Our students just got back from break and are eager to start a fresh, new school year. Our Programs Liaison Fellow, Shilpa, sat down with one of our KSG students, Velma Atieno, to hear about her break, her aspirations and what she expects in the year ahead!
Pictured below is Velma doing work on a laptop and on the right, Velma acting in a skit.
Q: Tell me a bit about yourself. What are three nouns and three adjectives that describe you?
A: My name is Velma Atieno, I’m 12 years old and I just started Grade 7 at the Kibera School for Girls. I am an actor, dancer, and knowledge-seeker. I am mesmerizing, confident, and passionate.
Q: Having just finished Grade 6, could you tell me what the highlight of this past year was?
A: Last year was great for me. I visited many places, went on many trips and learned a lot. But the highlight was when I was selected for a camp run by AkiraChix, [a program that works to help increase women in technology] where I learned how to build computer games. That was my most fun experience of the year because in one week I went from not knowing anything about how to make a game – to designing a full game with my own set of characters. I made a game about a cat trying to catch a mouse, and people loved it. They told me that my settings and set-up were really well done and that I was creative.
Q: What was the most difficult part of your year?
A: During my exams, I had to remember all that I had been taught throughout the year. It was such a hard task! But it taught me to be confident in myself, to remain focused in my studies, and to work as hard as I can.
Q: What are you most excited about as you start this year? What are you most nervous about?
A: I’m excited that I can now call myself a pre-candidate, which means that I’m nearing the KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education)* and it’s time to focus. I feel ready. I feel prepared. I’ve dreamed of finishing primary school and entering secondary school, so I’m really excited as that comes closer. People have said that Grade 7 is really hard, so I’m a bit nervous about that.
Q: What makes you unafraid?
A: The confidence I have in myself, as well as the advice I get from my parents and teachers makes me unafraid.
Q: What’s the best advice that you’ve been given?
A: Maintain your focus, never give up, and be a role model – these are words I think about every day. They get me through all the challenges and obstacles that I face.
Q: Who inspires you the most?
A: My mother. She has passed through so many challenges, and she has been able to overcome most of them. She is strong. I think I get my strength from her.
My teachers also inspire me, because of their attitudes towards learning. They love their jobs, they love to teach, and they try to bring out their love for learning in us. I definitely love learning and I love all my school subjects.
Q: At the KSG closing ceremony in December, your class performed a skit about a family dictated by an aggressive patriarch, and you played the role of this dominating man. How did that make you feel? Can you describe the experience?
A: Yes, I played a man who was abusive to his wife but who later realized that she was great and started to respect her. The role really made me reflect on our society and families. Playing the character taught me many things. It made me believe that even people who are bad can become good with good influences. It also made me realize the importance of obeying laws and respecting people. Playing a character who lets his emotions get out of control also made me learn more about handling my own emotions. I had to see the consequences of letting emotions take control over how you behave with people, and I said to myself, ‘I’ll never let my emotions get the best of me. I want to make more friends than enemies.’
Q: You are an incredibly talented actor – to what do you attribute this ability?
A: I think it runs in my family. My mom acted in school and so did my sister. I’ve also always loved acting.
Q: How do you see performance contributing to who you are as a person?
A: Performing makes me more confident. It makes me have no fear in myself or in other people. Through poems and plays, I now feel I can confidently interact with people, make eye contact with them, and connect with them.
Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: I want to be a pilot. I want to be able to transfer goods from wealthy countries to people in need. I also want to take people, including my family, to different parts of the world.
Q: If you got your pilot license today and could fly anywhere in the world, where is the first place you would go and why?
A: I’d fly to India. I grew up watching a lot of Indian movies and I love the acting and dancing in them. I would love to see that in person.
Q: Imagine you became a mentor to one of our incoming Pre-K students. What would you tell her?
A: I would tell her, “Take your challenges as part of the journey.” Some students can face problems at home and it can affect their attitude in school – they might feel sad or burdened. But when they know that these challenges are normal, they might return to feeling hopeful that one day they will be able to help themselves, their families, and other people in the community.
*Kenya Certificate of Primary Education is given after a student completes the approved eight year course in primary education