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Students from Ngunyumu Primary School in Nairobi’s Korogocho slum surround gym teacher Gilbert Moywaywa. The school has a robust after-school program that lets students and neighbourhood children take part in activities from karate to choir. (Josh O’Kane/The Globe and Mail)
Students from Ngunyumu Primary School in Nairobi’s Korogocho slum surround gym teacher Gilbert Moywaywa. The school has a robust after-school program that lets students and neighbourhood children take part in activities from karate to choir. (Josh O’Kane/The Globe and Mail)

WE DAY

Making good with martial arts Add to ...

When Gilbert Moywaywa returned from Brazil in 2011, he was inspired. In Rio de Janeiro, he’d become a global alumnus with Fight for Peace, an organization that combines education and development with martial arts and boxing.

It was the perfect approach to bring students and other youth into Nairobi’s Ngunyumu Primary School, in the impoverished Korogocho slum.

The gym teacher took what he learned and revamped the school’s old karate program, adding in a slew of other martial arts disciplines, including tae kwon do and capoeira. Now, after school and on Saturdays, students can be found practising in the rooms of Ngunyumu, often with coaches who volunteer their time.

There are other activities, too: There’s a choir, and a local music project called Ghetto Classics brings in instruments for the students to learn. There’s even a full student council, with governors and ministers representing different grades and portfolios.

By offering so many activities and getting students involved, there’s more of a drive to come to school, Mr. Moywaywa says. “If you cannot fit in here, you can fit in there.”

The school is adjacent to Nairobi’s Dandora landfill, and many children drop out of school, picking through garbage to find items to sell for food money. But the program, Mr. Moywaywa says, has boosted enrolment. And it’s open to others in the community, too, which gives older students – and dropouts – a chance to learn the importance of excelling at something.

The school already offers lunch to children who can’t come, but this gives them more than just a full belly – it offers them a second chance. After a recent martial-arts competition against Kenyan army players, four students demonstrated enough skills to be offered jobs: two with the army, and two for a private security firm. “If you are not good in class, at least you can do a sport,” he says. “And if you become good, you can get a job.”

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