Left Behind: Addressing the Systemic Problems Keeping Children out of School

By Caleb Wafula

You’ve probably seen the headlines about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a development agenda focused on ensuring that “no one is left behind.” Goal 4 of this agenda seeks to ensure inclusive and quality education for all, calling attention to the fact that 263 million children around the world are not attending school. Two Kenyan boys Idris Kuno, who would like to be a teacher and his brother Ali Kuno who would like to be a doctor are part of this statistic.

Aged 5 and 7 years respectively, the two young boys live with their grandparents in Feji Village, a CWS-supported flood emergency response site in Tana River County -Kenya. With no access to education, Idris and his brother are left behind with little hope of achieving their goals for the future.

On a recent field visit; I found Idris and his brother Ali among other children busy playing, at the time when they should be in school learning to read, write and do basic arithmetic. When I asked their grandfather Mzee Ali Warera why they are not in school, his answer was very simple: “They don’t attend school because, there is no school around!” He went on to state that the nearest school is quite a distant away, close to one and half hour walking distance. Worryingly, there are wild animals in the nearby thicket, especially buffalos that endanger the children walking to school.

As if that is not enough, the area is under the constant threat of severe flooding that has seen families displaced and learning in schools disrupted.

Most parents are not in a position to accompany their children to school as they have to work all day to earn an income, preparing charcoal for sale or attending to their farms where they plant crops such as watermelon, green grams and maize on a small scale basis. Older children are often compelled to drop out of school to help their families make a living. The urgency of work is compounded by forces of nature threatening their livelihoods. Their hard-earned crops are routinely destroyed by flooding.

“Nothing was left behind. All the crops were washed away. We had to relocate to the camps where life has been very hard. We have to go for days without food, until well-wishers such as CWS came to our aid. CWS gave us food that was very critical for our survival. They also gave us jerricans for fetching water,” stated Mzee Warera.

Apart from emergency response, CWS is supporting selected families in the Seji village in disaster risk reduction by engaging in Bee Keeping, a very profitable venture that is highly resilient to drought and floods, among other climatic shocks and stresses. At present, CWS is conducting community trainings in areas of improved beehives, honey production and marketing; in addition to conducting peer exchange visits.

It is estimated that the honey will be harvested 3 times a year, with each family netting 30 kgs. The current local market price for the honey is ksh 350 ($3.5), a figure that is set to go up, given the value addition mechanisms in place. With income from the sale of honey, parents and guardians like Mzee, Warera will be able to support children like Idris and his brother in school.