In the United States, people often take public education for granted, since there is no paid tuition requirement and the salaries of teachers are automatically paid through the state. Also, in the U.S., kids are required to attend school and in recent years, it has become more and more difficult for parents to come up with excuses as to why their child can’t attend.
But in Tanzania, it’s a totally different story. Students are required to pay to attend school and thus, most don’t attend since they cannot afford it. Most of the schoolhouses are in ill repair and access to any form of technology is impossible. Not only that, but these schools don’t even have electricity or kitchen areas for kids to eat.
Martin Kluck was an assistant teacher in Tanzania. One day while he was teaching at a primary school, a student of his named Abigail drew him a picture to take home with him. So he would never forget it, he turned the image into a t-shirt to take back to the U.S. as his own special souvenir. His idea grew into something so much bigger than he could have ever imagined.
Kluck actually came up with a brilliant idea after a couple of his students, including Abigail, were unable to afford to pay their school tuition. He decided to print a handful more of the shirt that Abigail’s picture was on to sell them and earn some money for the kids. This was back in 2009.
Since then, the idea has blossomed considerably. It is now being used to help fund schooling for several children at two different schools in Tanzannia. The company is called Kipepeo which translates to ‘butterfly’ in Swahili. The t-shirts each feature an image drawn by a student at the school. The company makes them, sells them, and then 10% of the proceeds go towards paying for the school fees for children attending the school.
Kipepeo Clothing has made a true difference in providing help to the schools since its beginning. Kipepeo was responsible for sponsoring the purchase of 20 computers and a computer room for Mecson Primary School. In addition, they provided a power line to the school for electricity and internet access, shirts for each student for graduation, a water pump for clean water access, plants to liven up the exterior and a brand new building providing a new, clean kitchen.
The other school that has significantly benefited from Kipepeo has been Utukufu Nursery School. The company paid two entire years’ worth of rent for the building and its surrounding grounds. They also repainted the structure and helped fill in gaps in the structure, sponsored uniforms for each student, purchased blackboards for the classrooms, and bought new school benches for the children to sit on. The Utukufu Nursery School is a part of The Utukufu Project whose goal is to support parents and children who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
Kluck never thought that his little souvenir shirt would turn into such a huge project and do so much good. Kipepeo Clothing’s most recent project is providing 20 additional computers to new students and their mission continues to grow.