Since 2010, the Kisa Project has produced more than 2,000 Kisa Alumnae. These young women today can be found all across Tanzania, working in various industries, as entrepreneurs, and generally as changemakers in their respective communities. The vast majority of AfricAid’s alumnae (95% vs. less than 5% as a national average) have continued on to university, pursuing degrees that have allowed them to make an even greater contribution to their communities and lead Tanzania into the future.
This is the story of Aikande Simon Muro, an alumna who I came to know when we were both Kisa Scholars at Makumira Secondary School from 2012-14. Some months into the school term, Aikande transferred to Makumira from another school. She was the only girl in her class and often isolated herself from the boys. However, she made friends with other girls at the school who were part of the Kisa Project. The Kisa Scholars would share stories of their experiences in the program and Aikande was inspired. One Friday evening, she worked up the courage to approach the Kisa Mentor at Makumira to ask if she could join the program. This was a pivotal moment in Aikande’s life. It took some time and patience before she began her journey as a Kisa Scholar – Aikande counted three Fridays before she was allowed to become part of the class.
Overall, Aikande’s experience as a Kisa Scholar is what drove her to want to be a Mentor to other girls. She thought of what her Mentor meant to her back when she was a Scholar, and wanted to give that same gift to those who came after her. She hopes that the Mentor/Scholar bond will be a domino effect throughout the entire country. Aikande plans to use her skills and experience to continue working with other educational platforms in her country that support girls’ empowerment in Tanzania.
Aikande Nkya and Magdalena Kitinya, who are Aikande’s supervisors in AfricAid’s Kilimanjaro office where she now works, described her as an ideal employee: hard working, organized, focused, team player, proactive, creative and constructive problem solver, appreciative, and caring. Beyond those qualities, they describe the special essence of Aikande: “She likes to help others and does not wait for them to reach out. She is always ready to share with her Scholars her wisdom on how they can make their life better, but also brings creative ideas for how they can be proactive.”
Actress and humanitarian, Angelina Jolie, who has worked with the United Nations on behalf of refugees for 18 years, once said, “There is no greater pillar of stability than a strong, free and educated woman.” Aikande proves daily that she is one such pillar for girls across Tanzania.
A Conversation with Aikande Muro
Aikande and I spoke about her memories of her time as a Kisa Scholar, the satisfaction she gets from her work as a Senior Kisa Mentor today, and most importantly, the Mentor/Scholar relationship. It can be summed up this way: Aikande got hope as a Scholar and now she gives hope as a Mentor.
What was your experience like as a Kisa Scholar?
Fridays were the best day because that’s when Kisa lessons were on. Being in Kisa helped me to build my confidence and get involved in class like never before. After I joined Kisa, I started to feel more confident and was able to interact with the boys in my class. After every lesson, I used to sit with them and discuss what was covered in Kisa. Lessons like the one on leadership styles were helpful to us all. Kisa helped me to understand myself as a student. It helped me to set goals and gave me the tools I needed to reach for those goals. Sharing what I learned with the boys in the class came to be the best part of the experience.
Is it important for young girls in school to have mentors? How did having a mentor help you?
I know the importance of having a mentor because I was once in their shoes. I feel so lucky to have met my Kisa Mentor, Madame Esther. She helped me to deal with the challenges I was facing, and I developed resilience. She guided me in finding solutions to my problems, and made me believe that I could get through – that was so valuable. She continued to be my Mentor after I graduated from the program, during my time in university. During the holidays, she still made time for me even though she was a busy person. I have always felt relieved after having a conversation with her and I would say everyone needs one person like that in their lives. They are the reason people believe in hope again. Everyone who gets to have a mentor should take the chance to be one for another person.
How has your mentoring style been influenced by the Mentor you had while you were a Kisa Scholar?
My Mentor was the first person to come into my life and support me in this special way – she was the person I had always wished to have in my life. As Africans, we are raised in a culture where it’s often difficult to share our thoughts with parents and family members. When I met my Mentor, it felt entirely different. I could easily speak my mind with her and hear her thoughts about the situations I was going through. She was the person I could go to about personal or work-related challenges, and that relationship continues to this day.
Today, in my role as a Kisa Mentor, I try to be that person for my mentees… a person with whom they can exchange thoughts, and a shoulder to lean on when they are facing challenges. I usually don’t tell them what to do. Instead, I try to be there for them and let them talk to me, and this means a lot to them. I cannot say a Mentor is a problem solver or a solution giver. Alternatively, we aim to support and be there for our mentees – like a sister, a teacher, or even an aunt.
How does it feel to now be a Kisa Mentor after your experiences as a Scholar?
Soon after I graduated from the Kisa Project in 2014, I began my accounts and finance degree at Mzumbe University. During my time as a college student, I used to visit the AfricAid offices, and help with data entry and sometimes substitute in class for Mentors. About the time I graduated from university in 2017, AfricAid announced that they were recruiting new Mentors. I always wanted to be a Mentor and I jumped at the opportunity! Since then, I have mentored more than 500 Tanzanian girls across the Arusha and Kilimanjaro Regions.
I feel overjoyed as I reflect on my journey as a Kisa Scholar. When I see my Scholars in class, it makes me think of myself. I feel like they have a lot of questions in their minds, just as I did. One of those questions is whether it is worth it being in Kisa, or is their time being wasted? When this question arises, I like to share my experiences with them, talking about balancing my own academic issues and my time as a Kisa Scholar – not only does it bring me joy, but it also calms their worries. In fact, I kept my notebook from my own Kisa Scholar days. I refer to it regularly to remind myself about my thoughts, concerns, and dreams as a young girl. This perspective helps me deliver a stronger lesson in class.
Being both a Kisa Scholar and a Kisa Mentor has helped me to better understand and connect with my own Scholars. It has helped me to remember not to be judgmental about the situations that they are going through (for example, poor academic performance, relationship difficulties, or other personal issues) because my Mentor did not judge me.
Meet more of AfricAid’s dedicated Kisa and Binti Shupavu Mentors!
AfricAid mentors secondary school girls in Tanzania to complete their education, develop into confident leaders, and transform their own lives and their communities. We equip girls to overcome challenges and reach their full potential because educated girls create lasting positive change. The outcome is proactive, resilient, and socially-responsible girls who secure better jobs, raise healthier families and increase the standing of women in society.