Page 1

ISSUE 001, September 1-15, 2009


Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

September 1-15, 2009


A bi-weekly on-line newspaper by the Media Diversity Centre, a project of AWC Features

Drought ravages northern Kenya

Families struggle to survive as rains fail and water gets scarce

Mr Sharif Ali Bulle, a 50 year-old herder from the drought-hit WajirBor village.

By: Abdullahi Jamaa For families in the arid North Eastern Province of Kenya, there is nothing to smile about. All they can see ahead of them is gloom, misery and disaster. With little anticipation for any rains in the next few months, the seasons appear to have failed and all they can think of is the calamity that has befallen them. The effect of the raging drought is being felt in every location of the entire region which has seen a return of cyclic and recurring droughts. For the family of Mr Sharif Ali Bulle, a 50 year-old herder from the drought-hit Wajir-Bor village, about 60 kilometres east of Wajir town, it is yet another season of suffering. “The rains have failed again and the drought is getting worse,” says the father of ten. “Our animals are dying and this week alone I have lost ten of my weakest calves.” The current drought comes hot in the heels of another bad one that hit the region in 2006 when Mr Bulle lost more than 200 goats. Mr Bulle’s family has had to rely on only 100 goats that survived the previous drought. And now, he is a worried man because his herd has started reducing, spelling trouble for his pastoral life. “I know the seasons like the back of my hand. The animals are getting weaker by the day and in the past one month my herd has gone down to 80 goats,” he notes. Due to the tough conditions of the current dry spell, the pastoralist fears for both his family’s life and that of his animals. “The drought is at its peak and we are going to lose both human beings and an-

imals,” Mr Bulle observes. He predicts: “Given the current predicament, we are surviving by chance and if the situation lasts longer we will be in trouble.” This remote village is already facing shortage of food, pasture and water. And everybody is worried. Evidence of ravages of the drought is already appar-

ent as the herder’s goats are already too weak to produce enough milk to sustain the family. Village elder, Mr Ibrahim Mohamed confirms an already gloomy picture. “When livestock start to die, it is a strong signal of an impending calamity. We pray that it rains soon.”

Water is scarce forcing both domestic and wild animals to scramble for the little that can be found. These camel drinking from one of the few water opoints in Wajir-Bor village.


ISSUE 001, September 1-15, 2009

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

Pastoralists flee sandstorm By: Issa Hussein A grinding drought has re-emerged in Fafi, Lagdera and Garissa districts after the long rains failed forcing pastoralists to flee to Somalia and Ethiopia in search of water and pasture. The Kenya Red Cross has embarked on drought assessment of the three districts to ascertain the number of affected families. Several dams have dried up resulting in overstretching of animals, human and wildlife in dams that still have water. At the Owlia dam, Dertu, Shantaabag, Gurufa and Baraki boreholes livestock, people and warthogs will all be found jostling for water giving a clear indication of how devastating the drought is. Carcasses of animals that succumbed to death as a result of the drought can be seen scattered in every settlement. In Baraki and Gurufa locations of Lagdera plains, resident are forced to stay indoors not to risk the dangers of sand storms that are very common during drought and dangerous. Mr Abdi Mohamed, a teacher in Baraki says at times they are forced to release the pupils as early as 9.00 am when sandstorms disrupt learning. “I am not able to see the pupils seated in the same class I’m teaching after sandstorm has darkened the room,” says the teacher. The medic in charge of the dispensary in Baraki, Mr Issack Ali, says most of the residents have developed respiratory dis-

By: Boniface Gikandi

Animals are dropping dead every other day as a result of the persistant drought that is affecting both human and animal life.

eases as a result of the dusty wind which has never been witnessed before. The residents said a vehicle travelling to Wajir lost its way as a result of the strange whirls of wind where passengers had to sleep in the bush for the night until it subsided. The residents have asked for intervention from environmental experts although the sandstorms are linked to lack of vegetation cover.

The Kenya Red Cross disaster management officer, Mr Issa Yarrow, says the situation was getting out of hand and called for urgent intervention. He says the organisation has dispatched several teams to different locations to investigate the extent of the drought that is forcing the residents to flee to Somalia and Ethiopia. He says the teams will provide their findings to the district steering committee next week.

Drought ravages northern Kenya from page 1

According to Aldef-Kenya, a local nongovernmental organisation, an estimated 200,000 people in the west, east, north and south of Wajir District are already affected by the drought. From the mountainous Bute Hills, a few kilometres from the Ethiopian border, to the Arabic-gum rich Konton wells towards the Somali border, the vegetation cover is worn out and carcasses have started dotting the barren land. “The situation in most of Wajir is bad for any living being, you can imagine the effects of several seasons of failed rains,” says Mr Muhidin Ali, a project officer with Aldef-Kenya.  The drought in 2006 claimed 100 lives and 80 per cent of the livestock. This is still fresh in the minds of the residents of this ill-fated region. The current situation has caught up with the residents of Wajir at a time when the effects of the global economic crisis are already being felt in the developing countries and the consequences trickling down to the common man. In this double tragedy of financial recession and natural calamity, both of which have hit Wajir residents hard, thousands stare at starvation as alarm bells sound.

