Kenya: Learning derailed as hunger keeps children away from schools

The ongoing drought has hit schools hard and hundreds of thousands of students are starving out of classrooms.

Although official figures are unavailable, nationwide surveys and interviews with education officials suggest that learning has suffered, particularly in the nomadic communities.

Children have been forced to drop out of school as they move with their families and cattle in search of pasture and water.

The situation was made worse by the delayed distribution of food by the national government for the free school feeding program. More than 18 schools in three counties in the coastal region were closed.

In Samburu County, parents said their children had not reported when schools reopened in July.

“It’s not raining. We have to move and we can’t leave the kids behind. There’s no food and we eat whatever we can find,” said 53-year-old Jackson Lemooge.

He had to withdraw his two children from Luwa Primary School in Opiroi in Samburu North and move 156 kilometers away.

Together with his 83 head of cattle, they combed the area to Longewan near the Baringo County border. A school principal in Samburu East constituency, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the nation that drought and starvation have severely reduced academic achievement for learners because they cannot focus on studying on an empty stomach.

Other counties affected by drought are Turkana, Mandera, and Marsabit. The drought also exacerbates the conflict over access to water and grazing land. Samburu Special Programs Chief Officer Daniel Lesaigor said half of the county’s population (150,000) is in dire need of food and water.

However, he added that the county government has launched a Sh43 million nutrition program targeting learners in early childhood development and education centers.

“School attendance will undoubtedly improve because students will not be hungry. Students who are not hungry learn more efficiently. We want to improve normal mental and physical development and reduce stunted growth, ”Governor Moses Lenolkulal said in an earlier interview.

In Isiolo County, some of the primary schools in the Garbatulla and Merti regions have seen a decline in the number of pupils. County education director Hussein Koriyov said some schools had run out of food supplies.

“We hope that we will soon have the regulations to deal with the situation that affects the whole country,” said Dr. Koriyov yesterday.

In Meru County, more than 10 schools and over 50,000 residents of Tigania West are in need of food aid. The hardest hit areas include parts of Tigania West, Tigania East, Igembe Central, Igembe North and Buuri East, where farmers had crop failures over three seasons.

The Village Trust (TVT), a non-governmental organization operating in Tigania West and Tigania East, recently announced that at least 20 schools had sent food roll calls to start school feeding programs. Silas Kinyua, Mumui site manager, said the schools urgently need nutrition programs to support the students. In Central, Murang’a South deputy district commissioner Mawira Mungania said a team has been dispatched to collect data to be used to fight hunger in schools. In Marsabit County, a committee found that more than 210 schools were affected and 5,300 students were forced to drop out.

Deputy Governor Solomon Gubo said various stakeholders, including the district government and the World Food Program, are ready to keep students at school by distributing food.

He spoke during the launch of a food aid program targeting at least 1,300 households. He said more than 200,000 people in the county were affected by the drought.

Affected schools

Teachers in Baringo and Turkana counties have also raised the red flag because of the drought. Teachers at affected schools in Tiaty East, Tiaty West and Baringo North subdistricts said school enrollment had dropped dramatically since facilities opened after parents moved their school-age children in search of water and pastures.

Schools worst hit include Chepkalacha, Kositei, Katikit, Chemisik, Makany, Chesotim, Korelach, Lotita, Lodengo, Kakapul, Nasorot, Toplen, Akwichatis, Riong’o, Loiwat, Chesirimon, Toplen, Nakoko, Katagh, Krese, Sukut and Congor elementary schools.

Others in Baringo Nord who have been badly hit and urgently need food aid are Chepkesin, Kaborion, Kagir, Yatya, Chemoe, Ng’aratuko, Kosile, Rormoch, Tuluk, Moinonin, Kapkomon, Sibilo, Kamwetio, Chepkew, Tilingwo, Rondinin, Barketiew , Barsuswo, Loruk or Kapturo. According to Thomas Kiburet, headmaster of Yatya Primary School, the lack of a nutrition program has made the situation worse.

“Most of the children in Tiaty Subdistrict go to school to get food. Now that we have no food in school, most of the students, especially those who come from a long way away, have dropped out of school because they cannot walk long on an empty stomach and have no feeding program other than some porridge which is not enough ” said Collins Kases, principal of Riong’o Primary School, enrollment at the school has dropped from 271 to 100 students.

At PAG Katioko Elementary School in Kalapata District, Turkana South Subdistrict, the nation found that teachers and students had not reported the school by 8:30 a.m. Amana Lochuch, who lives nearby, came to find out who the visitors were.

“Most of the parents, tired of waiting for food and drink for our children at school, emigrated with their children. Those who stayed behind have lost their cattle to drought or have aged,” said Ms. Lochuch.

Lobolo Primary School, which relies on Maisha Project, a non-governmental organization, to deliver corn, beans, cooking oil, and rice for first to sixth grade students each semester, is currently out of food.

The drought situation in the coastal region has displaced wildlife from various parks into villages, which makes the situation even more complicated.

Taita Taveta County is hardest hit, where learning has been disrupted in ten schools as guides urge students and teachers not to risk their lives by attending school until elephants are trapped in Tsavo East and West National Parks.

‘Very dangerous’

The schools affected include Mgeno Primary, Mbele Secondary, Mbele Primary, Miasenyi Secondary, Miasenyi Primary, David Kayanda Secondary, Mbulia Primary and schools in the Kishushe, Jipe and Tausa areas. One parent in Kisushe, Agnes Mwachia, said the situation had impacted learning in the area. She said the elephants caused a lot of destruction by raiding farms and in some cases destroying homes.

“We have to accompany children on their way to school and pick them up in the evening. The elephants arrive unexpectedly at any time of the day and that is very dangerous not only for our children, but for the whole village. So we decided to wait for the situation to improve to resume learning, “she said.

Yesterday, teachers’ unions in the county called for elephants to be relocated. Teachers and students are late for school and leave early to avoid the elephants that roam free.

Meet hunger

More than 9,000 learners are believed to be affected in Lamu County. The Lamu district government has 55 million Shillings. provided to tackle famine in the region of at least 100,000 starving people.

Deputy Governor Abdulhakim Aboud, who is also the director of agriculture and fisheries, announced that the money will be used for drought emergencies. Sh30 million will be used to buy relief food while Sh10 million will be used to circulate water.

Cabinet Secretary of the National Treasury and Planning, Ukur Yatani, has allocated Sh1.8 billion in this year’s budget to the school feeding program, which operates in areas that are food unsafe, particularly arid and semi-arid areas and poor neighborhoods in urban areas.

Reporting by Geoffrey Ondieki, Manase Otsialo, David Muchui, Jacob Walter, Waweru Wairimu, Mwangi Muiruri, Florah Koech, Sammy Lutta, Lucy Mkanyika, Stephen Odor and Kalume Kazungu.

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