Our First Graduates Enter High School

8th Graders, November 2014
We have our first graduates!!  In 2014 Achungo Educational Centre (the new name for the primary school that is part of Achungo Children’s Centre, Kenya), had its first 8th grade class.   The next step in Kenya is secondary school (equivalent to high school in the U.S.) for the 4 years called Levels 1 through 4.  Acceptance into secondary depends on a student’s results on the Kenya Certification of Primary Education (KCPE) exam that is taken at the end of 8th grade.
Girls’ Dorm
8th graders studying
Our students spent the year studying hard for the KCPE.  All of our 8th graders moved onto campus into the new girls’ and boys’ dorms so that they could rise at 5:30 a.m. every day.  They study from 6 am – 7 am, then wash up before school starts at 7:30.  They study for an hour after school and then have a break at 5:30 for supper before returning to study from 7 pm to 9 pm.  Much of this study time is either independent study or more often, group study with one of the students leading a discussion of practice questions or study topics.  On our trips we have spent time with them as they study and tried to help, but often found the questions so difficult that they ended up tutoring us!!
In November, after the 3 days of their 8th grade final exams, the next week was 4 days of KCPE exams and then they left for break (school is out for all of December).  It was early January before we had the results that everyone had been waiting for.  Every one of the 15 passed!   That is an exceptional result and we are very proud of them.  Apparently it is very rare for a school to have everyone pass and Director Michael says many families with students in nearby schools were very distressed because so many did not pass.  Michael was congratulated by the authorities for the high average score and now has many parents asking him for their children to be able to enroll at Achungo! 
In our province of Nyanza, according to the latest data, 74.7% of school-aged children enroll in primary school (2000), but secondary enrollment rates drop dramatically.  In Kenya as a whole, the percentage of children of official secondary age who are enrolled in secondary school is only 50%.  However, in the Homa Bay District (our area), it is much worse with only 23.5% of secondary school-aged children enrolled!!
Director Michael with some of our new grads at a nearby high school
On the heels of the exam results, the children also received information about the secondary schools that they’d been accepted into.  Acceptance is primarily based on score and location.  

There are 3 tiers of schools.  
The top tier are National Secondaries, but there is only 1 national boys and 1 national girls secondary within our county so only very high scores qualify.  The next tier is Provincial and third tier is District.  District schools are often local, day schools where most other secondaries are boarding schools.  Two of our students were accepted into District school and all the rest into Provincial schools!!
This is a very big step.  Our graduates now have to learn survival in these much bigger classes and schools, but some are excelling already.  Duke and Clement are in one of the top schools in the entire county and for the first term of this school year, Duke placed first and Clement 4th in their class (out of 60)!!   We have great hopes for the road ahead for all our children!!