Education is integral in any country’s economy, an educated society has the ability to innovate and further create opportunities and therefore generate wealth. Children going to school without uniform is something we often take for granted but in actual fact, millions of children across the continent go to school either with torn uniform or without any at all.
Realising that this is a major challenge, one that can affect childrens’ progress at school- university students from Nairobi, Kenya came together and started the Ficha Uchi campaign in an effort to help kids in primary schools get uniform. Ficha is a Swahili term meaning “Hide” and Uchi means “Nakedness”. Nunnovation spoke to the founder of this campaign, Billian Okoth, to find out more about this great initiative.
Q&A with Billian Okoth
N: Who exactly is behind the FichaUchi campaign? Who exactly is involved and how did it start?
BO:A few months ago I founded the Ficha Uchi Campaign, but as you may be aware one cannot run such a campaign alone, therefore I enlisted the help of a few University students from the larger Mathare Community under the Umbrella of Mathare University Students as well as members of the community. Together we have been able to tap into my contacts thus making the campaign a success.
I think you can call it fate. I visited a school to look into how that particular school and an organization (Billian Music Family) that I run could work together in promoting arts and Music in the school. But what I encountered was many pupils dressed in totally tattered uniforms, which honestly broke my heart. And at that point I felt that I had to something to at least uplift these kids self esteem, thus the idea of Ficha Uchi was born
N: What have been some of the highlights you have had with the campaign?
BO: Oh my, where do I even start? To be honest, it is so hard to single out one particular one. But If I had to choose one, my choice would have to be this young girl who after receiving her knew uniform, you could not miss her radiant smile. And she hugged me so tight and could not let go. She softly said thank you and that truly melted my heart. At that particular moment, without a doubt I knew we were doing the right thing
N: Which communities do you work with? Are you helping all schools around the country or just one particular community?
BO: As the saying goes, charity begins at home. Therefore the first two schools have been from my community of Mathare. With that said, the Ficha uchi campaign is targeting to provide uniforms to over 10,000 kids around the country. Serving all communities in our nation. So there are plans to go to all 47 counties of our nation
N: How has the reaction been from the community as well as the school kids that you’ve helped?
BO: Wow… the reaction has been amaaaaazing.. The community has been so supportive. Can you imagine, we have not had to hire the tailors yet! We have been working with volunteer tailors from the community and we’ve even had a few parents volunteer too as tailors.. As for the kids, just their genuine smiles is all that I need to know how much the appreciate our efforts
N: What criteria do you use to choose a school?
BO: Here I have to give most of the credit to the amazing team that I have been working with. They spend countless hours visiting schools and assessing the needs in so many schools. They collect data on the severity of the problem, they then analyze the data and a decision is then made. So basically the decision is totally guided by need.
N: Have you had any feedback or assistance from the government?
BO: We are now starting to get inquiries from different departments, however to be honest, it was by design that we did not involve the government bodies initially. We needed to get the project running without making it political. However with that said, going forward we have all intentions of partnering with any interested party that believes in the cause and is passionate in restoring dignity to our school going kids. And that includes any government body willing to partner.
N: Tell us more about your success stories so far?
BO: Honestly, the entire campaign has been such a success so far. I am indeed humbled by what we have been able to achieve this far. Think about it, so far we have provided over 218 new school uniforms to kids who would not have imagined themselves wearing new uniforms. We know there is along way to go to reach our goal but I have to admit this far the campaign has been nothing but successful.
This initiative by ordinary university students proves that we don’t have to wait for those in power to make changes in our communities. Sometimes, all it takes is people within the community, coming together to find solutions for challenges facing the community. It always seems impossible until you take that first step, change begins with you! We all have a responsibility to contribute to change in our community. Nunnovation congratulates the team behind the Ficha Uchi Campaign!