Lessons From Enoosaen – An American architect’s perspective on KCE’s vision for a new campus

Lessons From Enoosaen – An American architect’s perspective on KCE’s vision for a new campus

architects kce

Kakenya, KCE staff and architects touring the new land for the building.

My vision for the Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE) perpetually leads me to pursue new opportunities to educate and serve vulnerable young girls – answering my commitment to give back to girls in the village where I grew up.

As more and more families witness the success of their daughters at KCE, the demand for our services grow.  In 2014, with the needs of our community in mind, we purchased land and began visioning a concept for a new K-12 private school. 

This summer we were fortunate to have our architect and design team visit KCE and the new site.  Our architects are committed to involving our students, staff and community in the design of our second school.

I am pleased to share architect David Dewane’s first impressions and insights of KCE in his blog below.  Stay tuned here for updates on KCE and our second school.

Gratefully,

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Kakenya Ntaiya, PhD

President and Founder, Kakenya Center for Excellence

Our students enjoyed sharing Maasai culture with the design team.

Our students enjoyed sharing Maasai culture with the design team.

In August, I found myself standing next to Kakenya Ntaiya in the portico of the newly constructed KCE classroom building.

From our viewpoint, the whole campus was alive with activity. The workmen were putting the final touches on the building and dismantling the scaffolding. A group of teachers sat on a bench with some students, taking tea and chatting in the shade of a young acacia tree. Across the rest of the yard, numerous groups of girls had formed for a variety of purposes, some to play and others to fetch water, wash dishes, or just relax. There was also a universal display of the most prominent attribute the girls express: a strong and abiding affection for one another.

“I’m glad you are here,” Kakenya said. “It is important that you get acclimated.”

As a member of the team focused on design of the new campus, I was in Enoosaen to listen and learn, document the existing campus, and visit the new site.

My first observation was about the girls themselves. They are simply incredible. From the first moment I met them, they were warm and welcoming, curious and thoughtful, humorous and engaging. As a group they seem to glow, and as individuals they are humble and friendly, each possessing an agile intellect. These girls face enormous challenges and confront them with grace. A genuine appreciation for their teachers is clear, and their love for one another is like that of a second family.

One question about these girls was stuck in my mind: Why do KCE students perform so well academically compared to their peers?

I repeated the question to everyone I met, and I received a variety of answers. The administrators explain that success comes because the program is well supported by donors and partners. The teachers think it is because each girl has her own book, a rare situation in Kenya. The girls themselves point to the school rules, which state every girl must participate, filling them with courage. Another KCE staff member believes it is Kakenya who inspires the girls to work so hard.

Kakenya herself offered an answer that encompasses all of these reasons. “When a girl succeeds,” she told me, “it is not because of the individual, but because of all those who have helped her.”

Success, in other words, depends on the community.

My visit to Kakenya’s village brought me critically important information to think about when designing a new building. When thinking about the new campus, it is important to step back and ask what role should the building play. What scenes could it create? What does it trigger? How can it advance KCE’s existing strengths?

As a foreigner, there is an unavoidable dilemma that always accompanies working abroad: Should the project be a western import (like an iPhone or a Mercedes), or should it strive to be as locally rooted as possible?

If our starting point for this project is that it should continually reinforce a sense of community, then it seems we are fortunate enough to be rooted in a universal value.

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