Thousands at risk of starvation as dry season persists

 It is survival for the fittest in the hinterlands where the overwhelming majority rely only on livestock as their source of livelihood. “The recent rains were not well distributed in much of the arid and semi-arid areas, and there is tough competition for resources in pockets of places that have received some rain,” says Mr Henry Ochako, Wajir East District Commissioner. Other than animals dying, there are fears that pasture and water resources may lead to fighting among the various people in Wajir, a seemingly worst-hit district.  In the entire Wajir District, herders have jam-packed the only two places which received rains recently as thousands move around in search of pasture and water. “In a bid to survive, families have flocked Diif, about 200 kilometres south of Wajir town and Kutulo, about 100 kilometres east of Wajir. These are only two places that have pasture and water,” says Ahmed Abdi, who works with an NGO in the region. According to the provincial administration, hundreds of families in search of livelihood have crossed the border into Somalia’s Lower Juba Province and Ethiopia’s Region Five. While the situation for the pastoralists is gloomy, things are not

any better for those living in the urban centre where the informal sector largely depends on mobile herding, businesses and markets. The drought has led to a drop in livestock prices decreasing the purchasing power of many families both in the rural areas and in the towns.   For the past two months prices of goats, cattle and camels have dropped by more than 50 per cent because most animals have become weak. “At this time of the season, animals are not fetching any profits at the local livestock market,” explains Mr Ahmed Abdi. According to market figures, the price of a goat is down to KShs1,000 from KShs2,000, a cow fetches KShs5,000 down from KShs15,000. “During the normal season I earned not less than KShs1,000 a day, but now I can’t make KShs200 in the same market,” says Mr Hussein Dheere, a middleman at the Wajir Livestock Market. And for Mr Bulle, the writing is on the wall that things might just turn tragic. “We will just pray to Allah in the meantime. The only prayer is God to prevent the return of a drought similar to the previous one.”

Reliance on rain fed agriculture has hit hard in many parts of Murang’a in Central Province. While in these parts of the country the main activity is agriculture, the fact that farmers rely on rain has been a major problem, particularly when rains fail. Agricultural experts are now calling on residents to grow food crops that take a shorter time to mature and require little rain. The district agriculture committee has started educating farmers against over reliance on particular food crops. And now a population of about 171,658 in Murang’a District is facing starvation and is in urgent need of relief food. In April, there was a lot of activity in the region as farmers embarked on planting shortly after the rains fell with hopes of ending a two-year dry spell. However, their joy was short-lived as the rains fell below the expected amount. The main food crops that they planted — maize and beans — have since dried up putting the farmers further into misery of having to depend on relief food from the government and other donors. Between February and March, Makuyu division in Murang’a made headline news as many residents turned to boiling mangoes and pawpaw fruits for food after they exhausted their granaries. Agricultural experts say the area urgently needs 62,879 bags of maize and 55,047 bags of beans to feed the affected population. Many residents in the lower parts of Murang’a East and Murang’a South districts have turned to activities such as sand harvesting, quarrying, fishing and burning of charcoal. A survey along the Kenol-Sagana road confirmed the presence of several bags of charcoal being sold especially at Kambiti market. In Gikindu location of Murang’a East District, farmers who planted the fast growing bean variety were fortunate as some of it matured and was sold at Makuyu market. However, according to a report by Murang’a East District Agricultural Officer, Ms Jane Njuguna more than 63,900 people are affected by food shortage. In Murang’a South District, about 107,758 people are affected by the crisis where 24,485 bags of maize and 12,243 bags of beans are required. In a report tabled during district executive committee meeting chaired by area District Commissioner Mr George Natembeya, Ms Njuguna said the district urgently required delivery of 38,394 bags of maize and 42,804 bags of beans to cater for the affected population. With starvation staring the residents in the face, many people in the lower parts of Murang’a East and Murang’a South districts have turned to sand harvesting, quarry mining and fishing along the banks of Sagana River.

ISSUE 001, September 1-15, 2009


Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

Herders with their families in Mt Kenya Forest have had to bear the harsh climatic conditions in the mountain amid hunger and starvation.

Children move to the forest as herders search for pasture By: Elijah Mwangi For three months, he has endured the harsh climatic conditions together with his seven siblings. Aged only six, he has little choice but to keep on hoping that the rains will come soon so that his family can move back to Dol Dol with what has remained of the 103 head of cattle. But with no signs that rains will be coming soon, he knows that his family will have to spend a few more weeks in the Mt Kenya forest. The young boy is among 600 other children currently living in the forest after migrating with their families and thousands of livestock to escape the ravaging drought that has affected large swathes of Kenya. Some of the minors walked for over 200 kilometres from Samburu District in an effort to save the animals from imminent death. Others are from Isiolo and Laikipia districts where the main source of livelihood is livestock rearing. But life in the forest has become unbearable for both the herders and animals. According to veterinary officials, at least 30,000 animals have died in the forest in the last two months. They have all succumbed to tick-borne diseases and pneumonia despite efforts by veterinary doctors to supply them with medication. This has left the families in a catch-22 situation. “I came here hoping to save my family and livestock from death. But the animals have continued to die not only from hun-

