In earlier postings I wrote about the numerous student interviews we conducted earlier in the term and the 26 amazing students we rendered from them. These girls came from many parts of Kenya, they came eager to learn and were excited discover what their new futures held. I have not however, written about the new world they stepped into.

I am not referring to the physical beauty of Daraja Academy’s campus or the well-planned curriculum of the classrooms… I am referring to the complex social world that is a girl’s boarding school.

Though grateful and excited, packing off to a foreign world that will be your “home” for the next four year is an utterly terrifying experience. Many of the girls come from far away villages where the weather is different, the food is different, the language, the customs, even the way people dress are all different. When these dramatic contrasts are coupled with the fact that most of these girls have never been away from their families or caregivers for any extended length of time, we knew that we needed a series of support systems to help the Form 1’s (high school freshmen or 9th graders elsewhere) assimilate.

The following points have been incorporated into the Daraja Academy school model:

Each of the incoming students was greeted upon arrival by a pre-assigned big sister. Making new friends can be very hard and early on we wanted to create relationships that were based on something other than a common tribe or hometown. These pairings were based on shared interests, personalities and additional commonalities, other than tribe.
Early last year we noticed girls clustering with other students who either came from the same region or tribe, especially during the uncomfortable “I-don’t-know-anybody” stage of the year. This makes perfect sense, and happens in schoolyards, classrooms and boardrooms all around the world. At Daraja Academy, however, we wanted to help establish relationships that otherwise