solo or teaching the class in morning worship or in a homemade costume leading the boys in a tribal dance or competing in volleyball or helping other students with their homework as he works on his.

Benard’s home is 15 miles from Achungo in Randung.  He was orphaned at age 5 and moved in with his grandparents, subsistence farmers with little money for public school. At 12, he was skipping school part of each year to work the local harvests to earn enough (at $1 -$2 per day) to return. He says coming from a poor family “makes him achieve a lot” at Achungo.

Having Father Gabriel as a friend and role model when he was young inspired Benard to become a priest himself. “I want to be a pilot and fly around the world. But, I’ll make sure I’m home to preach on Sunday.” He’ll need both jobs, he explained, because priests don’t get paid. If the pilot idea doesn’t pan out, he has a back-up plan: engineer. 

Maurine Otieno Adhiambo, 14

“I’m happy all the time, ” Maurine says, whenever you ask how she’s doing.    She was happy living with her grandmother, Magdalena, in nearby Ndiwa before coming to Achungo in 2012. She doesn’t remember her mother or father at all. 

She appreciates Achungo “I’m learning more here because the teachers are highly trained,” says Maurine. “In public school some teachers were not as well-trained and did not like teaching.” And Achungo doesn’t charge her grandmother school fees that she would struggle to pay.   She likes Mr. Mwai, her science teacher, “He will explain for you until you understand.”  And she likes working on problems in the classroom with her friends.

She sings, dances, plays drums and cooks—she knows how to kill, feather, clean, season and fry a chicken, her favorite food. She’d like to be a pilot someday.   And she definitely wants to be a mother.    

Joshua Okelo Seco, 14

Joshua is in his third year at Achungo and wants to be like Michael Nyangi, the orphanage-school’s founder and director.  

Like Michael, Joshua is patient, honest, disciplined, humble and a leader in his role as the class 8 prefect. He plans to go to secondary school and on to university.

He even shares Michael’s philanthropic aspirations. “After university I want to raise money to build an orphanage in my former village,” Joshua says. But he wants it to have a secondary school—boarding, of course, as is customary in Kenya. “I’ve been praying about this since coming here.”

 

James Omondi Okal, 15

James has “about 16 siblings,” he says, since his father had four wives before passing away more than 10years ago. James is at Achungo with his half brother Bernard, also in class 8.

Mr. Selim, one of James’ teachers, describes him as “passionate about learning, ready to be guided.” After secondary, James hopes to graduate from university and, “God willing, get a job as a mechanical engineer,” he says. When he was only six, James dreamed that he was working as a mechanical engineer, building a machine.

He also saw himself using his earnings “to build a center to care for needy children.”
   

Duke Otieno Awino, 15

As opposed to most of the Achungo students, this sweet, lanky teen has both his parents living (in Oyugis, about 30 km from Achungo).   Achungo founder Michael Nyangi admitted Duke to class 7 in 2012 because he was living in poverty, and his parents couldn’t afford to pay public school fees. Like many Kenyan men, Duke’s father has two wives and there are 12 children between them.   Fifteen mouths is a lot to feed from a subsistence farm plot.
    At Achungo, now that he can attend school regularly, Duke is at the top of his class, second only to his friend Clement. Duke explains that he succeeds because he’s  “always busy studying,” and, “Clement and I teach each other what the other doesn’t know.” Duke also helps others with their Swahili studies.  He is the school captain charged with choosing topics and writing propositions for all-school debates, as well as starting school games and managing equipment. 

Duke plans to go to one of the top universities in Kenya “to study medicine to be a doctor…a surgeon.”   He also plans to “marry one wife and have four children--two boys and two girls.”    

 Geophrey Kamau Onyango, 13

Geophrey is highly versatile – he enjoys cooking, cartooning, storytelling, science, engineering, socializing and football (soccer).   He learned to cook samosas and chapatti from his mother, who cooks and sells food roadside, near Achungo. 

Geophrey lost his father when he was young.  When he came to Achungo last year, he had been living with his father’s sister in Nakuru, about 140 miles away.  His younger brothers also attend Achungo – Sammy is in 5th grade and Ian is in Kindergarten. 

Geophrey earns good grades in all subjects but his favorite is science.  He plans to attend secondary school and then university, studying electrical engineering.  He eventually hopes to go to the U.S., where the weather is cool and where he will marry and have two boys and two girls.