JAMS Afterword

Below is the Afterword for Voices of Jane Adeny Memorial School:

All proceeds from this book go straight into the scholarship fund to help other students acquire an education at Jane Adeny Memorial School for Girls. Each girl within these pages gave permission for their story to be included – excited about the chance to help educate others. By buying this book, you have helped to create a scholarship for a girl just like those whose stories you are holding.

We had a few bumps along the road to putting this together and getting these voices into your hands, but one of the positives that came from this extra time is that Teresa Wasonga and Jean Pierce had the opportunity to speak with some of these original students to hear their thoughts about the school now that they were at university and out in the world. Getting to listen to these interviews felt like such a gift.

One of the stories that stuck out most to me began with Teresa noting that the student they were about to speak with was one of the smartest students to have come through JAMS – and it was a fluke that landed her there. While interviewing another student for entry into the school, the girl mentioned that a friend of hers was struggling to find money to pay fees – without a scholarship, the girl noted, her friend wouldn’t be able to go to school. Where is that friend now? Well, after attending and graduating from JAMS on scholarship, Veronica is studying computer science at Multimedia University where she is one of four girls in a program of over a hundred students. Veronica is also a member of Girls Tech, an organization that she wants to help grow in an effort to empower more girls. She wants to “let them know that computers are not all about boys. It can be all about girls.” This young woman is already making an impact on the world. Without her scholarship, she would never have had the chance even to attend school.

Another student who is such a joy to listen to is Lynnet – who served as (what we in the U.S. call) the valedictorian of the first ever graduating class of JAMS. During her gap year (most students in Kenya have to wait up to a year before they are able to start at university), she returned to JAMS where she helped around the school – she baked bread, took care of the chickens, helped in the garden, wherever she was needed. In return, she was able to earn some money to save for her fees for her first year of university. Now, university degree in hand, she talks about how education has been an equalizer. Lynnet has returned once again to JAMS and now teaches alongside of the people who taught her.

In many ways, JAMS is unlike any school I have ever set foot in. In others, there are stories that are all too familiar. If not before the pandemic, certainly now – people in the U.S. have become more aware of how much some families rely on schools for things other than education. For some students, lunch at school is the only meal they eat that day. As Lynnet noted, food security had been a real issue for students such as herself. “At times, we could take two meals a day. We could even go without a meal. You wake up in the morning, there is nothing to eat. We go to school; at lunch time, when we come back [home], there is nothing to eat. At night, maybe you just get porridge, or there is no porridge.” At JAMS, students get three meals a day every single day. No time is spent worrying about when, or if, they will get their next meal.

Another way that JAMS provides safety for its students is that corporal punishment is not allowed. And yes, you did read that correctly. Corporal punishment, or caning, is still rampant in most government schools in Kenya. To say it was heartbreaking to hear students like Revela talk about the punishment she faced at other schools is an understatement: “You went to school, and you are scared from the minute you get to school. The teacher will always find something to punish you about. Sometimes it was not even your fault.” She continues by saying, “You were taught to pass, not to learn. You were taught to do well on exams. If you don’t, you are punished. It was not like you were taught to know the concept.”

From day one, Teresa was adamant that corporal punishment, truly a barrier to education, would not be allowed at JAMS. “I always believed,” Teresa said, “when you are oppressed, you become the worst oppressor. Many of these teachers have been oppressed in their own lives, and the only people they can oppress are students.” In addition to no caning, students were actually encouraged to ask questions of their teachers. At JAMS, “you’d go to school and want to go to school,” Revela stated. “You were meant to feel like you were in school to learn, and they were there to make you better.”

To truly understand what Teresa and Andrew have created at JAMS, we have to look no further than at what Pheobean had to say about the school: “JAMS to us, and to me, was and is still a place to call home. You go to JAMS, and you don’t even miss home because already you are home.”

There are two moments in particular within these interviews that I feel really do demonstrate what I witnessed during my time at JAMS. One involves the empowerment of these young women. More than learning information in books, they are learning that they can make a difference, and the confidence this realization brings is just so heartwarming. As Pheobean said, “Woman can really change the world. We can be leaders, we can be scientists, lecturers. We can do these things out here. It’s not only for men. We have the ability.” The key according to Pheobean? Education. (I also want to note a joyous moment that occurred when she was asked about her performance at university. Pheobean is studying genetic engineering in a program where there are four boys to every one girl. When Teresa asked her, “Are you doing better than some of the boys?” – Pheobean smiled so brightly and, without hesitation, responded, “Of course, yes. Almost all of them.”) The other moment, the first of many moments that brought tears to my eyes, was when Jean and Teresa asked Revela how her future might be different because she attended JAMS. She simply stated, “My future is already different.”

All proceeds from Voices of Jane Adeny Memorial School will go directly to the Friends of JAMS scholarship fund. The Kindle version is priced at $9.99; the paperback is priced at $15. If you are interested in helping further, please consider also donating directly to the Friends of Jams scholarship fund.

Your Donation  Provides:
$50  A year of school supplies for one student (calculator, writing materials, notebooks)
$100  Full set of school uniforms for a student
$250  Solar battery to power a campus building
$500  Textbooks for a student for 4 years
$800  Full Sponsorship for 1 year for one student (tuition, room & board, school supplies, uniforms, books)

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