Our Story

Andrea and Richard

Richard Kaitany, who originated the idea of Simbolei Girls', was born in a farming community near Iten, Kenya and attended local public elementary schools and St. Patrick's High School in Iten. He came to Iowa State University on a track and cross country scholarship in 1978, to study plant pathology. As a student at ISU, Richard met Andrea, a native Iowan who was studying English. They married in 1984 and have four children.

Over the years, Richard and Andrea noticed the lack of high-quality educational opportunities for young women in rural Kenya. They also saw how the traditional boarding school system separated young women from their communities and families and alienated the local community from the educational process. When local teachers urged them to consider starting a high school for girls in the area, they decided to build and develop a community-based high school that would link this marginalized community with the wider world.

In 2006, a disused sawmill on seven acres of land was purchased. The sawmill manager's cottage was renovated into a livable house and work on Simbolei Girls Secondary Academy was begun in 2010. Currently, construction is underway at the building site of the school near Iten, in the village of Kamariny. The exterior is complete and interior finishing has started. The school will admit its first students in January 2020. 

An Important Mission

Our physical buildings, however, are only the location for our more important mission. Simbolei Girls' will provide a rigorous education, but we seek to do more. In addition to high levels of academic achievement, we wish to foster community, social responsibility and creativity. Our curriculum design includes involving our students in the community through tutoring and story-time literacy promotion at the local elementary schools. Students at Simbolei Girls' will also complete cultural studies programs in which students and their teachers use the cultural and natural resources of the community as the basis for projects in writing, social studies, math and science.

We will welcome the community into our school through community access to our open library, performances of our music and theater programs, and community seminars on health, child development, home economics and agricultural innovation.

We seek to provide a model for other schools throughout Kenya for the incorporation of community values and community involvement, as well as education that values and develops critical and creative thinking.

The Kalenjin people hold the steep escarpments of the Rift Valley to be deep in symbolism and spiritual importance. In the 1930s, Kalenjin elders opposed the building of roads from the valley floor to the plateau above.

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Simbolei Girls Secondary School, Kenya