D&E raises tuition funds for students in Kenya

The efforts of a group of Davis & Elkins College Education students have paid off for 37 students at Riamukurwe Primary School in Nyeri, Kenya. As part of their service-learning project, the D&E students sold T-shirts and hoodies and raised more than $1,500, which will provide tuition and uniforms for the Kenyan scholars.

The students also recently received a $500 gift from an anonymous donor at Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church.

The project began in the spring when students in Assistant Professor of Education Dr. Jennifer Tesar’s EDUC 311 Social Studies Methods class adopted Riamukurwe Primary School in Nyeri, Kenya, and started the Riamukurwe Primary School Scholarship and Uniform Fund. After conducting research, the class decided to raise money for a scholarship and tuition fund to aid Riamukurwe Primary School. Lisa Papez, a senior from Beverly, led the class project. Other members of the class are Gloria Lemus-Perez, a junior from Arlington, Va.; Rivanna Kyle, a senior from Mill Creek; Taylor Hurley, a senior from Logan; Markita Prieto, a senior from Belington; Emilee Beckwith, a junior from Beverly; Shanda Ross, a senior from Bowden; Amanda Poling, a junior from Mill Creek; Tiffany Carr, a sophomore from Elkins; and Sarah Shelton, a senior from Belington.

“While Kenya has adopted a free primary education system, the government provides very little to no money to help support the primary schools,” Tesar says. “In order for students to attend Riamukurwe Primary School they must pay tuition and purchase a uniform, which equates to about $40 U.S. Unfortunately, many families living in Nyeri, Kenya, cannot afford to send their child to school due to tuition and uniform cost.”

The selection of Riamukurwe Primary School wasn’t random. For the past nine years, D&E Professor of English Dr. Bob McCutcheon has been visiting Nyeri, Kenya, to extend and foster the relationships among Davis & Elkins College, Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church, the Presbytery of West Virginia, the Synod of the Trinity with The Presbyterian University of East Africa, Nyeri Presbytery and other Presbyterian churches in Nyeri, Kenya.

Tesar says one of the main objectives of the service-learning project was to help preservice social studies teachers make global connections, develop their global perspective and engage in civic action.

“Global service learning projects often differ from what many people consider a ‘typical’ service-learning project,” Tesar says. “Typically a service-learning project entails students studying a local group/community, understanding their needs, raising awareness about their needs, and then applying concepts and knowledge learned in class in order to work as a group to raise funds and/or building something to meet the needs of the group/community.”

However, for this project, students used concepts and information learned in their Social Studies Methods course to raise funds by educating others on Riamukurwe Primary School and the country of Kenya.

Over the next several years, Davis & Elkins education students, specifically those in Tesar’s Social Studies Methods course, will continue to raise money and educate their peers, the college community, the local community and local K-12 classrooms on the students at Riamukurwe Primary School. The next step in the project is to take education students to visit Riamukurwe Primary School in the winter of 2015.

“It will be through this safari (the Kiswahili word for any journey, not just hunting) that our students will connect with the teachers and students at Riamukurwe Primary School,” Tesar says. “Our goal of the trip is for Davis & Elkins College education students to observe a ‘typical’ school day, collaborate and teach with the teachers and administrators as much as possible, and, most importantly, provide assistance to fulfill Principal Samuel Thuku’s dream of building a school library.”

Short- and long-sleeved T-shirts and hoodies in sizes youth to XXL are still available. The back of the shirts features a quote from Henry Broughman’s 1828 speech to the House of Commons, which reads: “Education makes people easy to lead difficult to drive impossible to enslave.” The same quote, inscribed on a plaque, hangs on a wall at Riamukurwe Primary School. Tony Daft of T.D.’s Classic Tees in Beverly assisted Papez and the class with the design of the shirts.

In addition, Tesar says Kenyan student sponsorships are also being accepted. A gift of $25 covers tuition and $40 includes tuition and a uniform. Anyone interested in purchasing a shirt or making a donation may contact Tesar at tesarj@dewv.edu.

For more information, please visit the college website at www.dewv.edu or call 304-637-1243.