Thousands of children out of school due to poverty, hunger and insecurity in West Pokot

Thousands of children who are supposed to be in school in West Pokot County are out of school due to poverty, hunger, insecurity and retrogressive practices of female genital mutilation (FGM), early forced marriages challenges that were experienced in the area.

Many children along the Pokot Turkana border who have already attained the school-going age are not in school.

The children have never attended school and are forced to carry their young ones to the nearby Manyatta to access education.

This is because of the nomadic way of life of pastoralists in the region where parents move from one place in search of water and pasture for their livestock.

According to the Children’s Department in the County, around 40,000 children in the County are not in school by 2022.

This is after efforts to sensitize residents on the importance of education and the disbursement of bursaries by the County Government.

According to the education survey done by Uwezo Kenya in 2014, the County had over 60,000 children out of school.

Many children dropped out of school due to banditry while many parents still hold on to bad cultures and they don’t allow children especially girls to go to school.

A survey in the area shows that many children between the ages of 8 to 13 years in the region are out of school.

According to the Chairperson of West Pokot Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (KESSHA), Stanley Pilkan many children have not returned to school since schools reopened for the second term.

“We want the Government to ensure that all children are in school. We need to get clear data of children in school, not in school and do a return to school campaign hence need to trace for completion rate to go up,” said Pilkan.

He called on Chiefs, village elders, religious leaders, opinion leaders, media, teachers, CBOS local administrators and other partners to join hands together and make sure children are in school.

He said that children need the support of the county and national government by paying school fees and improving infrastructure in schools.

“We should be committed and be passionate to ensure that children are in school in order to see the transformation,” he said.

He cited that the campaign to school should be done door to door and hence urged the government to improve the infrastructure.

“We know children are affected with issues of disability, distance to school, lack of school fees among others,” he said.

He called for affirmative action in education to help learners in pastoral areas access quality education in a comfortable manner.

“Children need to protect from child rights to avert vices like Child Labor, defilement, female genital mutilation and early marriages,” he said.

He called on the government and nongovernmental organizations to set up schools in volatile areas along the borders of counties in the North Rift region experiencing insecurity as a long-term solution to banditry and cattle rustling.

He urged area members of parliament to use Constituency Development Funds (CDF) to set up schools in the area to enable the children to access education.

“Hundreds of children in the Turkwel region have been missing out on their education, receiving poor quality education or at risk of dropping out of school because of outdated cultural practices and insecurity that has been experienced in the area,” he said.

He also asked the county government to set up ECD and adult development centres in the region to help reduce illiteracy levels and end-dated cultural vices.

“Am also asking any well-wishers who are ready to help us in setting up schools along the border to ensure our children are in school and are welcomed,” he said.

West Pokot County Children Officer Phillip Wapopa said that many children run away from their homes because of hunger, poverty and instability in households and go to the streets in major towns.

“We are profiling, surveying and assessing the plight of children living on the streets in the County to give them aid and get them out of the streets,” he stated.

Wapopa noted that the government will identify some of the children that seem lost and neglected and they are doing awareness and sensitization to help them.

“We shall refer them to specific centres to rehabilitate them,” he said.

County education Director Simon Wamae called on all actors to give education a chance saying the government will enforce the law to ensure that every child goes to school.

“We should mobilize ourselves as actors, put our energies together and address challenges hence mobilize resources to support our children,” said Wamae.

He urged chiefs to form committees to help in children’s enrollment in schools and give education a priority.

“We don’t want any child to say that I was not given the opportunity to learn. We need morans with degrees. The constitution provides that every child should be educated,” he said.

Teachers Service Commission Director in the County Bernard Kimachasi urged residents to embrace education urging parents to take children to school and knowledge hence parents over retrogressive practices.

“You cannot champion the development agenda and have public participation without education,” he said.

He said the government has put strategies to make sure every child goes to school.

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