Trip to Soko Stitching Academy Graduation in Maungu
Field Report by Esther Gathiru, Elephants and Bees Project
10th June 2021
Stitching Academy is a school managed by Soko Community Trust under Soko Kenya. This was their seventh graduation which comprised of stitching and computer studies students as this are the main courses offered.
Tour to Soko Factory
On arrival we first visited Soko factory as according to plan where we had an introductory session from madam Mwaka, a teacher in Stitching Academy. She took us through what they do by showing us the sewing machines that they use to teach their students to attain skills needed to improve their livelihoods and secure better opportunities in clothing industries. Currently they allow thirty students for the stitching course since there are only thirty sewing machine. Each student pays four thousand for school fees and the needy students, they are given full sponsorship in terms of fees, accommodation and meals. For the first two weeks, trainings are conducted to ensure each student is flexible in controlling and operating the machine. They are also provided with files for keeping record of each activity they engage in.
However, they have a stitching hub where students who have not yet secured jobs after completion continue to perfect their skills at a cost of five hundred shillings per month. They also run a program known as Kujuwa Initiative which deliver trainings on financial literacy, basic computer skills, sexual reproductive health and rights. This social enterprise helps in supporting women by giving out sanitary pads.
Graduation day is important and the most exciting day. For Soko Stitching Academy graduates, it all began with procession from main road to the graduation ground with singing and ululations. Their joy was written all over their faces. Different guests such as ACC, Maungu Assistant Chief, motivational speakers and us, the Mlambeni Basket Weavers, had joined together with Community Trust Team to grace the event in full celebration of the graduates’ victory. Besides, wonderful items that students had made such as pillows, underwear, panties, sanitary pads made of cotton, and bags were well displayed.
Madam Victoria and her team congratulated the students as they called out for graduates to receive the certificates. They were dancing while receiving certificates as a reward for the good work done during their four month course.
Because it was a special day, Soko Community Trust Team was determined to make it the most memorable day by cake cutting which could not have missed this occasion.
Session with Community Trust Team
After all was done, I requested a session with Soko Community Trust Team. Two of the Stitching Academy teachers took us through different steps that students go through to complete their four months sewing course. They went on and shown us the students’ files comprising of all the procedural samples. The students are taught to sew shorts, dresses, t-shirts, shirts, and skirts with different fabrics to grow their skills to enable them to secure better jobs in clothing industries such as EPZ.
Mlambeni Basket Weavers also had questions on sewing activities and they were well handled. It was clear that some of the clothes that students make are given to the needy as a way of supporting the community. There was also an agreement for collaboration on marketing and selling of our products as long as they are in good quality. Since it was such a brief session, it was recommended that we organize another day for a benchmarking to explain as they engage us practically on sewing ideas and also when students are around for better understanding as Mlambeni Basket Weavers would like to train other community members in future.
It was a fantastic day and we enjoyed it!
Thanks for planning such an insightful trip.
Photos by Esther Gathiru
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