What you need to know:
- Girls, he noted, are the most vulnerable, falling victim to early marriages and pregnancies when they fail to report to schools on time.
June Lokuruka, who scored 367 marks in the 2020 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) at Lokori Mixed Primary School, was elated to be the best student in Turkana East constituency.
But soon after the results were announced, she started worrying about school fees and money for personal effects if she was lucky enough to raise tuition fees.
“My father lost his wealth, livestock, in a single raid when bandits attacked Napetet village last year,” the 15-year-old said.
“Despite my exemplary results, he can’t even afford my uniform for St Brigid’s Girls High School Kiminini, a national school in Trans Nzoia County.”
She was one of 756 beneficiaries of the Turkana East National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF), which will pay her school fees.
Area MP Ali Lokiru said NG-CDF pays all the fees for any candidate in the constituency who is admitted to a national school.
“Candidates called to other schools classified as county and extra county get an average fee of Sh8,000, with those living with disabilities or having parents with disabilities allocated Sh15,000 to complement the main sources of fees,” Mr Lokiru said.
But he noted that though all the learners in the constituency benefited from bursaries, those from poor backgrounds such as Lokuruka can’t afford other requirements.
“Parents who have lost their main source of livelihood to bandits from our neighbouring Tiaty constituency in Baringo County are vulnerable. Even if we pay fees, their children might be sent back due to lack of critical requirements,” he said.
Girls most vulnerable
Girls, he noted, are the most vulnerable, falling victim to early marriages and pregnancies when they fail to report to schools on time.
He called on his colleagues in the National Assembly to work on legislation that will see the poorest counties with known disparities in education considered for affirmative action.
For Lokuruka, the battle to get the best marks was more than just getting into a good school for her secondary education.
It was about survival and a good life.
“My teachers kept encouraging me to work hard to attract scholarships because where I am from if I do not perform well, I could easily be married off so that my father can restock his stolen livestock through dowry,” she said.
High levels of poverty fuelled by retrogressive cultural practices such as cattle rustling and banditry in Turkana East constituency have worsened disparities in access to education countrywide.
With livestock being the main source of income, most parents who lost animals during raids by bandits are unable to pay school fees for their children in secondary schools.
Turkana Central MP John Lodepe also has the Missionary Lodepe Foundation, which he established just before he became MP in 2013.
“As an orphan from Turkana, my school fees were paid by a well-wisher and after becoming successful I wanted to give back through philanthropy,” he said.
Initially, he supported children in his constituency but for the past one week, the MP has traversed other constituencies for the first time, reaching out to students unable to afford school requirements.
“Poverty has denied many children an opportunity to realise their dreams. Through my foundation, I am assisting needy children who through education will uplift the standards of living of their families. Once successful, they should also help others if I die,” he said.
Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok presided over a Missionary Lodepe Foundation event in Lodwar on Saturday to distribute school materials to children joining Form One.
He said most leaders and professionals in the county were not different from the children now in need of support to join secondary school.
“I was assisted to go to school just like most of the leaders in the county when churches, well-wishers as well as bursaries from government, companies and non-governmental organisations paid our fees. We must return favours in kind by supporting others who are in need,” he said.
He wondered why, after gaining success, some professionals with good salaries fled their villages, leaving their parents to languish in poverty.
He said parents, especially those with livestock, must be responsible.
“How can a parent with more than 200 goats and several cattle claim to be poor and fail to take children to Form One over lack of fees? Livestock is the wealth you have, sell some and take children to school,” the governor challenged parents.
He also noted that some well-off parents with successful businesses or good salaries were taking advantage of connections to deprive poor families of opportunities to get help.
“Well-off parents should just keep off from the few opportunities that are targeting needy students so that wholesomely we can ensure no student is disadvantaged when accessing education,” he said.
He said his administration had set aside Sh374 million for bursaries this financial year, calling upon schools to allow students to continue with classes before the awards process, based in wards, is concluded.
“Poverty levels in the county are currently at 79 percent and we can tackle it not only through nomadic pastoralism but also through entrepreneurship and education,” the governor said.
“I urge students to take advantage of all this support to pursue their education and work hard to transform their lives.”
The leaders appealed to school principals not to send children back home because they lack fees but to work with parents, guardians and managers of bursary kitties on how the fees can be paid.