Baruako Hassan: A Beacon of Light

Isabellah Wabomba

Nairobi, Kenya - Jul 2007

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Despite the seemingly alarming environment within which she dewlls, Baruako Hassan has beaten all the odds.  She scored an over all grade of A- in her high school examinations!  A rare occurrence in informal settlements in Kenya.  She has made history by scoring the highest grade ever witnessed in Korogocho slums.  This is no mean feat, especially for a girl growing up in this type of environment.

Baruako cannot underestimate the obstacles that have come her way.  “Life is uncertain, you don’t know about the future, you are faced with many challenges”.  Worst of all the environment we live in is not good for anybody, let alone girls who are vulnerable to so many bad things e.g. rape!”

She gives a personal testimony.  “I like using my example; when I go back home in the evening I have to struggle to find a place to do my private study, that is if I have survived the risk on the way home, as I could be raped or killed.  There are those guys…idlers around the corner who are just waiting to grab you.  So going to school as a girl is a great challenge. You have to have courage”.

Her academic achievements have been helped by an initiative in the Korogocho slums called MISS KOCH short for MISS KOROGOSHO initiative.  It is a youth organized initiative that was started in 2002 with the aim of changing the attitude of youths and girls in particular around the slum.

According to Emmy Kempa Erondanga, the Coordinator of MISS KOCH, the initiative is a response to the crime infested neighborhood.  “We saw the dangers that the girls in particularly were facing.  They were vulnerable to rape and the perpetrators were fellow young men, so MISS KOCH stepped in to reverse this situation with a view to supporting the girl child through education combined with political and economic empowerment. 

This initiative was formed by the youth for the youth.”Since then, many girls have been sponsored to continue with their high school education and Baruako is blazing the trail for other girls to follow.  Indeed Baruako is making the MISS KOCH vision come alive.

Her main motivation is her dream.  “I always wanted to be a pediatrician.  When I wake up in the morning and see the suffering of children, I also have an epileptic brother, this inspires me to work hard, to be a role model to the younger ones.  Even though I lacked role models I wanted to be one for the girls in Korogocho.”

Baruako could hardly contain herself when she received her excellent results after four years in high school.  “I was proud and excited because after the long struggle I managed to get an A- grade.  More so I was proud to show the girls in Korogocho that education is an aspect of life that we can also achieve.  It’s not about getting pregnant, dropping out of school, engaging in drug abuse, that is not life!”

She cautions that sometimes it is beyond the girls’ zeal to succeed.  “We have witnessed cases of girls in the neighborhood being mugged, their school books taken away, being raped and sometimes killed.  It is quite sad because one wants to succeed but society is against it and doesn’t want you to succeed!”

Baruako comes from a big family of eight children so her parents have struggled through thick and thin to see all of them go to school.  She is forever grateful to organizations that have come to the rescue of girls by sponsoring them to go to school.  She sites the MISS KOCH initiative as a blessing in her neighborhood. “Lacking school fees is like a second shadow.  It is always there.”

Baruako is full of encouragement for her fellow girls.  “it’s a myth that girls only excel in art subjects and not sciences.  I am proud to say I had A’s in all the sciences.  If you have any problems consult your teacher and you’ll pass very well”.