Our Lady of Nazareth Primary School

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Our Lady of Nazareth Primary School

Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

About You
Project Street Address

Not applicable – located within Mukuru kwa Njenga slum

Project City


Project Province/State

Nairobi Province

Project Postal/Zip Code


Project Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on:


Website URL

http://Not applicable

What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

YouTube Upload

Not applicable

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?


Describe your idea in fewer than 50 words.

Our Lady of Nazareth Primary School educates 1700 students from the Mukuru kwa Njenga slum in Nairobi. In addition to quality classroom instruction, students have access to an extensive library, computer classroom, science lab, art room, music program, counseling, health care, and meals program.

What makes your idea unique?

OLN provides a holistic education for children in the slum, catering for their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs rather than emphasizing solely academic learning. Through the tree planting project, parents and students have planted more than 6000 trees within the school grounds to purify the air quality and provide students with experiential learning about environmental science and stewardship. The school compound also contains a large field and sports pitches for physical education. To address the issue of child hunger, younger students receive porridge every morning and all students receive a hot lunch daily. Students also receive de-worming and basic health care regularly. Two trained counselors help children address the psychological challenges of childhood and their home living situations. Students who perform well on the national primary school examination can receive a scholarship for secondary school and later university, supporting their continued academic development.

What is your area of work? (Please check as many as apply.)

Children & Youth , At risk youth , Behavioral issues , Early childhood development , Education , Girls' development , Mentorship , Play , Hunger , Mentorship , Scholarships and grants , Environment & Sustainability , Renewable energy , Urban , Food , Health care , Sports , Wellness , Hunger , Arts and culture , Social work , Spirituality , Sports .

What impact have you had?

Each year, Our Lady of Nazareth Primary School educates more than 1,700 students according to the prescribed syllabus in Kenya, in addition to offering instruction in the non-examinable subjects of art, music and computer. Academic performance remains high, particularly in light of the challenges many students face at home. In the first term of 2009, Our Lady of Nazareth placed 18 out of 64 schools in the Eastern District of Nairobi. Moreover, approximately seventy percent of each graduating class goes on to pursue some form of secondary education or training. Through the scholarship program, those students who have performed very well on their national examinations are provided with the full cost of pursuing further education. Currently, there are forty sponsored students in secondary school and twenty-four students being sponsored for university, in fields as diverse as accounting, commerce, library science and medicine.

Describe the primary problem(s) that your project is addressing.

The students at OLN live in the surrounding informal settlement, Mukuru kwa Njenga, where overcrowding, poor sanitation, lack of regular access to water and electricity and rapid spread of disease are common. Many of the students do not receive proper nutrition at home and must supervise themselves as their parents work long hours for meager wages. Alcoholism, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, the death of family members and single parent households are all major challenges that these families face. These stressors strongly affect the educational achievement of students in primary school.

Describe the steps that your organization is taking to make your project successful.

Our Lady of Nazareth Primary School seeks to address the needs of the children in an integral way, addressing common barriers to academic success for children living in informal settlements. For example, many students receive only one meal per day, if that, at home. Therefore, the school began a program to provide uji, or hot porridge, for the lower primary students. This gives the children energy to focus in class and nutrients to grow healthily. The program will soon be extended to include all students from Pre-unit through Standard 5.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Success in Year 1:

Within the next year, Our Lady of Nazareth wants to develop and expand the art and music programs offered to the students so that they can develop their talents in these areas as well. Many students have natural abilities in these creative enterprises but have no opportunities for guided instruction to improve them within the basic primary school syllabus.

Success in Year 2:

Expansion of the porridge program to Standard 5 will require additional staff resources and larger food purchases. Likewise, the implementation of the plans for the art, music, computer and science facilities necessitates increased staff capacity and the purchase of equipment. Thus the administration must work to secure additional fundraising and leverage existing resources.

Success in Year 3:

By 2012, the school will plant 12,000 new trees within the property. As the trees grow, they mitigate some of the air pollution in Mukuru kwa Njenga and provide shade from the harsh sun. Students will also learn about environmental conservation and natural science. Eventually, mature trees will be harvested for fuel, reducing the school’s reliance on purchased firewood.

