Low cost schools to boost pupil enrolment rates in ASALs

Education Secretary Kiragu Wa Magochi during the launch of the Modelling of Integrated Nomadic Education Child friendly Schools at Kanam Kemer Primary School in Turkana Central. PHOTO/PETER WARUTUMO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Under the low cost boarding primary schools programme, schools will also be supplied with solar energy to make it easy for the learners to study on their own, early in the morning and late in the evening.

  • The tablet programme provides TAC (Teachers' Advisory Centre) tutors with tablets well-equipped with instructional and supervision aids to help them fundamentally improve teaching in Kenya.

The government is working with development partners to increase enrolment and retention of pupils in schools in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs).

This follows concerns that many children of school going age from the pastoralist communities are still out of school despite the introduction of free primary and subsidized secondary education.

The 'Modeling of Integrated Nomadic Education, Child Friendly Schools and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Programme in the dry regions of Kenya' aims to improve access to education through introduction of low cost primary boarding schools.

According to the Turkana County Director of Education Ojuma Anyang' ,the government provides Sh4,000 per year to each pupil from these nomadic families to take care of the boarding facilities besides the Sh1,025 for Free Primary Education (FPE).

The donor agencies supporting the programme also offer various forms of support like boarding facilities and sanitary towels whereas the World Food Programme (WFP) provides meals, to ensure the children remain in school.

"The pupils don't pay at all. The programme would address high dropout rates and children missing schools as they join their families to trek for long distances in search of water, food and pasture for their animals," said the director of education.

He revealed that though enrolment in primary schools in the county had increased from 118,000 in 2013 to 130,000 in 2014 due to enhanced sensitisation campaigns on the value of education, the transition rates from class one to the subsequent classes is still worrying.

"Each year, there is a decline in the number of pupils who move to the next class. By the time, those who started in class one are standard eight, the retention rate is a paltry 22 per cent. We lose children to early marriage, and herding cattle," he said.

The project, with a total budget of Sterling Pounds £3.5m (Sh494m), runs from August 2013-March 2015 was launched this year at Kanamker Primary school in Turkana County.

It is targeting an estimated 35,000 direct beneficiaries and 3.5 million indirect beneficiaries aged between 4-18 years in Garissa, Wajir, Isiolo, Turkana, Tana River, Mandera, Marsabit and Samburu counties.

The programme is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID-UK) and is being implemented by The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with Kenya Primary Schools Head Teachers Association (KEPSHA), NGOs and local communities.

This follows concerns that many children of school going age particularly in ASALs are not enrolled in schools despite the introduction of Free Primary Education (FPE) in 2003.

"There is a lot of disparity in access to quality education, in spite of efforts that the government has taken to make education affordable," said UNICEF Kenya Country representative, Mr Kanyankore Marcel Rudasingwa.

He added, "As a development partner, we are working with the Kenyan government to promote the rights of the marginalized and other disadvantaged lot. Governments have a duty to uphold equal educational rights for all children."

By 2015, at least 35,000 nomadic boys and girls aged 4-18 years in target low cost Primary boarding Schools in ASAL counties will be able to equitably access and benefit from an integrated package of Child Friendly Schools, Communication for Development, Solar power  and WASH.

Dr Daniel Baheta, the Chief of Education at UNICEF said the aim of the project is to ensure all children in Kenya have access to education in response to Kenya's commitment to Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number 2, which is to achieve universal primary education by 2015.

"All children have a right to quality basic education. This project is essential to enable Kenya achieve its education objectives," said Dr Baheta.

Under the low cost boarding primary schools programme, schools will also be supplied with solar energy to make it easy for the learners to study on their own, early in the morning and late in the evening.

Lisa Phillips, Head of Office for DFID Kenya, said they are committed to economically empower Kenyans through education, saying such an investment would enable more people who could have remained helpless take care of their lives and that of their families.

"A girl who has gone to school is three times more likely to get a job and meet her needs. If she has children, she is eight times more likely to take care of the family," she said during the launch of the project.

Sandra Barton, DFID Kenya Education Advisor said the ultimate goal of the project is to improve schools in order to attract more children.

The UK government will be spending more than £60 million (Sh8.4 billion) on Education in Kenya over the next two years.

"This literally implies that each person in the UK is parting with at least one pound (Sh144) given that the country's population stands at 60 million people, in support of a Kenyan child's education. The money must be put to wise use," she said.

She added that although official government statistics indicate that 95 per cent of children who have attained school going age are in schools in the country, the figures fail to capture glaring disparities in the number of learners in school from the ASALs.

The reasons could be due to lack of appropriate infrastructure like roads connecting to the institutions, inadequate teachers and security lapses that disrupt teaching and learning.

"Education is crucial in addressing these challenges. To enhance the teaching and learning process, we shall even provide the government with software that can be uploaded into the laptops meant for standard one pupils" said Barton.

The tablet programme provides TAC (Teachers' Advisory Centre) tutors with tablets well-equipped with instructional and supervision aids to help them fundamentally improve teaching in Kenya.

This includes an application with all the letter sounds in Kiswahili and English recorded and put together for references, Cloud-based lesson observation tools, Instructional videos, E-versions of Pupils' books and Teachers' Guides, and Game and E-book applications.

Education Secretary Kiragu wa Magochi, observed that the project would go a long way in increasing enrolment in schools amongst the pastoralist communities.

"Parents will no longer have to move with their school going children in search of water and pasture, during the dry seasons of the year," said Mr wa Magochi.

He said the government will work with development partners to explore possibilities for reinstating the school feeding programme that targeted Early Childhood Development (ECD) learners in the dry regions.

"There is need to intensify the one meal a day concept to lure more children who have attained the school going age into schools," he said.

He said the government had developed the National Education Sector Support Programme to look into investment options in education.

This is as it anticipates the formation of the National Council for Nomadic Education in Kenya (NACONEK) that will specifically tackle challenges to education in the ASALs.

Parliamentary Education Committee chairperson Sabina Chege said the programme would transform the education sector and appealed for more development partners to com

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