Student photography project
“I took a photo of me and my camera so I will always remember.” Ten girls turned photographer for 72 hours. The girls are boarders at Esinoni Primary School in Kenya from Monday to Saturday. Each girl was given a camera with clear instructions—show us a day in the life, the way you want people to see it.
“This is me at the school dormitory on Saturday. I’m taking mid-morning tea.” Maria perches on her dorm bed. She had a friend take her photo, to show where she lives during the week. At 11 years old and in Grade 6, she is the youngest of her classmates to take part in the photography workshop. She’s also one of the most eager.
The girls were interviewed about their favourite photos. Those interviews were translated to English from Swahili, to provide some insight into their shot choices.
Students huddle outside of class. Esinoni only recently became a boarding school. Teachers realized students didn’t have time to study at home because they were so overloaded with household chores. So the older students (Grade 6 to 8) now board at the school, which gives more time for collaboration and learning.
“Mary is very good at math. She comes to me when she can’t understand a science problem.” Maria photographs Mary—a friend and neighbour from back home, who earned BFF status at boarding school. Maria took this photo before classes finished on Friday. The next day, they both went home for the weekend.
“My favourite subject in school is science. I like reading. I want to be a journalist.” Caren asked a friend to take a photo of her, posed in her Grade 7 classroom.
“I am a scout and I wanted to take a photo in my scout’s uniform.” School clubs promote leadership and build confidence in the girls. Ann is scout, which gives her special responsibilities in the school.
Ann raises the Kenyan flag every Monday and Friday at school.
“My mother is my role model. She has taught me about having respect for my elders and how to behave in school and at home.” Ann’s mom is a teacher at the school. She’s pictured here, doing laundry on the weekend. The female teachers are role models for the girls, whether or not they are called mom.
Mrs. Josephine, the Grade 2 teacher, collects vegetables from the school garden. This is the solution to a glaring problem that arose when the school administration decided to board the older students at school—how to feed everyone? With the help of WE, the teachers and students created the school garden to provide healthy meals for students and teachers.
“These are my sisters. They are my family and I wanted them to be the first people I took photos of.” Maria’s sisters pose in front of the school’s corn farm on the day she got the camera.
The lunch bell no longer worries the school administration. Githeri is a school staple, made of corn and beans—all grown by teachers and students on the school farm.
“Water is very important to us.” The water system at the school provides the only clean water in the community. Families pay a few shillings to buy water for drinking at home, and at school it flows free for thirsty students.
Girls in the middle of a soccer game at recess.
“This was on a Saturday and the sun made it a beautiful day.” After spending the full week together, come Saturday afternoon they head home to their families.
“Duncan has not started school yet, and the only time I see him is when I go home for the weekend or during the school holidays.” Ann’s photographs her youngest brother, Duncan Titame. Family is at the centre of her time spent at home.
“This is my brother Lempoke. He is in Grade 1 at Esinoni.” Boys are responsible for the cows—when they’re not in school. Here, little Lempoke tends a herd.
“Whenever she is home I ask her a lot of questions about high school, because I want to go to high school after I finish primary school.” Maria’s older sister is her role model. She’s in high school, but she still helps at home. Here, she prepares to take the donkey to get water from a river, which will be used on their home farm.
“Women milk the cows at home, so my mothers take turns. We have many cows, so we have a lot of milk. We use the milk for tea and we also drink it.” In Maasai culture it is not uncommon to have more than one wife—the entire family helps care for the homestead and roles are divided amongst family members.
Silvia’s job was to help her sister spray the cows. Usually this is her brothers’ job, but this time, she and her sister took it on.
“I love my mother because she is kind and hardworking. She always encourages me to do my best in school.” Abigail photographs her mom, on her way to visit her neighbour who recently had a baby.
“My mother takes care of the chicken, she hopes that when they start laying eggs she can sell them and get money to buy household items.” Don’t let the dishes fool you. This rack is dual purpose—it’s actually a chicken coop, but the top half serves as drying rack.
“My brother is in Grade 8. He is very smart and I look up to him. Sometimes he helps me with my studies.” Abigail’s brother tends to the cows when they are home (between soccer games), while Abigail mainly helps her mom with fetching water and cleaning.
“These are our cows. One is a bull and the other one is a milk cow. My mother usually milks the cow.” Cows mean wealth in rural Kenya. The milk is key to healthy diets. Caren’s mom also sells the milk to buy house staples, like sugar and tea leaves.
“It looked beautiful. That is why I took the photo.” Charity photographs her farm in the twilight. Soon her dad will bring in the cows, which her mom milks twice a day. Her parents sell the milk to help pay for Charity’s school necessities—like her uniform and school supplies.
“This is my older sister and her daughter. She is not only my sister, but she is my friend as well and always encourages me to do well in school.”
“This is my grandmother and cousin in our kitchen garden at home.” Good greens are growing in more than just the school garden. Caren’s mom recently started her own kitchen garden to harvest kale and save the money she would normally spend at the market. Her grandmother lives with them and is key to the farm’s success.
“This is my sister and I at a dam near our home.” Whenever Elizabeth is at home she helps get water for the farm and for the house. The family gets their drinking water from the school, but still collect water in the traditional way for household use.
“Even though she is small and is the youngest, she always wants to do what we do. That is a big container, so I only filled it a quarter way for her so she could carry water on her back like the rest of us.” Elizabeth’s little sister wanted in on the action.
“I love them very much because they are the youngest.” Elizabeth poses with her siblings in front of their home. She asked her sister to take the photo.
“These are my siblings. They were helping clean the corn that had been put outside in the sun.”
“My grandmother tells us about how she used to live a long time ago, when this place was still a forest. She gives me advice about being determined and hardworking in school.” Faith doesn’t know how old her grandma is, but she says she’s still very strong.
“This is my grandmother.” Silvia’s grandma watcher her younger cousins when her mom goes to farm.
“I was revising at home. I study after I complete all my work.” On Sunday, the girls complete their homework for the weekend, after connecting with family and finishing their chores.
Soon enough, it is Monday morning again. The girls dress in their freshly cleaned uniforms, ready for another week.
“These are my sisters.” The wheat grass is almost as tall the girls in their proper school uniforms. They make their way to school, hands gliding over the tops of the field, navigating what comes next.