As over 160,000 Isiolo residents grapple with hunger occasioned by the prolonged drought, learners in public primary schools are at risk of dropping out due to lack of regular food provision in school.
While the government has in the recent past sent food to schools in an effort to ensure learning goes on uninterrupted, the rations have not been sufficient enough to support the high number of pupils relying on the feeding programme to escape hunger at home.
On some occasions, the pupils are forced to carry some food home for their siblings and parents whose pastoral livelihoods have been adversely affected by the dry spell, which has resulted in depletion of pastures and drying of over 80 per cent of water sources in the county.
More worrying, however, is the fate of thousands of girls who cannot afford sanitary towels on a regular basis, putting them at the risk of either skipping classes during menstruation or getting lured into having sex in exchange for the provisions.
Woman Representative Mumina Bonaya said while it is crucial for the government to upscale food distribution to schools in counties affected by drought, provision of sanitary towels should also be prioritised to ensure retention and achievement of the 100 per cent transition policy.
“Menstrual hygiene has been overlooked, with focus mainly on food provision, which exposes the girls to inexplicable suffering, including being forced to skip lessons,” she lamented.
Due to poverty and effects of drought and Covid-19 pandemic, many parents are unable to provide sanitary pads to their daughters and there’s need for the state to step in on a regular basis.
Ms Bonaya claimed President William Ruto had okayed a decision to shift the Ministry of Education sanitary towels programme to the office of the women representatives for efficiency. “There have been unnecessary delays by the ministry in provision of the supplies.”
A number of schools have in the recent past recorded high absenteeism due to drought that has seen many families move in search of water and pastures for their emaciated animals while others have resorted to seeking casual jobs to assist their parents fend for their families.
The lawmaker spoke while distributing 10,000 reusable sanitary towels to Grade Five, Grade Six and junior secondary learners donated by the Lay Volunteers International Organisation.
The exercise targeting schools across the county started at Mwangaza, St Kizito and Bulampya primary schools.
County Director of Education Caroline Mugo asked other partners to help upscale provision of sanitary towels to ensure the girls are comfortable while in school and have sufficient contact with the teachers for better learning.
Ms Mugo said learners yet to join Form One and junior secondary school were being tracked to ensure they are in school in line with the government's transition policy.
“Apart from the school feeding programme, we are working with other partners to offer water trucking and are also allowing food for fees to make sure no learner stays at home,” she said.
Ms Bonaya said a food consignment for neediest families and highly populated schools across the county would be distributed in the course of the week.