12/12/05

Saint Mary's Boys Secondary School in Nyeri, Kenya, does a lot with just a little, Brother Dominic Jordan told faculty and staff members at a luncheon in the Soda Center on Nov. 21.

The school, emblazoned with the motto "You give us the boy, We give you the man," has been run by the Christian Brothers since 1990. Its 440 students live in simple dorms and take care of chores from milking cows and grinding maize to feeding and slaughtering pigs for their meals, said Brother Dominic, the school's headmaster.

But the main emphasis is on education. The students are not only eager to learn, they excel at academics. Last year, the school ranked 34th out of 3,500 Kenyan schools in national exams, and 70 percent of its 108 graduates scored high enough to qualify for the limited vacancies in the public university.

"We're giving them the opportunity, but they work their tails off," Brother Dominic said. "Our kids are extremely serious students. They know if they go to Saint Mary's, they will make it" in the world.

The students' achievement is especially remarkable because the school is run on a shoestring. There are only 14 teachers, and most class sizes average 56 students. The $250 tuition is only one-fourth the tuition charged by Kenya's public schools.

Brother Dominic said the school excludes students from private academies because the Christian Brothers want to educate the poor. It also excludes children from large cities because it wants to help those from small towns who have fewer options.

Although the students must work both in class and at their chores, they are also very happy and have a deep faith in God, according to Brother Dominic.

"They almost put us to shame with their sense of God," Brother Dominic said.

The school also has a street children program with about 165 young orphans, many of whose parents died of AIDS. The older high school students are positive role models for the youngsters. Saint Mary's provides them with safe places to live and with uniforms for public elementary schools, which they attend during the day.

SMC professors Roy Wensley and Mary McCall, who both spent time teaching the boys in Nyeri, called it a great experience and said it was a program worthy of donations.

"A dollar sent to this is like thousands of dollars sent to a high school out here," Wensley said.
-- Erin Hallissy
Office of College Communications

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