The Soma Leo Foundation is an Ipswich based charity, established in January 2015. The Foundation was the natural progression of charity work undertaken by the staff of The Pound Gates Group, who in 2013 supported the Kenyan School Fund. The Fund was running a school in Mombasa and planned to build a new school in Nyiera, western Kenya. The Group organised two events to raise funds for the new school, and building commenced in November 2014. The Soma Leo Foundation was then established, and took over the responsibility of raising the funds needed to establish the school, invest in further phases of development and meet its ongoing running costs.
The Pound Gates Group consists of three businesses, Pound Gates Insurance Brokers, Sevatas and Contior. Directors, managers and staff of the businesses are involved with the charity either as Trustees, providing administrative resources, and organising and taking part in fund-raising events.
Education in rural Kenya
Kenya has significant weaknesses in its education system. Whilst the government has increased investment in education, there are still many challenges regarding access and quality. Over one million children do not receive an education. For many of the children who do attend primary school, they do not go any further with their education and leave school illiterate or semi-illiterate. Very few children from poor rural backgrounds go to school or achieve worthwhile outcomes from their education.
Where schools are available, they sometimes charge fees for the children to attend. In rural areas, those who can attend a school may have a very long journey and the classrooms are often over-crowded, with only the very basic learning aids. The Trustees visited a school with 100 pupils in a classroom of 32m2. Most schools do not provide food, and vital drinking water may be a long walk away.
This situation has a lifelong impact on the children. Over half will not have the skills to generate an income as adults, and for those that do find jobs, these will often be casual, which at best will maintain them at or around the poverty line.
We are a small charity and cannot overcome the challenges facing the Kenyan education system, but can make a difference. The balance of learning and nourishment helps the children immeasurably, giving them the skills needed to support themselves in future years. It’s our mission to help the children who attend the school to be healthy, independent and resilient citizens who contribute to the future development of Kenya.
Nyiera is located on the shores of Lake Victoria in western Kenya. It is a collection of 25 houses bordering Osieko, a community of 2,000 people. With a lake on one side and otherwise bordered by marshes, Osieko is isolated, both geographically and commercially. This is a poor community with few opportunities for education.
The area is ravaged by AIDS and many of the children have lost their parents to the disease. Families live at or below the poverty line and children don’t have reliable access to nourishing food and water. Nyiera is poorly served by pre-schools and primary schools delivering the type of opportunity we seek to provide, which focuses on achieving excellence by through high quality teaching, with an effective teacher to pupil ratio, safe and clean facilities, good nourishment and a varied and interesting curriculum.
The Soma Leo Academy is a community school, with senior members of the local community participating in decisions about how the school is run and managed. Pupils, who are selected by community elders, are amongst the most deprived in the community.
The school’s funding needs are limited, about £13,000 per year for four classrooms of 130 pupils. The funds primarily go towards teachers’ salaries, food, water and electricity. The Foundation also sources or funds equipment and other items needed, pays licence fees and other miscellaneous and administrative costs.
The school is also used as a community resource, helping its general acceptance within the local community.
What’s in a name?
Soma Leo is Swahili. It translates as Learn Today, and was in part selected by the local community.