Silgich Hill Academy—Paul Koech Gives Something Back to Kenyan Children

By Jörg Wenig

There would be no school in Kipsomba had it not been for Paul Koech and his outstanding career. The Kenyan athlete, who had been one of the best long distance track runners in the world before he turned to the marathon in 2003, built a primary school outside the small village, which is 30 kilometers north of Eldoret. The Silgich Hill Academy was opened in January 2004 and has 80 pupils. And as Paul Koech explains there are plans for another charity project concerning education at a secondary school for elder children.

It all started after Paul Koech had bought farm land near Kipsomba. “I then thought that I should do something for the community,” Paul Koech explains. As a successful athlete he wanted to give back something to his country. Since there was no school in the area Paul Koech decided to build one. He bought another piece of land for the building.

“I started running at primary school,” says Paul Koech, who became World Half Marathon Champion in 1998. When he became a serious athlete he realized that a lot of other athletes had no education. “Either this was because there was no school where the athletes lived or it was simply because they were not motivated to go to school.”

Paul Koech employed eight teachers and five non teaching staff at his school, which houses 80 pupils at present. School starts at 7 a.m. and goes on until 4:30 p.m. There are three breaks: Morning tea at 10 a.m., lunch and evening tea. “Most of the food served at Silgich Hill Academy comes from my own farm,” Paul Koech explains. The children are between three and eleven years old at present, but will stay at the school until they are 14. The school is semi private, which makes sure that the level of education is higher than usual. “The teachers are eager to teach the children,” the 35-year-old runner explains.

In contrast to most of the primary schools English is the main language at Silgich Hill Academy while Swahili is a subject. “Normally it is the other way round,” Paul Koech explains. “The people in the community are very happy that they have a school for the children—this is very encouraging for them.” There is a fee for attending the school. But if parents have not enough money Paul Koech helps out. At present he pays the fees for eleven children. The Kenyan hopes to find more funding for his school.

And there is a second charity project he will support. This is in conjunction with Kimbia Athletic, the management group recently founded. Paul Koech belongs to the Kimbia team and they plan to support a number of Kenyan children by financing their education in secondary school, which is normally not provided in Kenya. “May be some of them could go on to university and become athletes,” Paul Koech says. But again the primary objective is not the sport but to support the education of the children.

“When I will retire from running one day I intend to live at Kipsomba. It will then be my aim to find young children who are talented for running and help them with education.” At present four of the boys at the school do run and look quite promising. But of course it is not a condition for the pupils that they start running when they start going to the school.

Meanwhile Paul Koech continues his career. Originally he intended to run the Boston Marathon on 18th April. But there were some problems during his build up training. So he decided to do shorter road races in the spring. Recently he had won the Dallas 8-kilometer race. The big goal this year is the Chicago Marathon in October. “My aim is to break my personal best.” It was two years ago, when Paul Koech was second in Chicago in 2:07:07 hours. It was his debut at the distance.

So Paul Koech continues two campaigns—his athletics career and his involvement for the children back in his home country. “Without running there would be no school,” he says. But of course he would be happy to find further funds. Just 400 US Dollar pay a child’s annual fee, including teaching, meals and school’s clothing.

If you want to help Paul Koech raising funds for Silgich Hill Academy please contact by e-mail: