Thursday, 3 June 2010

Education, finance and the future in Kenya

In Kenya, Government-run schools are free to the children who attend, in that the children do not pay a fee to join the class. However, there are still costs for them to meet, and some of these costs can be crippling.

The cost of a school uniform – compulsory in Kenyan schools – can be equivalent to three weeks wages for the poorest families. Schools also charge exam fees, which must be paid before the child can start the class, and which can again be crippling to poor families. Families may also be required to provide books and stationery.

Many children go barefoot because their families cannot afford shoes for them. Their clothes are several sizes too big so new clothes will not be necessary quite so quickly. A family unable to buy shoes and clothes is unlikely to have money for books, paper and exam fees.

The cost of education in Kenya was, in part, paid for by aid from the US and UK governments. However, both governments became alarmed by the corruption within the Department of Education, and when the Kenyan government failed to tackle this to their satisfaction, both governments withdrew their financial support. This led to the closure of many government-run schools. Children are left to wander the streets, to work, beg and worse, rather than gaining the education that can be their passport to a brighter future where their potential is fully realised.

World In Need runs a school in Soy, North Western Kenya. The school opened in January 2009 and has already built a reputation for academic excellence as well as for care of the children.

It is a fee paying school but costs are kept as low as possible, so as many families as possible can access the education provided. Some of the children are sponsored by World In Need supporters, who pay £20 a month per child. This pays the school fees and educational costs, including two meals daily – an important consideration in a country where many families do not eat every day. Sponsored children are also able to afford other things that children in the west take for granted, such as uniforms and shoes.

In government schools, class sizes are huge. It is not unknown for one teacher to take a class of ninety children. At our school, we ensure enough teachers are employed to keep class sizes at a reasonable level, in order that each child can get the best education possible.

By May 2010, there were 125 children enrolled at the school. Of these, 21 are sponsored presently. Many others are struggling to pay fees and costs. None are turned away, and our centre directors, Robert and Alice Mulumbi often pay for these children, even though it means they do without themselves. WIN is working to increase the number of sponsors for children at the school, so that more children can be lifted out of poverty, and the school can continue to go from strength to strength.

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