ger but also diseases. If this continues, I may have to go back home empty handed,” says Mr Joseph Lolosion from Ol Donyiro division, Isiolo district. Mr Lolosion who together with his four children moved into the forest in May with 80 head of cattle. Now he is only left with 20. “The children were forced to drop out of school to accompany me here. We have learnt to sleep in the open with nothing to cover ourselves,” says the herdsman. Food is also inadequate because they are unable to sell animals due to the low prices offered by butchers. A recent visit by reporters to the forest established that some herdsmen were eating the carcasses of their fallen animals. The reporters had accompanied officials from the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) who were on a fact-finding mission. SNV which has been supporting children from pastoralist communities to access education says their gains in the past few years were being eroded. “Some of the children under our support programme have dropped out of school and are now herding in the forest,” says Ms Lorna Atieno, an officer with SNV. Ms Atieno, together with the director of a local community based organisation (CBO), Mr

Francis Merinyi carried out a survey aimed at establishing the number of children in the forest. “We have established that there are over 600 children who have dropped out of school. Unless the Government makes urgent interventions, they may never go back to school and that is why we want this matter addressed urgently,” says Mr Merinyi. He says the herdsmen should be supplied with relief food and beddings because they are suffering under the harsh climatic conditions of the mountain. Some of the families interviewed said all their animals had died and they were now being forced to eat carcasses because there was no other food.

“When I arrived here from Dol Dol in May, I had 48 head of cattle but today I only have 18. They have continued to die from different diseases and I am afraid they may all die in the next few weeks if the Government does not come to our aid,” says Mzee Tapiu Leluata, who has contemplated selling some of his livestock but is discouraged by buyers exploiting the situation by offering very low prices. “I was being offered Sh1, 000 for a bull which under normal circumstances would cost Sh13,000. I would rather watch them die than sell at a throw away price,” he says. Kenya Forest Service charges the herders Sh50 per cow and Sh20 per sheep per month which the pastoralists say is too high considering the extent of the drought and the losses they have suffered following the deaths of their animals. Laikipia East veterinary officer, Mr Kiguru Mwaura says the Government had supplied them with dipping chemicals but admitted it was not adequate to cater for over 100,000 animals currently in the forest. However, he says the pastoralists were reluctant to take the animals to local cattle dips and instead preferred to spray them but this was not sufA herder with his son trying to catch up ficient in killing ticks which on school work in the Mt. Kenya forest. cause East Coast Fever.


ISSUE 001, September 1-15, 2009

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

Power situation worsens as water levels reduce By Boniface Gikandi

Already, Masinga Power Station — which is one the largest facilities — has been closed down owing to low water levels. Only Mesco located at the border of Murang’a East and Murang’a South districts is in operation owing to the small size of the turbine fitted. Last month the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KENGEN) board of directors announced closure of Masinga Power Station after water levels went down. Eng. Nicholas Kithaka, Chief of Mini Hydros, described the situation as worrying attributing the problem to destruction of environment. The operating turbines, he said, were generating at 50 per cent below capacity because there was need to save water for later generation.

“We are being forced to regulate water in our dams failure to which the stations can closed down without notice,” Eng Kithaka said during a fact-finding mission of Wanjii Power Station. He said none of the turbines operating in the past one month had achieved the recommended 744 hours operation. Those affected include Sagana, Ndula, Tana and Wanjii power generating stations within Mt Kenya region with only Mesco

located at the border of Murang’a East and Murang’a South in full operation. Sagana Power Station in Nyeri District has two turbines shut down with only one left. Wanjii Power Station in Murang’a has four turbines and two have since been shut down following low water levels at Mathioya and Maragua rivers. The rivers supplying water to power stations originated from the already destroyed Aberdare and Mt Kenya forests.


Government gets better deal for coffee farmers

Special tribunal to handle land cases

Nyayo Tea Zone may be phased out

Kigumo residents to benefit from project

The Kenya Cooperative Coffee Exporter Limited is putting in place a new strategy to help market Kenyan coffee in the international market. The new strategy is a brainchild of the cooperative movement and Ministry of Cooperative Development. The move has thrown middlemen and some millers out of the sector after they were accused of milking the farmers dry over the years. The Cooperative Bank has since allocated the new outfit a billion shillings to make the dream a reality. Cooperative Development Minister, Mr Joseph Nyaga says the government authorised him to look for a better way to ensure farmers get maximum return after selling their coffee. The Minister together with the Cooperative Bank director Mr Stanley Muchiri are crisscrossing the country educating farmers on how best they can reap better returns. Addressing farmers from the larger Murang’a District, Nyaga pointed that many of the players in the coffee sub-sector were middlemen who exploit farmers of their hard earned money. He said the government will take action on anyone found exploiting farmers. Muchiri said the bank had allocated a billion shillings to ensure farmers are paid immediately their coffee leaves the millers stores.

