The youth group centre has so far trained over 100 youth from Mathare Valley, equipping them life skills and giving them an alternative to drugs and crime. Through the ICT program several youth have graduated with diplomas in Web design from renowned digital design schools. Three started their own web development company. The youth training group has also been teaching young people journalism skills so that they can record and tell the stories to the world.
Maji Mazuri partnered with an award winning technological school, NairoBits, which trains youth in computer technology and multimedia. For the youth of Mathare Valley, attending this school required a 10 kilometer bus ride for an all day class, which would require them also to buy a lunch in addition to transportation fees. The combined price and distance made going to this location prohibitive for most of these adolescents. Initially, Maji Mazuri was able to provide students with a lunch to help alleviate the costs, but eventually Maji Mazuri and NairoBits worked out a plan to provide computer training right inside the Mathare slum. NairoBits provided tutors and computers while Maji Mazuri took care of the location, internet connection, and youth outreach. The tutor at the training centre teaches not only computer programming skills but also basic computer usage skills so that they are able to find information on the web, bridging the digital divide.
Through this program, Maji Mazuri is providing a gateway into the future for residents of Mathare. These digital skills are also important in obtaining employment. Youth need training to be able to look for jobs, create resumes and use those skills once on the job.
Now there is an extra component to this computer training program that will have a significant impact on the slum area and could have a strong influence on Kenya as a whole; a student initiated peace project called Stop the Bullet.
After the disputed December 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections in Kenya, widespread rioting and violence broke out, largely ethnically based. The slums of Nairobi were among the most violent areas. The high concentration of a marginalized, poor, and uneducated population combined with brewing anger stirred up by people with a political agenda made Mathare Valley a hot ground for brutal massacres. There was lots of blood shed and many residents of Mathare Valley witnessed horrific violence, brutal acts and bloodshed. Another election is scheduled for 2012, and Maji Mazuri is working hard to ensure that this type of ethnic violence does not occur again.
The Stop the Bullet Peace Project motivates youth to act as peacemakers, allowing them to help their community vent their frustrations, paving way for conversations about what solutions can be brought to bear to alleviate these problems. Through dialogue they identify the real source and lessen the likelihood that people will resort to violence to get their voices heard.
These multimedia students, over 10 of whom have been trained so far, are currently reporting on issues in their community. They learn interviewing and writing techniques. They put together their own stories with those they have interviewed and share these engaging and informative presentations at community screenings and with the world via the internet.
These narratives are of vital importance for several reasons. First, creating them engages the youth in occupations other than the ubiquitous crime of their surroundings. Second, they provide a common forum that involves the youth as well as adults in these conversations. Further, in addition to being a viable tool within Mathare Valley, they can reach audiences throughout Kenya and around the world, bringing awareness to the dire situation of those living in the slum and increasing moral pressure to take action to ameliorate the situation.
Programs like this show Maji Mazuri is tackling poverty at the root cause.
The Maji Mazuri approach is two-pronged: to provide the youth with alternative activities and education so that they have a greater number of choices in life, and to partner with organizations with a proven track record of excellence to bring education to Mathare Valley.
This Maji Mazuri model shows not only that the population is capable and eager to learn these new tools, but that through innovative partnerships and programming, these advances can transform extremely poor areas.
Maji Mazuri’s focus is to build an educational pipeline, so that after secondary school students can get support to go on to university, have business training, go to vocational school, or get a technical degree. Currently the computer training course has a basic level and advanced level, but only a select few students have the opportunity to go on to receive an accredited diploma.
While Maji Mazuri has been able to send 4 students per year to receive their diploma, the ideal would be for all graduates of the training program to have this opportunity. The plan is therefore to bring an accredited diploma course to the Maji Mazuri facility located in Mathare Valley.
