WISER is located in Muhuru Bay, a fishing community in rural Kenya that is characterized by extreme poverty and deeply entrenched gender roles. Girls rarely complete secondary school level education due to forced marriages, early pregnancy, physical and psychological abuse, and a general lack of support and positive female role models. Many girls engage in transactional sex in order to pay school fees or buy sanitary pads, resulting in some of the highest HIV rates in the country (38%).
WISER removes the root causes that prevent girls from achieving academically, such as: lack of parental support, gender violence, and low cultural expectations. By providing an entirely free boarding school, girls have a “gender-safe” and academically challenging environment where they are able to focus on their studies and reach their full potential. WISER is creating a new generation of female role models and changing how a girl is valued.
WISER students are selected from all 16 primary schools in the village. Most of the girls are the first women in their families to attend secondary school. The selection process takes into account academic growth during primary school, personal interviews, the national KCPE results, and student need (financial and social backgrounds). 30% of WISER girls are orphans. WISER girls receive all of the materials they need to excel academically including tuition, books, clothing, food, medicine, clean water, and sanitary pads. More importantly, WISER provides a strong support network by integrating weekly empowerment and leadership sessions into its curriculum. Most importantly, the WISER curriculum includes psycho-social support and group counseling classes. These classes include self-confidence and self-esteem, communication skills and expression, teamwork, leadership development, sexual health, and organizational skills. WISER girls often design and lead these sessions.
WISER works closely with the community to ensure the safety and success of its students. 90% of the WISER budget is used to directly fund our educational programs and operational costs including scholarships, accommodation, school supplies, desks, food, water purification, and textbooks.
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CEI approaches in actionDeliveryStand-alone school/centerFinancingStudent supportSecondary EducationOther
Model details2007Not-for-profitComprehensive curriculumScience & engineeringOtherWISER has partnered with Duke University students to create an Engineering Club where girls interested in the Sciences are able to participate in experiential learning and create practical solutions for problems facing community members. OtherWeekly counseling and mentoring group sessions for self-esteem and leadership developmentActiveLong-term projectScholarships150
BeneficiariesOrphans and vulnerable children
WISER initially launched with 30 girls and has added 30 girls every year since to reach full capacity of 120 girls enrolled.
WISER intends to expand to include more girls in the program.
Monitoring & EvaluationYes
To monitor results, the students are assessed internally and by external benchmarking exams administered by local district and county education boards. WISER has had zero attrition rates due to pregnancy or marriage and since pregnancy is an indicator of unprotected sex it is likely that the girls have reduced the risk of HIV. The school also offers anonymous HIV testing several times a year which is taken up by 80% students.Standardized assessment performanceInternal assessment performanceUser satisfactionAbility to reach the poorGraduation or promotion ratesStudent attendanceStudent retentionIncreased enrollmentOtherAttrition due to pregnancy, early marriage, HIV infectionNo
In mock exams for the KCSE including over 3,000 students and 72 schools, WISER was ranked #6 for the first graduating class, and one of our students ranked #4 out of 3,008 students, including many boys and students from long established schools. When broken down by achievement in 12 different disciplinary exams, WISER was ranked in the top 5 of the 72 schools in 6 different academic subject exams (Geography, CRE, Physics, Business Studies, Kiswahili, and Maths) and in the top 10 in 3 other areas (English, Biology, and Chemistry).
In November 2013, WISER's first class of Form 4 students took the national KCSE examination. WISER was ranked in the top 5% of all secondary schools in Kenya (the 77th private school in the nation), outperfomring many well-established schools. All 28 girls passed the KCSE and 17 have qualified for direct admission to university with 13 girls eligible for scholarships.
Mean Grade Summary
A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D D- E Mean Grade
28 0 1 7 5 3 1 5 4 2 0 0 0 7.70 B-
Subject ENG KIS MAT BIO PHY CHEM HIS GEO CRE AGR BST
Subject Mean 7.000 7.964 6.643 8.000 9.750 7.036 6.417 10.50 8.250 7.444 10.50
Subject Grade C+ B- C+ B- B+ C+ C A- B- C+ A-
All 28 girls in WISER's first class of Form 4 students passed the KCSE and 17 have qualified for direct admission to university with 13 girls eligible for scholarships. Prior to WISER's establishment, only one woman from Muhuru Bay has attended university. WISER held its first graduation for the Pioneering Class of 2013 in March 2014.
The WISER program, since launching, has achieved zero attrition of girls due to pregnancy compared to 30% from neighboring schools.