Education is never easy — but for some families, it’s nearly impossible. Parents wake up as early as 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning, leaving home to do meagre jobs, such as weeding or harvesting on a local farm. Their goal is often one of survival: putting food on the table. When energy goes into basic sustenance like this, it’s difficult to progress in other areas of life — areas like education.  Education’s benefits are well-known: in short, a good education can pave the way for a thriving life. It is not by choice that so many children forego a valuable education, but by the circumstances surrounding them. Raising money for school fees, buying school uniforms, text books and more is difficult when food is hard to find. And even for those who manage to take their kids to school, it is through difficulty. Many will go to school with torn uniforms and even bare foot if they are not lucky enough.  

Horizon’s mission is to rescue and empower orphaned children to self-sustainability — one road toward empowerment is providing children with an education! Thirteen students graduated high school this past year and are waiting to join college, while 12 students sat for their grade eight exams and are waiting to join high school this month. We all get butterflies when in comes to any test in life, and this exam for our eighth graders was no different.

Imagine eight years of studying tested in 2 hours.

Twelfth graders didn’t have it much easier:  four year of study culminating in a 2.5 hour test! It goes without saying that much preparation goes into these exams, beginning with the syllabus to more hours of study and revision for the high-school and university candidates. 

“It was like a marathon, trying to cover the syllabus,” says Hosea who just graduated high school

Some background here may be helpful: for most students in much of western education, the transition from eighth to ninth grade isn’t more than a grade (and sometimes, building) shift. In Kenya, rising ninth graders must earn a spot at a good high school. Students are willing to travel and live at their high schools, much like boarding school. 

Teachers and parents ensure their children are equipped for the exams, and children put in the hard work of study and preparation—because for them, this is one big step toward realizing their dreams. For the eighth graders, test results can secure a place in a highly ranked,  high-performing high school.  One can think of the exams as inter-related: a good score on the first will improve one’s chances of performing well on the second, which determine qualification for college — a step closer to the future.

Even through interruptions to the school calendar due to COVID, students found alternative means to  keep up with studies and eventually sit for the exams. And their studies were plentiful: eighth graders are tested on subjects from English and Kiswahili to math, science,  Christian religious education and social studies. Twelfth graders have a wider selection of more specialized subjects, such as biology, physics, Business studies, computer and more. Horizon gave these children all the support they needed through collaboration with teachers, parents, peer tutoring and online classes. When exam-time finally arrived, students were a range of emotions: some nervous, others excited and others confident. “I was prepared but I feel it wasn’t enough compared to how things were before COVID,” said Mercy, and eighth grade graduate. Vivian agreed: “when I started the exam, I felt I wasn’t confident enough because we were home for long as a result of COVID.”

They pray as a class in the morning,  get checked to make sure no  material besides the exam is in the exam room, and begin. After sitting all the tests, the wait starts:  usually the hardest part, because everyone is anxious to know their results.

Despite the overconfidence, anxiety, excitement and a tense environment, the young men and women managed to do their best. Angela, for instance, scored a B+ and is waiting to go to university in September to study clinical medicine. Hosea and Robert want to study Information Technology in university, while Linda wants to study mechanics and wiring. 

The grade 8 students performed equally well and Jeremiah just got a place at Chewoyet high school – which is a national school. They will join high school later this month.  Congratulations to all who completed exams this year — your hard work is paving a new, bright path.

Written by Dorice Lusuli, Sponsorship & Alumni Program Coordinator