"I love to do what I do! I also believe that to change my community, there must be quality education"
Margaret is the founding director of Tenderfeet Education Centre, a primary school for 200 pupils, which today provides a high standard of education in Kabiria, Nairobi. Some school children come from afar – the slums of Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum and home to 1 million people. Tenderfeet was initially located in rented premises in Kibera.
Disadvantaged children from as young as four years old get picked up from Kibera up at 6am and driven to Tenderfeet where they enjoy breakfast and a bath, get dressed into their school uniform and are ready for a day full of learning. With classrooms of 25 pupils, caring and bright teachers provide quality education. At the end of the day, children are taken home… and staff are ready to do it all again the next school day.
Margaret is also a wife, mother, teacher and community advocate. She is passionate about child education and child protection, and with Head Teacher Lydia Wambui, helps teenage girls to complete their secondary school education through their Kipepeo program.
Manasprings sat down with Margaret to ask her more about Tenderfeet.
Manasprings “Why did you start Tenderfeet?”
Margaret “Being a Early Childhood Education (ECD) teacher for more than 10 years in the slums of Kibera, I witnessed vulnerable children being kicked out of schools because they lacked school fees. I believe that ECD is the foundation of good education and unfortunately it is not free in Kenya. To access ECD, every child in Kenya must pay school fees, so for vulnerable families in the slums and rural areas it is not possible for their children to attend introductory, middle and pre-unit classes, all crucial stages of learning prior to Primary School. I started Tenderfeet to give quality ECD teaching to these vulnerable children.”
Manasprings “What were some of the challenges you faced at Tenderfeet?”
Margaret “It’s been a struggle. Towards the end of 2007, during the post-election violence, Tenderfeet was taken over by people in Kibera who decided to make the school their home. This was the third time the children had been evicted from their school. Each time, the children and I were evicted from rented rooms we would start all over again, but this time it was different. I was so angry.
I remember, it was Friday and enough was enough. I had reached my end. I decided to burn the school down. If the classrooms couldn’t be used for learning, then they wouldn’t stand. On my way home, I bought a 20-litre jerry can of petrol and hired two thugs. It was agreed that on Monday, the school would be burnt to the ground.
The funny thing though, the school wasn’t burnt down! On Sunday I went to church and the minister shared with the congregation that there was a person who was carrying a lot of anger and was about to do something they would regret. I didn’t say a word. I just sat there. He walked right up to me and said that I was the woman God wanted to speak to! I mustn’t go through with whatever I had planned!”
Manasprings “So now Tenderfeet had moved from rented premises to its own school. Those days are behind you however what motivates you to continue?”
Margaret “I love to do what I do! I also believe that to change my community, there must be quality education. One of the Tenderfeet beneficiaries is in his fourth year of university. In the year 2000, he was my pre-unit pupil. I educated him with quality education. Last August, his father was admitted to hospital and the young man paid the hospital bills. He works during his university holidays tutoring high school students and earns approximately 40,000 Kenyan Shillings ($600 AUD). I see so many good changes within this young man. I love serving these children and young adults.”
Manasprings “How has Manasprings supported you as a Community Leader?”
Margaret “The encouragement I receive from Manasprings keeps me going. If it wasn’t for Manasprings, I don’t know where I would be given I was almost burnt out because of stress, and at Manasprings, I’ve learnt how to deal with stress.
I continue to learn so much – How to define my vision and mission, and make it clear in a simpler language. I have learnt to have an income generating activity without depending on donors to sustain some needs. I’ve also learnt ‘Money Matters’ which has really changed Tenderfeet’s style of accounts to be better.
I learn from other leaders and together we become stronger to continue serving our communities. Manasprings really teaches us on how to improve our organisations and also renews us day by day.
My hope is to see Manasprings women leaders with big sustainable income generating projects and to see national Manasprings conferences and county level retreats throughout Kenya.”