The Ministry of Land will form a special team to handle boundary related disputes in an effort to clear thousands of pending cases in district lands registries. A notice posted at Murang’a land registry informed the public that all disputes had been cancelled until further notice. The move shocked many as they had been listed to appear before the Lands Registrar only to be turned away. In the notice, disputes which summon those with cases issued on or before July 26, this year, will be handled by the special tribunal. Area District Land Registrar, Mr Penwell Nyamweya, says his office was congested with a backlog of cases. He says any disputes received from August 1, would be handled by the land office and the problem solved within three months. “We have a back log of more than 300 cases that cannot be solved within a year.” He says the department was unable to solve disputes lodged within three months owing to pending cases that go as far back as four years ago. Murang’a is one of the districts in Central Province with thousands of land cases. Nyamweya says owing to many delayed cases, the office register was full of bookings.

Fate of the Nyayo Tea Zone hangs in balance after the government expressed concern over how they were established. Environment Minister Mr John Michuki said the government was carrying out a feasibility study on viability of Nyayo Tea Zones. Establishment of the Nyayo Tea Zone led to destroying huge parts of forests in tea growing areas. The Minister spoke after residents of his Kangema District led by Equity Bank chairman Mr Peter Munga Kahara expressed concern over reverting the land to the forest department. Mr Michuki said a study was being carried out to understand why the Government had to go into tea farming business instead of leaving it to farmers. Nyayo Tea Zone is one of the parastatals within Ministry of Agriculture. Mr Munga, a resident of Wanjerere village said: “We must raise concern after part of the forest was destroyed as the Nyayo Tea Zones were being created.” Lower parts of the forests were curved off clearing the trees allowing planting of green leaves controlled by the parastatal. Munga said: “Something must be done at this time when the government is seriously addressing effects of climatic change by reclaiming former forest areas.” Michuki said the government was doing everything possible to plant trees in all parts of the country to help improve forest cover. However, eucalyptus trees have been declared as unwanted near water catchment areas in the larger Murang’a district. All the district commissioners in the region led by Murang’a East DC Mr George Natembeya and his Kigumo counterpart Mr Omar Salat have ordered residents to immediately uproot the eucalyptus trees that are near water catchment areas. Murang’a East and Kangema districts have been given a clear bill after farmers heeded government advice to have the killer trees uprooted from near water catchment area. Natembeya said: “Farmers have responded positively after the provincial administration educated them on danger of having such trees near water catchment areas. By Boniface Gikandi

At least eight electricity-generating turbines have been shut down in Mt Kenya region in the past two weeks after water levels continued to decline at alarming rates. This week only nine turbines are operating in the four power stations due to low water levels after massive destruction of trees in major water towers of Aberdare and Mt Kenya. One of the affected dams is Ndula Power Station in Thika District which was closed two weeks ago after water levels at the Chania River went down. Ndula Power Station is the oldest in Kenya having been opened in 1924 to generate and supply power to white settlers in Nairobi.

The government has set aside millions of shillings towards expansion of Kigumo Water Supply to help connect all households with piped water. Kigumo Member of Parliament, Mr Jamleck Kamau, said the money will be sourced from Constituency Development Fund and while another allocation will come from Ministry of Water. During a recent tour of the water treatment, Kamau said more funds would ensure purchase of bigger and better pipes to ensure availability of water to residents in the lower parts of the district. Maendeleo ya Wanawake officials in the region lauded the move saying over the years water had been a subject of discussion as women trekked many kilometres to access the commodity. One of the officials, Ms Faith Wangui said: “It’s time that free this part of the country after years of trekking long distances in search of water.” The women leaders lauded the MP for listening to them after being invited to several meetings held at grassroots level.

Science and technology is the way to achieving development The government has been urged to embrace science and technology to help achieve its development goal of Vision 2030. Mt Kenya University Chairman, Mr Simon Gicharu said the country was far from attaining Vision 2030 owing to its inability to incorporate science and technology like other nations. “Vision 2030 will remain a pipe dream unless funds are allocated to support programmes,” said Gicharu. Speaking at Gitugi Girls’ Secondary School in Mathioya during a prize giving ceremony, Gicharu said the Ministry of Education should put more efforts towards ensuring all the schools had operational laboratories. Many of the schools in the country were performing poorly in subjects like Mathematics and sciences in national examination and urgent measures needed to be undertaken to save the situation. He said Mt Kenya University was ready to offer training of teachers to help them effectively deliver in their work.

Water levels in most dams have gone down forcing the Kenya Energy Generating Company (KENGEN) to shut down most turbines.

