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From pastoral traditions to Classrooms: Samburu communities embrace education for progress

Samburu County is one of the counties in Kenya with the highest number of school-going-age children who are not enrolled in school.

Education is often seen as the key to a better future, and for good reason. It not only opens doors to better job opportunities, but it also empowers individuals to make informed decisions and contribute positively to their communities. However, in some parts of Kenya, education is still a luxury that is not easily accessible to all.

According to data from the World Bank, the literacy rate in Kenya currently stands at 83%, only a 4% increase from the 2014 literacy rate of 79%. The enrollment in primary schools in Kenya was 10.3 million in 2021, against a total population of 24 million children; with a completion rate of 49.8% at the primary school level and 24.5% at the high school level.

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Kenya has huge regional inequalities in all education outcomes. While many countries surpass 12 years of expected schooling, some counties in the northern and northeastern regions, particularly in arid and semi-arid areas, have significantly lower outcomes, with expected years of schooling as low as 6.5 years. Nairobi County is the closest to reaching the national average of 12 years of schooling.

Students in rural areas and those from lower-income families tend to achieve lower educational outcomes. Enrollment rates are much higher in pre-primary, primary, and secondary education for children in the top 20% income bracket compared to those in the bottom 20%. This is despite the existence of the Basic Education Act of 2013 which gives effect to the provision of free and compulsory basic education for all children.

The literacy rate in Kenya currently stands at 83% according to the World Bank

Samburu County is one of the counties that has been greatly affected by the regional inequalities hindering education. It has one of the highest numbers of school-going-age children who are not enrolled in school. Instead, they are often attending to domestic chores that not only deprive them of their right to education but also puts them at risk of exploitation and abuse.

The low enrollment numbers are mostly attributed to conflict and cultural barriers.  Samburu community is highly patriarchal and has traditionally favored educating boys over girls. This has resulted in the girl child being subjected to harmful practices such as beading, female genital mutilation (FGM), and child marriage. On the other hand, boys are often pushed into toxic Moranism, which does not prioritize education. These harmful cultural practices breed a culture of illiteracy, insecurity, and ignorance that hinders the community’s overall development.

World Vision Kenya in partnership with the ministries of Education and Interior began a transformative journey to break the chains of cultural barriers that hinder boys and girls from accessing education, working to ensure that all children of school-going age are enrolled in school and protected from harmful cultural practices. Through various interventions such as behavior and attitude change campaigns, community sensitization, and parental education, World Vision Kenya is working to break these barriers.

Kenya Big Dream, one of World Vision’s programs, worked round the clock to ensure 109 out-of-school children, 79 girls and 30 boys who were at risk of FGM and toxic moranism were enrolled in two schools in January; Naling’angor Primary School and Bendera Primary School in Samburu North Sub County. This accomplishment not only addressed the stark gender disparity in enrollment but also represented a crucial step towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal number 4 – Quality Education, which calls for education for sustainable development through the promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity.

Paul Nteyie (not his real name) says that his life has been transformed since joining the program. He notes that he now has access to education and that he would like to become a doctor in the future, bringing much-needed health services to his community. Paul is also appreciative of the fact that he can now be able to express himself through drawing, one of his key interests. And that his family’s perceptions of education and cultural practices are now shifting.

Livio Lenguro, a teacher at Ntepes Early Childhood Development Centre says that through World Vision Kenya’s intervention, the community has been enlightened and made more aware of education. “The situation has greatly improved. We are now admitting more children than before, even recording higher numbers of girls to our center than before, which was not always the case” Livio says.

Enrollment rates are much higher in pre-primary, primary, and secondary education for children in the top 20% income bracket compared to those in the bottom 20%

To ensure the sustainability of this initiative, the children’s parents were grouped into a Community Change Class where they will undergo a curriculum on behavior change to transform their attitudes on education and harmful cultural practices. They will also be taken through a savings for transformation (S4T) course to help increase their general income. World Vision is also working to identify out-of-school children in collaboration with local Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) and the respective primary schools to monitor the children’s attendance of those already enrolled.

Katiwa Lekolo, an anti-beading champion in Samburu County says that after going through the community change classes, he wants to give his daughters a brighter future by taking them to school. “I also want to nurture my sons in such a way that they will be able to take good care of their female children in the future. Through educating them, I will be laying a healthy foundation for the next generation” Katiwa says.

It is important to continue laying the groundwork for lasting peace and sustainable development by addressing cultural barriers and promoting inclusive education, in line with the theme of the International Day of Education 2024, ‘Learning for Lasting Peace’. This way, we will be able to break the shackles of ignorance and pave the way for a brighter, more harmonious future for all.

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