St Aloysius Secondary School aims to provide quality education to needy orphans and vulnerable children living in Kibera slum, Nairobi. In the tradition of Ignatian pedagogy, the education offered, while primarily academic, is holistic in nature and aims to form the young students to become “men and women for others”. Secondary school is followed by a six-month period of community service. The final structured component is support for each graduate’s tertiary education, mainly at diploma and degree levels so that they may become productive members of society.
Two beliefs integral to the running of the school are that “education is liberating” and that “having hope results in avoiding risky behaviours that will result in HIV infection”.
St Aloysius seeks out children who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attain a secondary education, let alone an education at the tertiary level. Each year, the school takes 70 youth (35 girls and 35 boys) as Form 1 students.
St Aloysius presented two best practices for the competition: the school itself and its use of the AHAPPY (AJAN HIV & AIDS Prevention for Youth) program for its weekly Education for Life (EFL) sessions. The school decided to use the AHAPPY program in the context of a ‘family’ structure. Each of the forms has been divided into groups of about 12 students, half boys and half girls. One teacher or professional staff person has been designated to work with, indeed be a part of, these family groups.
The staff members have found that AHAPPY lends itself well to small-group discussion, with the content of the program helping the members of each family to bond with and support one another. Plus points of the AHAPPY program are that it stresses values formation in a holistic context and is in line with the school’s religious world-view. The AHAPPY material leads to responsible and mature decision-making in the area of sexuality and more broadly as well.
St Aloysius believes such a program will help its students to live the healthiest life possible in order to enjoy the benefits of their education and to be better able to be responsible citizens who are living service-oriented lives. As orphans and vulnerable children, St Al’s students need positive peer and adult support, and the family structure, which is integral to this best practice, is critical to providing such support.
The project directly serves 273 students on scholarship; no doubt the staff involved are also benefiting.