Road contractors warned over shoddy work The government has raised concern over poor rehabilitation of Kiria ini Murang’a road in Mathioya district. Mathioya District Commissioner Mr Kamunyang Chendotum raised concern over rehabilitation of the 30-kilometer section after more than five road accidents occurred in just a few days. The contractor has been summoned to explain why he was working behind schedule yet doing shoddy work. Last month Roads Minister, Mr Franklin Bett in a tour of roads under construction in Murang’a District warned contractor that he risked being jailed if he did shoddy works. The Minister ordered the construction firm doing Kiria-ini Murang’a road to immediately to emulate Roben Aberdare Company doing the 30-kilometer stretch of Kenol Murang’a road. The DC ordered local road engineer to supervise the construction to ensure completion of the road. The DC said: “The contractor started the works when he learnt the Minister was visiting the district and he was in a hurry to finish”. He added: “The government cannot accept a contractor doing shoddy jobs in bid to speed the project.”

ISSUE 001, September 1-15, 2009

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth


Poverty and culture affect levels of education in Isiolo By: Catherine Wahome Isiolo is one of the 44 districts that form Eastern Province. It has three educational divisions namely Central, Merti and Oldonyiro. The district has a diversity of culture, climate, languages and ecology. However, when it comes to matters of schooling there is a unanimous consensus among stakeholders that quality education is lacking. There are 210 learning institutions which include 118 Early Childhood Development (ECD)centres of which 16 are private; 68 primary schools out of which 13 private; 11 secondary schools of which four are private, one special school and two private technical schools. The district does not have any public institution of higher learning though there are hopes that University of Nairobi will soon build a constituent campus soon. The district has made remarkable achievement particularly in enrolment since the inception of free primary education. In 2003 pupil enrolment in the district stood at 15,379, today there are over 27,563 pupils enrolled. However, the picture of post-primary is not a glossy. Secondary school enrolment has lagged behind despite the fact that the government is offering free secondary education in all schools. Since 2003, a slight increase in secondary enrolment has been recorded from 1,809 to the current 2,478. This has been associated with shortage of secondary schools in the district and day schools in particular. Going by last year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) performance, transition from primary to secondary in Isiolo District stands at 37 per cent. This is below the expected average. Drought, poverty and cultural practices have been blamed for the low standards of education in the area. Due to the prolonged drought, many school going children — mainly boys — have been forced to stay away from school so they can search for water and pastures for cattle. The children are forced to join their parents who move far and wide in the search for water and pasture. Since most of Isiolo residents are nomads, the children often never get another chance to continue with school when they move to a new area. While the government and other nongovernment organisations have established school-feeding programme to help retain the children in schools, a small hitch would often keep them away. When the school-feeding programme goes down, the children’s attendance in the respective schools also goes down. Area District Education Officer Mr Newton Okwatsa notes that the district has continued to benefit from the school-feeding programme which has been supported

Parents in Isiolo must buy desks and chairs for their children to sit on in class.

by the government and World Food Programme since 1980. He notes that the programme which benefits primary and preprimary schools has greatly contributed to boosting attendance and retention as well as stabilizing enrolment rate. While poverty is said to play a role in low education standards, cultural practices in certain areas have greatly affected the levels of education. Most poor parents educate their children only up to primary level while others do not educate the girls opting to marry them off instead. Girls are also affected by Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Most of the girls who undergo FGM, which is a rite of passage is often looked at as a stage of maturity and girls who have undergone it drop out of school to get married. Most boys in the area are affected by moranism, also a rite of passage that turns boys to men and after going through the process the boys feel they are now adults and should not be attending school. Another factor that has contributed to poor performance is poor infrastructure. The classrooms are not adequate and some of them do not have the required furniture. In most schools parents are asked to take the children with desks and chairs. Most parents find this expensive and opt to have their children remain at home to look after the cattle or marry off the girls. Mr Okwatsa says the Ministry of Education is looking into the poor infrastructure and will provide funds to the schools. The schools also lack adequate toilets, laboratories and dormitories. He says that though the money might not be enough, it will relieve parents the burden of taking furniture to schools and will encourage enrolment.

Since 2003 Isiolo has received Sh116,955,910 from the government for free primary education. In 2008, the government disbursed Sh11,036,729 in the secondary sub-sector. Mr Okwatsa says for the first tranche in 2009, the government has disbursed Sh3,996,915 to public secondary schools in the district. He says many children who would have dropped out of school due to poverty will be retained and many more will join day schools. The district also received Sh723,000 from constituency bursary fund in 2008 and for this year the constituency bursary fund has given Sh900,000 to bright needy students who are mainly in boarding schools. He says the district recorded a slight improvement of 1.5 from 241.43 in KCPE in 2007 to 242.58 in 2008 noting that improvement is needed. He noted that KCSE performance needs to be revamped as only 35 students, which translates to nine per cent, out of 393 attained grade C+ and above in 2008. He adds that though the district does not suffer from a major understaffing problem, there is the issue of balancing the existing teachers. However, there are some schools which are understaffed and these include Daab, Ariemet and Chumviare among others. He says the climatic conditions do not favour female teachers who end up becoming sick and leave immediately after being posted. Okwatsa notes that most schools are miles away from Isiolo town and do not have adequate infrastructure. These schools which are far from health facilities among other amenities often have only one teacher, while those located near Isiolo town are overstaffed.

