Local Teacher Builds School in Kenya: Improving Our Collective Global Well-Being


May 6, 2021
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen

Local Teacher Builds School in Kenya: Improving Our Collective Global Well-Being

Local history teacher James “Jim” Cummings has been cultivating youth empowerment locally and globally since 1987 and just recently opened the doors of Kijana Global Innovation School–a pre-primary and primary private school located in Western Kenya. 

Fresh out of college with a BA in History and International Studies, Cummings joined WorldTeach and landed on the other side of the world teaching English in Bunyore, Western Kenya. Shedding the comforts of first-world living, he lived and volunteered for 15 months with no electricity or running water and learned the incalculable value of cross-cultural dialogue and education which mapped his journey for the last three decades–a life of traveling between continents and fostering relationships among under-served Kenyan communities and American school communities. 

Over the course of Cummings’ career as an educator in the US, he taught at The Prairie School in Racine, WI, The Benjamin School in North Palm Beach, FL, and Seminole Ridge High School in Loxahatchee, FL. He also earned his MA in History and studied both African history and Kiswahili–the official language spoken in Kenya and by an estimated 80 million people in East and Central Africa. Cummings’ continued studies expanded his knowledge of the continent’s rich history and afforded him the opportunity to develop a larger network of contacts in Africa to serve him in establishing Kijana Educational Empowerment Initiative in 2002 with co-founder and fellow teacher, Bruce Huber. 

Kijana is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that has served a pivotal role in transforming education in Vihiga County in Western Kenya. Vihiga County, among the relatively poorer areas of Kenya, suffered from very limited educational resources, and relatively low educational outcomes. Potential for advancement to higher education was limited. With hundreds of thousands of dollars of investments, Kijana altered the educational trajectory and raised expectations of citizens by investing in over 30 schools countrywide. Partnerships and funding support from local Palm Beach County community members transformed a few Kenyan schools, like Ebusiloli Secondary School and Mwituha Secondary School, from dilapidated remains to burgeoning institutions. Kijana’s investment and redevelopment of schools in this area spurred over a 1400% increase from the late 1990s to today in students obtaining a high school education in the area and a significant rise in students from the area matriculating into universities. 

Kijana’s vision, driven by a diverse Board of Directors, continues to enliven the educational experiences of our global youth so that more of the hundreds of millions of young people who need greater and more creative educational opportunities will find them. With this goal in mind, the visionaries launched a capital campaign in May 2019 to build a modern pre-k through 12th-grade independent school, Kijana Global Innovation School (KGIS), to serve primarily average-income and highly-talented Kenyan youth and infuse new options in our global educational capacity. 

To fulfill this vision, local philanthropists Stephanie and John Pew stepped forward with a large leading donation to support Kijana in contributing to Kenya’s and the world’s educational fabric.

“After giving $100,000 initially, we gave another $100,000 six months later. We were so moved in recognizing how many students the new Kijana School will benefit for so little compared to wealthy countries and how much Kenyan students and families appreciate it,” stated the Pews.

In 2019, $310,000 was raised and Global Innovation School opened its doors in January 2020 with 15 students and one block of administrative offices and classrooms for pre-k through second grades. By March 2020, 28 students were enrolled, and then the entire country shut down due to the global coronavirus pandemic. During the shutdown, the Kijana team made huge advances in the physical development of the school. KGIS reopened in January 2021 with 54 students and pre-k through sixth-grade classes. Today, enrollment  is around 84 students and climbing. By January 2023, KGIS will include a Form 1 class (equivalent to 9th grade) and the secondary school will graduate its first high school class in 2026. 

This new school serves students in Kakamega, Vihiga, and Siaya Counties, which have a combined population of 3 million people. 

There is still work to be done. Kijana has set a goal to raise $450,000 in 2021, and they are about one-third of the way there. They are preparing to launch a campaign to raise money to build a library/media center in addition to their need for more classrooms, technological resources, books, a dining area, increased staff, sports fields, and a playground. 

According to Cummings, “Human society suffers as significant human capital is underutilized and unfulfilled by our traditional socio-economic and global educational systems. The inaugural Kijana Global Innovation School invests creatively and energetically in this underutilized global human capital, improving our collective global well-being. Their expanded opportunity will be the world’s gain as these young people fulfill their academic, social, and creative promise, becoming positive world change-makers.”

Kijana Educational Empowerment Initiative promotes and cultivates youth empowerment through educational development, cross-cultural dialogue, and sustainable and environmentally friendly economic growth, among under-served Kenyan school communities and American school communities. For more information or to provide financial support, visit: kijana.org. 

Students at Kijana Global Innovation School perform a Maasai dance

Students recite a poem.
More videos available on Kijana’s YouTube Channel.


001: View of Kijana Global Innovation School classrooms from the inner courtyard.

002: Jim Cummings, President and Executive Director of Kijana, hands out new backpacks filled with school supplies to the students who attend Kijana Global Innovation School in Western Kenya, Africa. 

003: The Entrance to Kijana Global Innovation School in Western Kenya.

Click here to view more photos. IDs available upon request.


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