Kayiwa champions education and social change in Kibera


From an early age, Lucy Najjuma Kayiwa admired her parents’ career: teaching.

“I loved seeing my parents welcome the children who brought their books to be corrected. Above all, we also had fruit trees that occupied them because they showed up under the pretext of having their books marked. The students felt like our brothers and sisters,” recalls the 78-year-old teacher.

Today, the Ugandan-born teacher provides education to young people in Africa’s largest slum, Kibera in Kenya. Kayiwa welcomes the less fortunate and advises many to live positively and productively. Like any average slum, Kibera is in Nairobi’s backwaters and where the street vendors and casual laborers of Nairobi and its suburbs live.

There, Kayiwa, a mother of five, lives and runs a project that takes care of some children and teaches others while creating a more welcoming environment. She welcomes friends and strangers alike as homelessness is almost a fact in Kibera where shelters are largely semi-permanent and active parenthood is not guaranteed.

Kayiwa cut her teeth in the teaching profession after completing her primary education at St Bernadette Primary School, Nkozi in 1966. She was admitted to Nkozi Teacher Training College for a three-year course.

“I loved teaching because it was all about family,” she explains, adding that her love for children motivated her to teach junior elementary students. In middle school, she was educated to be versatile so she could teach all subjects. For the first two years in college, they were trained to teach all subjects. It was during the third year that she specialized in infant methods.

Her first year of teaching was at the Busubizi Demonstration School in Mityana. His uncle had crossed paths with missionaries who were looking for a certified teacher.

She took the opportunity, but as there was no staff accommodation, he would drop her off in the meantime and pick her up from school. She worked for 11 years, after which her boyfriend, who had returned from the United States, proposed and they married in 1968.

Her husband got a job with the Kenya Meteorological Service. So, Kayiwa had to move.
“Before leaving, my father had asked my husband if I was going to continue teaching. We moved to Nairobi by train in 1969,” she says.

When they settled in Nairobi, he sought a teaching position for Kayiwa. Fortunately, she got a placement, but because she only spoke Luganda and English, it was bumpy.

Also, the schools were divided based on race, but that same year the government reversed that and said Kenyans would attend any school of their choice.

“It helped me learn Swahili and Asian languages ​​and I taught until 1975 when my husband was transferred to Uganda. However, the murky politics could not let live and my husband was sent back to Kenya,” she recalls.

Despite the meager salary, Kayiwa loved her vocation.
“Sometimes things were difficult and my friends would help. Beyond that, I also got involved in community work with the church. That’s when I got the idea to start a mission to take care of the needy. There was a group that looked after the sick and the elderly. So they asked me to join them, and I accepted,” she says.

Caring for a vulnerable madwoman appreciates her more in her life.
Around 1981, HIV/AIDS had ravaged many people in Uganda and had also begun to spread in Kenya, leaving many children orphans.

As part of the Kibera community initiative of the St Vincent De Paul community program, they received children.

“I taught during the week and spent the rest of my time doing community service. At church, I mainly did Bible studies for children as well as caring for the elderly. During our meetings, we worked out a feeding program through which we wanted to bring the children to one place. »

She retired from formal teaching in 2004, but continued to serve the mission alongside 10 church members. These, as a means by which they would manage orphaned children, they started a kindergarten. The St Vincent De Paul Kibera community program began in 2000. The church had no funds for such a project, so Kayiwa and her team mobilized resources and the Comboni Missionaries provided financial support.

“We had to go through tedious program approval processes so that we could create a pen where the children would be fed,” she says.
Today, Kayiwa is busy supervising community social work and teaching children.

As a teacher, she had never managed a class of more than 40 children. As part of the Kibera program, they managed classes of over 80 children.

In 2005, the program launched a rescue center to accommodate children who have lost their parents and loved ones.

“We have a well-structured kindergarten and have given priority to these children. The people we work with make sure these children feel loved. Some of them are sick, but we have to find a way to treat them in a way that makes them feel good,” she explains.

Almost 60 years later, life has taught Kayiwa to reach out to those in need of education and social support.

She admits that all is not rosy.
“I was overwhelmed. A lot of people think that once they come to me, I have to solve all the problems, but some problems require resources that in most cases I also miss,” she reveals, adding; “Despite all of this, many people have come back to appreciate my support through the challenges. I did all these things in Kenya but I feel bad that due to my age it will be difficult for me to do the same in Uganda.

“Every time I travel to Uganda, I meet people who are going through challenges. I would love to be part of their solutions. Even as I age, I have plans that aim to help young people understand life,” says the veteran educator.

She says the world (today) has not helped young people, adding that many of them are misled by politicians who abuse and abandon them at the slightest opportunity.

“Children need education to change their lives,” concludes the educator.

To wish
“Despite the challenges, many people have come back to appreciate my support through the challenges. I did all these things in Kenya but I feel bad that due to my age it will be difficult for me to do the same in Uganda”, Lucy Najjuma Kayiwa


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