Thursday, March 17, 2011

An African girl, and education journalism at its best.

Tomorrow, this blog migrates to my own web site. Before it does, while I have as many eyeballs as possible, I want to show you the highest example of what can be accomplished on the education beat.

My friend Amy Argetsinger was covering higher ed for the Washington Post when she learned about an young Masai woman from Kenya who was attending a small women’s college in Virginia. Amy could have written a simple fish-out-of-water piece; the material just for that was terrific. But the story that unfolded as she got to know Kakenya Ntaiya was far more complex and compelling—involving genital mutilation, arranged marriage, college readiness, more.

Amy and a photographer visited Kakenya at college many times over the course of two years, and traveled to the remote African village where her family remained. The four-part series, from December 2003, is here. Several months later, Amy and the photographer returned to Kenya to document Kakenya’s mother’s journey to her daughter’s college graduation, and that piece is here.

Fortunately, this was a paper and a time where that kind of investment of resources was possible. Would this happen now, anywhere? Ha. I get that as a journalistic endeavor it is far removed from what nearly all of you do, day to day. But as evidence of the power of the written word and the medium, it is entirely relevant. Did you cry? I do, every time I read this. Did the journalism make a difference?

For Kakenya, an amazing woman then and still, yes. For the girls getting educated at the school she has since founded in Kenya, yes.

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