Isiolo District has a total of 459 teachers with a shortage of 43 primary school teachers while in secondary schools it has 93 with a shortage of 16. The education officer who is only a year old in the district admits that he has been unable to balance the teachers and hopes the Teachers Service Commission together with the Ministry of Education will intervene by posting healthy male teachers who can cope with the climatic conditions area. Mr Okwatsa also blames insecurity in the area as another reason for poor performance in the district. He says that when cattle rustlers engage in fights, many teachers are killed in their line of duty. Many of them fear for their lives and end up leaving the profession to engage in other activities. He says shortage of administrative and quality assurance and standards officers is also a big setback in the education sector in the area. The DEO notes that art subjects such as Christian Religious Education, Islamic Religious Education, Geography and History are very much affected since most teachers in the area are concentrating much on science subjects and languages. Isiolo is disadvantaged in co-curricula activities since most institutions do not have vehicles. He says that some schools are more than 300km away from the town and if there is an event taking place, vehicles have to be hired to ferry students and this is very expensive. He appeals to the education ministry to provide them with institutional vehicles to make their work easy since most children in the area are talented and it’s only through attending such activities that they can utilise and expand their talents.


ISSUE 001, September 1-15, 2009

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

Case of one village riddled with disability By: Catherine Wahome A nightmare is a dream that makes you wake up frightened and unable to go to sleep again. However, for residents of Kimunyoro village in Nyeri North District a nightmare forms part of their daily lives as they wake up to it every single moment. In this village almost every home has at least one disabled child. This places it as one of the villages with the highest number of disabled children. The village’s population is afflicted by all kinds of disability ranging from blindness to mental and physical disabilities. This has affected learning process in the area despite the free education which offers every child an opportunity to learn. The head teacher of Ngareng’iro Primary School, Mr Gichuhi Mureithi, says both teaching and learning has become a challenge due to this problem. Mureithi notes that the disabled often suffer from inferiority complex once they realise the difference between them and their colleagues. This makes them lose concentration in their class work leading to poor performance. He says another challenge is during Physical Education (PE) sessions when the disabled are unable to join in the ac-

tivities and also in class for those who cannot write. The administrator has faced a lot of difficulties in handling the disabled pupils since they require special attention and other normal pupils do not understand how to deal with them. He notes that though some of the disabled pupils perform above average it is challenging for them since they fully depend on their colleagues and teachers for everything and this often leads to a lot of time being wasted. He says there are those who are not able to learn anything but their parents take them to school every morning since they benefit from socialising with others. “We are forced to allocate duties to other normal pupils to assist the disabled even when they are going to the toilets which leaves the others with little time to concentrate on class work,” explains Mureithi. The problem, he says, has been made worse by the fact that the school lacks specialised facilities and specially trained teachers. Most other teachers keep off school and fail to attend class since they do not know how to handle disabled children. The headteacher says those who attend to their lessons harass the disabled pupils

A mother feeds her disabled child. In Kimunyoro village, Nyeri North District, almost every home has a disabled child.

He calls upon the Ministry of Education to provide the school with necessary equipment and specialised teachers to cater for the disabled pupils who are bound to succeed in life if given the right direction.

making them feel neglected and they do not seem to understand why they are different from their colleagues. Mureithi says that the school has faced a lot of challenges which has resulted in poor performances and a lot of time wastage as the syllabus is never fully covered. He calls upon the Ministry of Education to provide the school with necessary equipment and specialised teachers to cater for the disabled pupils who are bound to succeed in life if given the right direction. The head teacher also wants the Health Ministry to investigate what is going on in the village since it is unusual to have a place where almost every home has a disabled child. However, one villager, Mr James Ndirangu, blames this pathetic situation on incest. He says parents, teachers and the society at large should teach their children good morals and enlighten them on the dangers of incest.

Lack of proper foundation affecting learning standards By: Catherine Wahome While retrogressive culture and poverty has been blamed for poor standards of education, in Mukogodo division of Laikipia East Constituency performance is below average and erratic. According to the Laikipia District Education Officer, Ms Susan Ngure, inadequate preparation of candidates is one of the reasons for poor performance. She says this arises out of poor teacher-pupil contact time, poor delivery of curriculum and children being forced to repeat Standard Eight. The education officer notes since the inception of free primary education most parents in the district have been enrolling their children directly to primary level to avoid paying the Early Childhood Development fees and this has been a major hindrance to quality education in the area.

Ngure says because of this children take a longer period to learn how to read and write and most teachers in the primary level are not adequately trained to handle Early Childhood Development (ECD) cases. “Most of these teachers are not adequately trained to handle such children and in most cases get impatient with them and do not deliver as expected,” Ngure explains. There is also the problem of ECD teachers who have been deployed to primary schools but feel they are not accountable to the headteachers. They instead feel more responsible to Nanyuki Municipal Council who is their employer. Field officers are also reluctant to conduct assessment for ECD teachers which has caused a lot of hitches in managing education standards in the area. Ngure notes that teachers who are employed by the school management committees are also poorly paid and more often

than not may not give enough input to their work. She calls upon school committees to think of raising these teachers’ pay to motivate them in their work. This will improve the standards of education in the area. Ngure also notes that facilities in ECD centres are below standards. Equipment such as teaching resources and policy on ECD have not been distributed to all the centers hence mismanagement of community support grant. In Mukogodo division more schools are required to improve access and enrolment. The area suffers from lack of adequately trained teachers and has a high staff turnover. This is blamed on poor renummeration. There is also the issue of gender disparity leading to low enrolment of girls. Ngure says the disparities could be due to cultural practices where some families still have preference for the boy child getting quality education.