Do you have a business plan or strategic plan? (yes/no)

Yes, providing quality education for the poorest children in Kenya.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 1:

Ensuring high student performance levels, particularly on the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination, would increase the opportunities of the students for further studies in secondary schools or other post-primary educational and vocational programs. Furthermore, as student performance increases, donors are more encouraged to support the mission of the school, further expanding the school’s capacity to provide quality education.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 2:

Continuing to foster a constructive relationship between the Marianists and the City Council of Nairobi, who jointly contribute to the school administration, would allow the school to develop in positive directions. Strengthening that relationship can occur as both parties honor existing agreements, particularly concerning staffing, so that the focus of the school’s development remains on improving the quality of education offered to the children.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 3:

Job assurance for teachers would help to motivate the staff to dedicate their efforts towards creating an effective learning atmosphere within the classrooms rather than searching for another work position elsewhere. Educators who feel secure in their positions can devote additional time to developing creative lesson plans and adopting innovative teaching methods.

Describe the expected results of these actions.

When the staff members dedicate themselves to educating their students through creative and effective teaching methods and when the administration of the school runs smoothly, student performance on national examinations should rise. Our Lady of Nazareth can create a learning environment that is conducive to high educational achievement and to the maturation of the students as they learn to become responsible adults. In addition, through the continued development of the music, art and computer programs, students can apply themselves to non-academic excellence in diverse fields.

What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The defining moment for Our Lady of Nazareth Primary School occurred in 1997, when the Marianists took over the management of the school from the Sisters of Mercy. At that time, the school population was approximately 900, the school facilities were underdeveloped and the compound completely lacked trees. Under the leadership of the Marianists and the Administrative Council, the student population has reached more than 1700; computer, music, art, feeding and counseling programs have been established; and more than 6000 trees have been planted. In addition, partnerships between local businesses, NGOs, primary schools in other countries and individual supporters have grown tremendously. Also beginning in 1997, the Marianists hired additional staff and increased the size and quality of the library. This year, the Marianists have opened a family centre located near the school, to address the needs and challenges of the students’ parents through adult education, counseling and empowerment.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

The manager, Fr. Martin Solma, works with the seven-member Administrative Council as a team to run the school, implement policies and devise new programs. The council includes representation from the library, counseling and bursar departments, as well as the Senior, Deputy and Head Teachers. Several of the members have worked at Our Lady of Nazareth for more than ten years and all have specialized knowledge to contribute to the group. The Administrative Council meets approximately three times per month to discuss new possibilities for school programming, to assess their desirability and feasibility and to approve new initiatives. Through discussion and coordinated efforts, the members of the Council address the challenges facing the school, common issues arising among staff or students and any potential barriers to the effective provision of services for the children.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

The school librarian saw a notice about Changemakers in the Daily Nation, Kenya’s major national newspaper, and forwarded it to the main office.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

A lack of funds could seriously limit the ability of the school to cater for the diverse needs of its students and force the school to downsize some of its programs, such as music, art, and computer. All of these programs have on-going funding needs and an interruption in financial flows might necessitate the restructuring, reduction or even elimination of these important educational initiatives. Additionally, poor administration can adversely affect the running of the school and detract from the central mission of providing high quality education for these children. Likewise, personal politics among the staff, if left unchecked, can distract teachers from their core work. Thus the effective functioning and coordination of the Administrative Council is highly important to the implementation and improvement of all school programs. Finally, a poor working dynamic between the Marianists and the City Council of Nairobi could adversely affect the management of the school.

Financing source


If yes, provide organization name.

The school is a ministry of the Marianist District of Eastern Africa, whose ministries primarily focus on providing quality education for the poor.

How long has this organization been operating? (i.e. less than a year; 1-5 years; more than 5 years)

The Marianists have been in Eastern Africa since 1961, at which time they ran Mang'u High School and Aquinas High School.

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?

We have an Administrative Council, a Parents’ Council, a Marianist District Council and an Advisory Board.

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs? (yes/no)


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses? (yes/no)


The Story
Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government? (yes/no)


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Numerous educational partners support our mission of providing a holistic and integral education for the children of Mukuru kwa Njenga. For example, the World Food Program contributes nutritious food to the lunch program. AAR, a large medical care provider, regularly assists with health assessment and treatment for the students. Letter exchanges with schools in the United States and Great Britain help the children to develop a broader view of the world. The City Council of Nairobi provides some teaching staff and other resources to maintain a high educational standard.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the total number of employees and total number of volunteers at your organization?

62 employees, 4 steady volunteers and many short term volunteers from the USA.

What is your organization's business classification?

Non-profit/NGO/citizen sector organization

Have you received funding from any of the following groups? (Please check as many as apply.)

None of the above.