Market analysts anticipate that, in the next two to three years, technology companies in Kenya will be looking to hire a lot of technically qualified graduates. NairoBits is currently building relationships with many employers that will be looking to hire over the next couple of years. Through close contact with these future employers, NairoBits will have inside information on exactly what kind of skills and what kind of employees these companies will be looking to hire, and from there can train its graduates specifically to fit these jobs. Using teachers from NairoBits, Maji Mazuri will be able to provide specific training for its students. The goal is to go from 4 students per year to 120. Hence the entire school population could receive accredited diplomas and job training so that they are not only qualified to do work, but trained specifically for jobs that are going to exist.
Many organizations could replicate this model - schools or companies looking to create social corporate responsibility programs.
Similarly, a multimedia youth program is an excellent way for journalists and teachers to give back to the communities.
One day in 2008, two staff members went to a chang’aa bar to try and recruit new members. Among those they sat and talked with was Frank, a young man who at that time spent most of his days drinking and committing petty crime. Frank decided to join Maji Mazuri. A year later he had graduated from NairoBits with a technical diploma. He has been fully employed for a year now, and was able to move his mother from a tin and wood shack to a house of stone with proper doors. Stories like Frank’s occur constantly. While there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence that illustrates the efficacy of Maji Mazuri programming, the organization is currently building two programs to track progress more efficiently.
First, a new survey has been designed to track social issues from teenage pregnancy and crime to rates of death from police violence. In a few months, when data collection is complete, Maji Mazuri will be able to make a current comparison between Maji Mazuri youth and the wider population. In addition to this current snapshot, Maji Mazuri plans to continue conducting these surveys over a period of five years, to compare youth who have been through Maji Mazuri to those who have not and also to track how students change over time in relation to their predecessors and the wider community.
Second, Maji Mazuri is building a database for all students. Each student will have a detailed file covering their school progression, skill training, volunteering, and other activities in Maji Mazuri. Having these files will immediately enable Maji Mazuri to notice if students go off track, making it more likely for staff to reach out and help in time.
Maji Mazuri is also building a proposal for NairoBits to bring its accreditation program to the Mathare Valley facility. Also many companies have Global Talent Acceleration and corporate social responsibility programs. Maji Mazuri plans to approach these companies requesting student scholarships or sponsorships, and internships to graduates. This will ensure the program remains viable in the future.
In addition the goal is to purchase more hardware (computers, components and infrastructure) and software. With more advanced software Maji Mazuri could offer honors courses in addition to the accredited diploma program, which would make graduates even more valuable and increase their likelihood of securing long term employment or opening successful businesses.
With MediaLab and website design products, multimedia students could edit their film and make more professional products which they could embed in dynamic and engaging websites, Students will also learn how to code for web and mobile platforms, working with companies to develop applications for flip phones and smart phones hence providing light applications that work with social media and new digital media.
From its inception in 1984, Maji Mazuri has worked hard to improve all aspects of life in one of the darkest areas of the world. The organization has brought education at low or no cost to hundreds of young girls, often taking them out of situations where they were daily faced with the possibility of physical and sexual violence. Given that only 1 in 5 girls even attends school, enabling students graduate from high school is in itself a small miracle.
With over 25 years of experience and a powerful grassroots approach, Maji Mazuri has provided scores of youth with the tools to start businesses, apply for jobs, get further education, tell their stories, raise healthy families, and have successful lives.
Maji Mazuri is a completely non-profit organization that is heavily reliant on partnerships and donors. The organization is run by passionate individuals looking to make a difference.
Through partnerships with award winning organizations and donations from caring supporters, Maji Mazuri has brought more opportunity to people who have been alienated and marginalized by society. Working efficiently on a limited budget Maji Mazuri has figured out innovative ways to do more with less, providing education, economic empowerment through life skill training and micro finance projects, community awareness, health care and a home to children who have been ostracized because of their disabilities
In spite of all of these accomplishments, Maji Mazuri’s goal is far from reached. There is still great penury and violence in Mathare Valley and it’s environs. With proper support this program can facilitate great strides towards poverty eradication.