By Jessica Roy

Meet Principal Josephine Oyombo Ombogo

Principal, Gombe Kokulo Secondary School 

It’s a beautiful Thursday morning when we arrive at Gombe Kokulo Secondary School in Kisumu and meet the school Principal, Madam Josephine Oyombo Ombogo who welcomes us to the school. Josephine has been a Principal since 2012. 11 years later, the progress she has made is remarkable. She has pursued partnerships that have enabled her students to get the quality education they deserve. The school now has a library, spacious classrooms, teachers, and she is still looking to get additional support for a water purification project to ensure that the students get safe and clean water in the school. 

School leaders are important agents of transforming educational opportunities for all students. They help drive the collective vision and create a positive culture for the school. Josephine credits all this progress to God, as she describes it, “All these partners have been God sent. I would not have had the power or ability to find all of them”. She refers to partners like Riley Orton Foundation who is leading the uniform distribution program in Kisumu with Tailored for Education. 

“The uniform project should have come much earlier!” When she heard of the project from a neighboring school, she immediately applied. After a year of waiting, she finally got the call to confirm that her school would be in the program. Josephine has been patient. She describes that most of the parents they serve come from very humble backgrounds, so this project means the world to them. Most of the parents who take their children to small local schools will not have the resources needed to pay for full school uniforms and school fees at the same time. 

“The uniform for one student is over Ksh 6,000 (approximately $60), if someone is giving the uniforms to students, it’s almost unbelievable. The uniform project is God sent. I want to say a big thank you to you, because many times when we have Form One’s coming to the school, we insist that they have to come in uniform as required by the Ministry of Education. At the start of the term, most parents will only bring Ksh 500 (approximately $50) or nothing at all”.

Josephine also shares that some new students come to school with very old uniforms which have been acquired from former students. A uniform that has already been worn for four years will then be passed down to the new student who is about to begin their high school education. “When a child comes to school in a very old uniform and they are sitting amongst others who may have newer uniforms, they feel so discouraged and they will find the going to be very tough. It reduces their self-esteem, and they feel so poor among others. The self-esteem of the students has been improved because now, they are all the same in the classroom. They look at each other and they find that they are all at per. So from the outward appearance, nothing has put the other below another, they are all the same”. 

Because of the uniform distribution program, the Form One Admission process this year has been a lot smoother than in previous years. This is because of the significant cost reduction for parents who now only have to focus on paying school fees. They have also observed that the new students have had a faster adjustment to their new environment because of the confidence boost that comes from the uniforms. 

The enrollment numbers also increased! This year, Gombe Kokulo Secondary School has registered 60 students in Form One, as compared to last year when they had 49 students. These numbers may not sound significant, but in rural communities, many students miss out on the opportunity to complete high school education. The uniform distribution program offers extra incentives for parents who would have otherwise been overwhelmed by the cost of taking their children to school. 

Josephine is two and a half years shy of retirement, but she is still full of dreams and hopes for Gombe Kokulo Secondary School. She is proud of how far they have come with the support of various partners who have come on board to support the student’s wellbeing and enhance the quality of education. 

“What I like most is seeing my students succeed in life”.  Josephine’s impact is very impressive, she started with nine students as a Founding Principal, and she has been able to grow the school and collaborate with various partners to help realize the promise of education for the 250 students in the school. As you think about what it takes for children to succeed, this spotlight on Josephine is an example of a partnership that works. Visionary school leaders like Josephine, community partners like Riley Orton Foundation, and organizations like Tailored for Education come together to transform education for students from underserved communities.