Another Perspective on Kenyan Education

The joint submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Kenya to which ERI contributed commented on the disparities and the gaps between rural and urban zones in providing access to education.

The reality of that disparity was brought home to ERN co-ordinator Johstone Shisanya and Br Martin Binenya on a recent visit to a rural primary school at Kibwezi between Nairobi and Mombassa, about 200km from the capital.

Students at Ndeini Primary school, Kibwezi

Both Martin and Johnstone were troubled by the obvious needs of the school and its apparent neglect by the Kenyan government. In a recent edition of the East Africa District newsletter Johnstone described the school:-

“Ndeini Primary School is one of the government schools in Kibwezi with about 250 students from nursery class to class eight. The majority of students are from very poor families where their parents cannot afford to provide them lunch. Others are orphans. They stay at school throughout the day with the scorching sun and dust in class; lunch for them is a mystery.”

“No classroom is plastered and in the staff office there is nothing like a book shelf. The furniture consists of a carton (box) for each teacher to keep his or her books, one table, a few plastic seats and a bench.”

Despite the lack of resources, students displayed a passion for learning and had attained an impressive level of academic achievement. The tragedy is that many bright pupils will not proceed with their education due to lack of school fees. As Martin reflected in the same newsletter “If they were in the city, there are at least possibilities of well wishers that can sponsor their education in secondary school. Being in the rural area, they are not lucky enough to get support.” He also noted that “most Religious and NGO try to minister and support needs in urban areas while rural needs are mostly forgotten

The visit has raised many challenging questions for the Brothers and members of the Edmund Rice Network in East Africa. The obvious one being “Is there anything more we can do?”

In response to the enormous need that is everywhere evident, part of the response that ERI would put forward is for the ERN to become involved in advocacy in following up  recomendations arising from the recent UPR of Kenya to help ensure the Kenyan government better fulfils its responsibilities to provide every child with an education. As important as it may be, responding charitably to schools and students on an individual basis will never address the wider problem, action at national and international level is also required.

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