A US based Kenyan woman has started a new Preparatory school in Kennesaw, Georgia, about 25 Kilometers West of the city of Atlanta.
Princeton Preparatory school, which is a Montessori-style institution, welcomes its first batch of pupils on Monday.
The proprietor, Ms Faith Wangunyu, told the Nation that she had to work multiple jobs to raise the start-up capital required to start the school.
“I had to raise at least US $50,000 as start-up capital. I didn’t receive a penny in outside aid from anyone,” she said adding; “I’ve worked as an emissions inspector, a night auditor at a hotel, a nursing aide, you name it,” said the 31 year old entrepreneur.
A third year student of International Affairs at Kennesaw State University, Wangunyu says her efforts have finally borne some fruits. “I am very grateful to my family for encouraging me even when I felt like giving up,” she said.
She spoke during the ribbon cutting ceremony at the school last Saturday, which was attended by the Mayor of Kennesaw city, Mr Mark Mathews, a number of other city officials, parents and well wishers.
The mayor paid tribute to Ms Wangunyu and thanked her for choosing the city of Kennesaw as the school’s location.
“I’m particularly encouraged by the fact that a young woman with a dream can come from Kenya to the United States and in less than four years, open a school,” said Mr Mathews.
“We’ve got a very diverse group of education facilities in this city and this is another great opportunity for our children to learn, and we welcome all types of schools,” added the Mayor.
“This is a welcome breath of fresh air coming from after so many stories of despair and death among the Kenyan community in the US,” said Mr Fred Murihia, an Atlanta based Kenyan who attended the event.
Named after the Italian educationist Maria Montessori, the Montessori philosophy and method of education emphasizes autonomy of students and self-guided education.
During the opening ceremony, the school’s Director, Ms Dana Miller, said enrollment was open for pupils from age 3 to 12.
“But we intend to expand the school in the near future,” she said.
Wangunyu came to the US from Kenya in 2010 and enrolled as a student of International Affairs at the nearby Kennesaw State University.
“I wanted to work for the United Nations but later decided that was not my path. I am now determined to prove to the world that nothing is impossible, only if you dare to dream” she said.
“I like the system of education as I’m also a product of Montessori and it has done great things for me. I think outside the box. I’m not afraid to try new things,” she added.
She said it took about $50,000 to get the building renovated and ready for the children. “Initially, I did not receive any outside funding and had to work all manner of jobs to raise the money while still enrolled as a student at the University,” she told the Nation.
Currently, the school has seven members of staff, including the director, who has worked as a teacher in public schools for 15 years.
Ms Miller will oversee the operation of the school, handle student discipline, write grants on behalf of the school and work on community outreach.
“The main difference between us and our local cohorts is that the tuition fee we charge includes all of the kids’ extracurricular activities,” she said. “They don’t pay any extra for things like karate, piano or language classes. They are all inherent in the tuition and all they have to do is choose what they want to take,” she told theMarietta Daily Journal, a local newspaper.
“The basic notion of Montessori is that you let the kid drive their interest in a subject. This opens up many possibilities for the kids,” she said.
On Saturday, Dr Feland Meadows, a professor who has helped the school with state accreditation said traditional American schools group children by age and give them the same curriculum.
“But these children could have vast differences in learning style or ability. Montessori schools, Meadows said, group students together in groups of three years: birth to 3 years old, 3 to 6 years old, etc.”
This grouping also helps teachers by giving them the same students for three years, fostering a familiarity with the children they teach, Meadows added.
She said the curriculum is chosen in line with how individual children develop. “For example, students in the 3-6 age group use curriculum in categories such as practical life, sensorial development, language development, math development, science and culture.”
Montessori schools have produced some successful alumni, including the founders of Google, Wikipedia and Amazon Actors George Clooney, Helen Hunt and Anne Hathaway went through Montessori system of education.
Ms Wangunyu says the school will also offer Swahili lessons to the pupils.