Women's Institute for Secondary Education and Research (WISER)

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Motto Live. Learn. Be.
Formation 2007
Type NGO
Legal status Foundation
Purpose Education, Human Rights
Headquarters Muhuru Bay, Kenya
Region served
Nyanza Province, Kenya
Website http://wisergirls.org/

The Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research (WISER) is a non-profit NGO working to build the first girls’ boarding school and research center in Muhuru Bay, Kenya.[1]

General information[edit]


No girl who has completed her secondary education in the Muhuru Bay school district has ever qualified for college entrance, while a significant number of boys qualify every year. The Muhuru Bay region of Nyanza has some of the highest HIV and malaria infection rates in the country, as well as extreme poverty.[2] Due to its isolation, Nyanza has not participated in the economic development that has occurred in other regions of Kenya. The area remains without electricity, potable water, and governmental commitment to development. As is common around the world, girls suffer the most in impoverished communities. Of the girls who enter secondary school, many engage in transactional sex with their male teachers, the fishermen from Lake Victoria or other men, leading to early pregnancies, HIV infection, and high dropout rates. There is an undeniable need to provide safe and effective education to the girls of Muhuru Bay to break the cycle of early marriage, HIV, and poverty.


The Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research (WISER), a Kenyan NGO in partnership with Duke University, is a model for girls’ education and community development in post-conflict, rural Kenya. We established the first girls’ secondary boarding school and community center dedicated to expanding the social and economic capital of women in the southern Lake Victoria region. WISER focuses on academic excellence and fostering an entrepreneurial spirit of inquiry and intellectual independence, as well as providing programs to build leadership capacity in community health, technology and economic development. WISER provides the first potable water, wind and solar power, and computer technology in the region. WISER also works with community members who desire adult education, and provide special programs to young men who wish to become gender allies.


Relationship with Egerton University[edit]

For the last five years, Duke University has been developing and deepening its relationship with Egerton University in Kenya.

The relationship is a collaboration between Dr. Sherryl Broverman, Associate Professor of the Practice in Biology at Duke and Dr. Rose Odhiambo at Egerton University. Dr. Broverman initially consulted with the Institute for Women, Gender and Development Studies (IWGDS), which Dr. Odhiambo directs, on the development and assessment of a course on HIV/AIDS for a general audience. Egerton is one of the few universities in Kenya that mandates a course on HIV/AIDS for all undergraduates, and has been a national leader in infusing gender issues into the dialog about HIV/AIDS.

Duke students in Kenya

For five years, Dr. Broverman has traveled to Kenya with students to do a needs assessment of WISER's Kenyan peers and develop a community-based research project for students at Duke.

In subsequent years, Duke students have worked with Egerton students to develop an HIV/AIDS peer education manual; a manual on the interaction between gender, health, and development; and a documentary of Kenyans living openly and 'positively' with AIDS. Egerton graduates who have participated in its HIV/AIDS education and training programs are now being selectively recruited by the Ministry of Education.

In 2005 the National Science Foundation awarded a grant to Dr. Broverman to develop an international collaborative learning program that linked students at Duke and Egerton throughout the semester via an email dialog and joint homework assignments. Duke University also provided funds to install a satellite system for enhanced Internet connection at the IWGDS. Dr. Broverman's award from the Division of Undergraduate Education at NSF is the first international education program funded by that agency. The NSF has recently made the development of research and education programs—such as the one between Duke and Egerton—a high priority that increase the ability of future leaders to work in a global society.[3]

Introduction to Muhuru Bay[edit]

Dr. Odhiambo was the first girl from the Muhuru District to ever go to college, and in the 25 years since she left the school district no other girl has gone on to university.

In contrast, male students from Muhuru routinely graduate with good grades and matriculate to college. Throughout their visits to Muhuru Bay, Drs. Odhiambo and Broverman always met with girls at Rabwao Secondary School, the only mixed gender secondary school in the district, to support girls' education. During the summer of 2005, Mr. Richard Okinyi, the headmaster of Rabwao, asked Dr. Broverman to develop a project that would both determine the causes of the gender gap in academic performance at Rabwao and develop interventions that could be implemented. Mr. Okinyi and other local education officials also raised the need for a 'girls only' boarding school in the area that could provide a better educational environment. Boarding schools are the norm for secondary school in Kenya; the ones for girls routinely produce higher achieving students than mixed schools.

The Birth of WISER[edit]

In the summer of 2006, Dr. Broverman and a team of seven undergraduate students lived for one month on the Rabwao Secondary School campus to research obstacles to girls' educational success. Interviews and focus groups were held with all 250 students, all teachers and administrators, local primary school teachers from the nine local schools, parents, the area chiefs, representatives from the Ministry of Education, and Provincial government officials.

At the same time, town hall meetings were held in three languages in order to determine the needs of the community. It became clear that the citizens of Muhuru Bay believed that a private boarding school for girls would be an essential step towards improving the educational performance of local girls and their opportunities in the future. To reflect the strong community support and commitment to the WISER project, the Chief of Muhuru Bay donated 10 acres (40,000 m2) of land to be used as the site for the school. WISER is currently working with an eight person in-country advisory team to open WISER in Muhuru Bay within the next few years.

Signature Programs[edit]

WISER's Core Co-Curriculum[edit]

WISER will utilize a holistic approach to developing tomorrow's female leaders. Coupled with academic rigor, WISER scholars will also be given the opportunity to learn three professional skills in community health work, Chinese language, or computer literacy to be prepared for multiple post-graduation plans.

Co-Founder Andy Cunningham in Kenya

Green Community Resources[edit]

WISER will be a green school and bring the first source of potable drinking water to the area by a solar pump. WISER will also create the first solarpowered campus and computer lab in the region while providing community members and students with new green collar job opportunities.

CampWISER & WISERBridge[edit]

CampWISER will provide health, gender, computer, and leadership summer programming led by Duke students for boys and girls in the Muhuru Bay community. The WISERBridge program will establish a yearlong academic enrichment program for the nine primary schools to improve high school exam scores and the quality of WISER feeder schools.

WISER Partner Schools[edit]

WISER has partnered with high schools and middle schools across the USA who have committed to raising funds for one girl's scholarship for four years. The model is simple: students are empowering students through a global issue with a personal connection.

Key Supporters and Corporate Collaborations[edit]


  1. ^ "WISER - About WISER". Retrieved 2008-09-01. 
  2. ^ "Nyanza HIV Prevalence Map". Retrieved 2008-09-19. 
  3. ^ "NSF Department of Undergraduate Education". Retrieved 2008-09-19. 

External links[edit]