Murang'a School For The Deaf

BACKGROUND

Close to 40 percent (40%) of Kenya's population is currently unemployed. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the population is under the age of 30 . In the context of a simultaneously weak and ethicized political system, unemployed youth present a challenge to the growth and stability of Kenya. Thus, government and civil society alike have identified youth unemployment as one of the single most concerning policy challenges in the coming years. For the deaf community, the barriers to participation in the labor market are even higher. In general, education for the deaf population is significantly lacking and the few schools for the deaf that do exist are overburdened and under-funded. Of the 187,818 estimated hearing impaired Kenyans, up to 85 percent are unable to find work, most of them never having completed their education. Without other options many of these people end up begging in the streets or depending on their often already impoverished families for survival.

While Kenya's informal sector still dwarfs that of the formal, business and white-collar sectors, the country has in recent years experienced a significant surge in the information and communication technology field (ICT). Kenya-in addition to South Africa and Nigeria-is now considered one of the leading hubs for technology innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Such a growth industry requires a continued flow of skilled workers and is thus an important component in addressing the labor crisis. In acknowledgment of this reality, Deaf Aid, in collaboration with Cisco created a training module specifically for the deaf that certifies participants in basic computer repair and Cisco networking. The module was piloted at deaf schools in Kenya (Nairobi and Kisii) and program designers found that the deaf students in many cases performed at a higher level than their hearing counterparts due to their ability to focus for longer periods of time. The Cisco certification is recognized globally by technology providers and serves as a valuable accreditation for those that possess it.

The Rotary Club of Thika has been working with the Muranga School for the Deaf (MSD) since 2010 year. The school, located two and a half hours north east of Nairobi, provides housing and education to 210 students ranging in age from five to 30 years old in kindergarten through secondary school. While the publicly-funded school is resource scarce, it has a very high completion rate of those students that do attend their programs. Since the government implemented its plan for free primary education, the school's principle estimates that the school's graduation rate has risen to 90 percent (90%).

The school's impressive track-record is matched by a dedication to providing practical skills to its students. MSD currently runs vocational programs for carpentry and sewing. Both have proven promising and already contain some sustainable elements. The carpentry program has enabled two students to find employment and the workshop is used to make furniture for classrooms. The school has also started to sell some of the furniture to generate a small income. While these programs are important, during an assessment of the school, the principal identified the need for more modern and applicable vocational skills to be provided to the students. She also noted the need to connect students to potential mentors and markets.

In recognition of these needs, the Rotary Club of Thika proposes to fund an expansion MSD's vocational program to include a computer skills module. Though MSD is a government-funded school it is responsible for finding a significant portion of its own budget. Eighty-five percent (85%) of the students require outside assistance to pay for the minimal school fees. Most of this supplemental funding is procured through alternative government funds and private donors, all coordinated by the principal and school staff. The school decreases costs by keeping chickens, a milk cow, and a small garden to offset food purchases. The government does pay for instructors but at present the school does not have any deaf teachers and is in need of additional staff. A government initiative launched last year promised computers for the school but the program never came to fruition. MSD had set aside a classroom and built the necessary furniture to support a computer lab and has made this space available for the proposed project. This grant would enable the school to procure the necessary equipment and expertise to provide their students access to modern skills and employment opportunities.

PROGRAM OBJECTIVES

Specific objectives of the proposed program are to:

    . To provide students with competitive skills that will enable them to work and earn money independently after graduation; and
    . To connect students with potential mentors and employers in their technical fields.
PROPOSED ACTIVITIES

MSD has identified the need to both modernize its vocational programming and improve networking opportunities for all of its skills-based training. To this end, the Rotary Club of Thika proposes two main program components:

Cisco Computer Skills Program:
The first two months of the grant would be dedicated to program set-up, including the procurement of computers, repair tools, and the cisco curriculum and certifications; as well as the installation and maintenance of an internet connection at the school. The cisco program aims to be sustainable by training the school's existing instructors to teach the students rather than depend on external assistance each time the program is initiated. MSD's instructors are paid by the government so will not require additional funding for the program. The teacher training program takes x amount of time. After the teachers complete their training, 10 to 15 students would be selected to participate in the first pilot class. The grant would provide for two classes in the first year of the program, anticipating each class to last for approximately six months, one after the other.

Networking Opportunities for All Vocational Students
The grant would also provide funding for the purchase of a van for transporting equipment and students to trade fairs and networking opportunities. Students would be given the opportunity to visit major technical schools, experts in their fields of study, and larger companies. So as to integrate the new computer skills program into the school's larger vocational program, the grant-supported van would enable students from each module to connect to potential employers and mentors. The computer skills students for example would be introduced to employees at major Kenyan telecommunications, computer repair, and network solutions companies. Carpentry students would be introduced to trade associations and other established employers.

The initial program set-up would take two months with an additional 12 months required for the Cisco modules and networking opportunities.

Long-term Vision
The program is designed to place ownership and continuation of the project in control of MSD. The instructors for the computer module would be drawn from the school and paid by the government. The equipment required would be maintained by the students being trained in computer repair and networking. All equipment and training included in this proposal was identified by MSD as serving their own curriculum and longer-term plans. Every effort will be made to link in Kenyan companies and organizations to continue supporting relevant pieces of the program. For instance, the Rotary club of Thika is approaching major internet providers to request discounted or free internet access for the school. The program is designed to empower the school's students and staff and render Rotary's engagement in the long-term unnecessary.

In the future, the Rotary Club of Thika hopes to support the existing vocational programs with new tools and work-spaces. Should the project prove successful, the club would be interested in supporting the school to use its workshops as modest income generation sources as well as a means to sustain the project without additional funding.

EVALUATION PLAN

Objective: To provide students with competitive skills that will enable them to work and earn money independently after graduation.

    . In the immediate term, 20 to 40 students become trained and certified in basic computer repair and cisco networking.
    . Should the program continue, in the long term, students who have completed the vocational training programs are able to find employment in their relevant fields.

Objective: To connect students with potential mentors and employers in their technical fields.

    . In the immediate term, all vocational students are exposed to professionals in their various fields and potential employers.
    . In the long term, trained and employed students serve as resources for the continuation of the MSD vocational program.
Copyright Rotary Club of Thika. All Rights Reserved.