ISSUE 001, September 1-15, 2009

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth


Teen pregnancies set alarm bells ringing By: REJECT correspondent The number of teenage girls getting pregnant is worrying. However, the fact that teenage pregnancies in the rural areas are four times higher than in the urban centres of Central Province of Kenya is even more worrying. This trend has been attributed to lack of exposure and failure to get the right information from parents as well as teachers. Speaking about the state of education and teenage pregnancies in the area, Mr Wahome Macharia, a Youth and Behaviour Change Coordinator with Aphia-II attributed the high rate of pregnancies in rural areas to lack of exposure and information on issues related to sexuality. Aphia-II has come up with a 26-week youth training project to tackle the issues affecting young people. The project’s main target is adolescents in primary schools and

Youth are used to effectively educate their peers since the pupils regard them as elder siblings and will share intimate information with them without fear works closely with the Ministry of Education. Already a curriculum has been approved by the quality assurance department at the ministry. The curriculum was well received and the Central Provincial Director of Education, Mr Patrick Nyagosia allocated 95 schools for the Aphia-II programme. Among the issues the project addresses are assertiveness, goal setting, parent-child communication, cross-generation relationships, drugs and substance abuse, HIV/

AIDs, STIs and adolescent relationships among others. He notes that the way most people react to life is because of the misleading information they received when they were younger which they internalised. Mr Wahome says teachers, parents and society in general must speak boldly to the youth about life so they can understand themselves better. In matters of relationships parents and teachers must take the responsibility of advising pupils early enough since most engage in sexual relationships at a very early age. The behaviour change coordinator says: “Our aim is to make pupils change their behaviour and attitude towards certain things. If one has started having sex, we advise him or her that it is wrong at that age but enjoyable when one gets married,” Mr Wahome explains.

He says that these interventions serve to minimise violence and strikes in schools and to increase academic performance since students are encouraged to set goals and work hard towards achieving them. Mr Wahome notes that by creating awareness on the dangers of engaging in early sexual relationships, students will delay sexual debut from 12 years to the World Health Organisation recommended 17 years when they have matured physically, emotionally and mentally. In the Aphia-II programme, youth are used to effectively educate their peers since the pupils regard them as elder siblings and will share intimate information with them without fear. He notes that out of the 95 primary schools, 65 have since benefited from the programme while the other 30 are in the initial stages.

Dairy goat project gets orphans going to school Dairy goats given to orphans in Laikipia East have enabled them access to education.

By: Catherine Wahome Children in vulnerable and difficult circumstances often do not have access to opportunities such as education, food and accommodation. Normally they will drop out of school and will be found roaming the streets and begging for food and money as a means of survival. However, for the orphans and vulnerable children in Nanyuki there has been a platform for sprinting to better prospects. A non-government organization based in the town has come up with a project to empower school going orphans to acquire education and have hopes for a better life. Founded about 10 years ago, East Aid Orphans Programme in Laikipia East has been assisting orphaned and vulnerable children in the area. According to the organisation’s programme coordinator, Mr Samuel Muriuki, they do not have a specific place where they have confined the orphans. All they do is identify and assist the children who live their guardians. To cope with the situation, Mr Muriuki says they came up with a project where

each orphan was given a dairy goat to assist him or her raise money. The project initially began with 36 goats as per the number of orphans at the time. The children would take care of the goats with help from their guardians. However, the number of orphans has been growing ever since the project started. As the number of orphans rose, Mr Muriuki explains, they identified one child in a family and gave him or her a goat. Once the goat gave birth, the orphan would give its young ones to other siblings to take care of. The dairy goat project is an income generating activity. The goats are taken care of by the children’s guardians who also do the milking. Although the milk is sold to earn them some money, they also get some for home consumption. Mr Muriuki says this project has been enabled the orphans to have a more comfortable life at home. Even though the guardians help in caring for the animal, they cannot sell the goat without the child’s consent. “The child must give his or her guardian permission to sell the animal because the dairy goat belongs to the child and not the guardian,” explains Mr Muriuki.

Apart from the guardians who bring up the children, every child has a sponsor who pays their school fees. Currently, the project supports 148 orphans of whom 116 are in primary schools, 25 in secondary schools, four in polytechnics, five in tertiary colleges and one attending university. However, although the programme was set up to assist girls and boys who have lost both parents and are under the care of their grandparents or other relatives, Mr Muriuki says there have been many challenges with the girls. The programme is, therefore, planning to engage in assisting only boys. “From next year we will not offer assistance to orphaned girls since they are troublesome and are not as easy to handle compared to the boys,” explains Mr Muriuki, adding, “it has become difficult for the organisation to cater for the girls both at home and at school since most of them are dropping out of school either to get married or due to pregnancy. Mr Muriuki notes this trend is rampant and sponsors are not happy since they pay school fees for the whole year. He says that most people do not want to sponsor girls while others offer sponsorship for a few months and then pull out.

