Mary Njoroge's Grassroots Tour on Education

November 10, 2009
by Eric Harris, RESULTS Grassroots Communications Coordinator

RESULTS Educational Fund’s Education for All campaign was pleased and honored to host Mary Njoroge on her trip to the United States last week. Mary traveled to Atlanta and Athens, Georgia; Chicago; Cleveland; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C., to meet up grassroots volunteers and help them educate their communities, the media, and members of Congress about the importance of overcoming the obstacles to education that many developing nations face by supporting a Global Fund for Education. Her inspiring trip helped to remind many that when 75 million children around the world are unable to go to school and tens of millions more are dropping out before the 5th grade, we have a global responsibility to give these children the educational tools and opportunities to help them take care of themselves and their families, persevere through economic hardship, and become tomorrow’s doctors, lawyers, and innovators.

Mary was the former Director of Basic Education of Kenya and has an inspiring track record of youth advocacy and a fierce dedication to childhood education. She began her career as a secondary school teacher and later worked as a child psychologist. In 1980, after only 5 years in the schools, Njoroge was appointed to the Primary Education Division of the Kenyan Ministry of Education, and subsequently served as the National Coordinator for Early Childhood Development and the Director of Basic Education. Before retiring in 2006 after 26 years of service at the Ministry of Education, Njoroge played a critical role in the development of the Kenya Education Sector Support Program.

Allison Gallaher from our RESULTS Cleveland chapter recounts the success of Mary’s trip, “After a day and half of wonderful outreach activities (a reception, a meeting at a church, and high school and college classes), we reached our premiere event at the Plain Dealer. Three partners accompanied Mary. She was interviewed for more than an hour, and the writer was well-informed and very engaged. She’d clearly read the background information and was eager to get the details from an expert. Mary, of course, was wonderful, recounting the successes and the challenges from Kenya, and speaking up for other countries needing support to accomplish what Kenya has already done.”

Steve Valk from our RESULTS Atlanta chapter reflected on Mary’s visit, “Mary Njoroge kicked off her tour on Oct. 27 with a visit to Georgia — accompanied by RESULTS Grassroots Manager Ken Patterson — with a lunch with local activists to hear her story and strategize on ways that local organizations could support the Global Fund for Education. That was followed by an hour-long meeting with Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial writer Maureen Downey, who puts together an education page every Monday in the AJC. Ken and Mary then traveled to the University of Georgia in Athens to visit with students, an event organized by RESULTS volunteer Catherine Mencher. After listening to Mary, the students wrote 25 letters to Senator Johnny Isakson asking him to help launch the Global Fund for Education. The next morning, those letters were hand-delivered to the office of Sen. Isakson, where Mary, Ken and four Atlanta RESULTS partners met with Isakson’s state director and with Isakson’s foreign relations aide in Washington, who joined by teleconference.”

One of the many highlights of Njoroge’s career was overseeing the Abolition of School Fees Initiative in 2003. Kenya abolished all school fees, and more than a million additional children came to school the next day. Now, nearly 2 million additional children have come into the primary school system, gender disparities have all but disappeared, and Kenya is widely heralded as an example of what is possible with universal free primary education. Njoroge’s Free Primary Education program continues to be both nationally and internationally acclaimed for its best practices in basic education expansion, and was awarded the Moran of the Burning Spear, one of Kenya’s greatest honors, bestowed by the president to outstanding citizens. Having since retired from the Ministry of Education, Njoroge now serves as an educational consultant, and is the proud mother of four grown men. We at RESULTS were privileged to have Mary as our guest during her stay in America.

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