As from 2010, the project will only deal with the boys. However, they will give girls who are already in the programme a chance to complete their studies. He is, however, happy that a few girls are serious, noting that the one student at university is a girl who is in her first year. Those children who do not perform well in class are linked to vocational training colleges which allow them to train in occupations that allow them to be self-employed. The programme is also supported by the British army who are based in Nanyuki, the community and well-wishers. Mr Muriuki says the sponsorship is seasonal and 70 per cent of the local community has been assisting the orphaned children and have since realised the importance of the dairy goats project. Out of the 148 children, seven in primary school are living with HIV. He says the children are living positively and eating healthily. However, the current drought is affecting school attendance as most children are dropping out of school while others have moved away with their guardians in the search for water and pasture.


ISSUE 001, September 1-15, 2009

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

Education affected as child labour rises By: Catherine Wahome

Child labour is a major form of children’s rights abuse that is practiced in almost every part of the world. In Kenya, the vice is rampant in all urban and rural areas with approximately 9.6 million school-age children. Out of this, 2.6 million children, about 27 per cent do not attend school. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that out of this number 1.9 million are child labourers. Child labour in Kenya poses an enormous challenge to the country’s achievement of education for all by 2015. It is widely acknowledged that poverty is one of the main causes of child labour. However, the problem of child labour in Kenya has a long history that can be traced back to the colonial period, in which radicalised notions of childhood were played out. This allowed the practice of child labour to become entrenched. In Kieni West Division, Nyeri North District, child labour has increased rampantly in recent times affecting performance in schools. Most primary school pupils, barely14 years old are engaged in all sorts of labour including working as house helps, taking care of livestock and running errands among other adult responsibilities. According to Mr Richard Weru, headmaster Kiahuko Primary School, most pupils in his school are victims of child labour and this has resulted in poor performance. The teacher says that in the evening after classes, children are engaged in selling of vegetables among other commodities at the famous Kiwara market along MweigaNyahururu Highway. He says they do not get enough time to do their homework and also to revise what was taught in class. This makes the child not to concentrate in class since his or her mind will only be thinking of how he/she will sell the onions or tomatoes and make more profit than the previous day. Kieni West Division is a semi-arid area and in most cases the residents experience prolonged drought. The parents have to travel long distances in search of food when there is no rain and the children are not left behind. Most pupils are forced

to miss classes by their parents to go and work on people’s shambas to earn extra cash or be paid with food such as potatoes or maize. Things are not different at Bellevue Primary School which is built in the heart of a village. Here things are a bit tough since there are several dens of illicit brews surrounding the school and the scent always gets to the classrooms making it difficult for the children to concentrate in learning. Most pupils in this school are engaged in selling the illicit brew and failure to do it often results in their being punished by parents who even swear to disown them. Girls from such families, some as young as three years old, are forced to have sex with some of the drunkards to earn money for the family. Some of the drunkards also find their way into the school compound where they engage the young ones in gambling making them not attend classes. Our efforts to get to the headmaster for comment were fruitless since he was not in the school compound and his phone was not going through. Area Dis-

Executive Director:

Young workers not only face dangerous working conditions but also face long term physical, intellectual and emotional stress. Due to lack of education, their adulthood is faced with unemployment and illiteracy. trict Commissioner, Mr Francis Komen, says that no bar or illicit liquor brewing den is allowed near a school. He notes that a crackdown will be conducted in Nyeri North District and all the bars near schools will be closed and their licenses

Rosemary Okello-Orlale

Programme Coordinator: Wilson Ugangu Programme Officer:

Susan Mwangi

Project Editor:

Jane Godia

Project Designer: Contributors:

Noel Lumbama Abdullahi Jamaa; Boniface Gikandi; Catherine Wahome; Elijah Mwangi; Issa Hussein

revoked. Komen reiterates that all parents should take their children to school and anyone who will be found not giving children a chance to education will face life imprisonment. The administrator says the government has introduced free education to alleviate illiteracy in the country. The area District Education Officer, Ms Anne Kiilu promised to look into the matter adding that child labour can only be eradicated if parents were committed to ensuring that their children attended school without any disruptions. Ms Kiilu notes that child labour has serious consequences that stay with the individual and the society far longer than the years of childhood. She explains that young workers not only face dangerous working conditions but also face long term physical, intellectual and emotional stress. Due to lack of education, their adulthood is faced with unemployment and illiteracy. Children should be encouraged to have a positive attitude towards education and the government should help and encourage people to work hard to reduce poverty. Write to:

Reject Online Issue 1  

* Drought Ravages Northern Kenya * Pastoralists flee sandstorm * Children move to the forest as herders search for pasture * Pow...