The 50km drive from Garissa town to Harajab village in Nanigil sublocation is rough and dusty. The manyattas (traditional huts for the pastoral communities) seem deserted apart from a few children running around. But as we approach, more children and some women emerge from the manyattas, perhaps curious of the unexpected visitors.
Once we introduce ourselves and make our intentions known, the children retreat to the manyattas, and after a couple of minutes, it is clear why they prefer being indoors. It is past one o'clock and the temperature is at 40 degrees Celsius.
Saadia Marayare, an elderly woman in her early 60s, braves the scorching sun. She has eight children in her care and none is hers. Marayare is one of the women in the village who are taking care of children whose parents have migrated to far areas in search of pasture and water for their livestock.
The mother of 10 says she has one camel that provides her with milk to supplement the little relief food she receives from the government.
Marayare explains that sometimes, the parents can be away for as long as two weeks, but they come to check on their children regularly.
No child left out
Assistant chief Mahat Borrow says elders, led by chiefs, go to manyattas and mobilise parents intending to migrate in search of water and pasture for their livestock to allow their children go to boarding school.
He says elders met and decided that despite the ravaging drought, no child will miss out on education.
“We take children above 10 years to nearby boarding primary schools, while those below 10 are left under the care of elder women, who cannot walk for long distances in search of water,” Borrow says.
This arrangement, he says, was also done by school committees so that no child is left out of school, since education is free. The children are taken to Nagil Boarding Primary School, which is 18km from Harajab village, Nanighi sublocation, Fafi subcounty.
He adds: “At first, some children try to resist and run away from school, but they get food, books and writing materials to motivate them.”
For under-10 children, he says, an agreement is made between parents and elder women to look after them while they go to tend to the livestock.
Borrow says the elder women are often left with a camel for milk and are the first to benefit from relief food whenever it is being distributed.
Somane Siat, 22, is a teacher at Harajab’s mobile school, where 30 children between six and 10 attend.
He says during the normal period when there is no drought, the mobile school has a high enrollment of almost double this number.
“Attendance is very low, especially in the afternoon, when children go to look for food, which is not always available. You cannot teach when you are hungry, neither can the children concentrate in class, so the attendance is often low,” he says.
Siat, who is contracted by the government, has not been paid for three months and surviving in this drought period has been difficult.
He struggles with the little he gets from doing other casual jobs, and sometimes he has to share a 20 litre jerrican of water, which he buys at Sh1,000, with the children.
Early this year, the Education ministry, in partnership with various NGOs, established mobile schools to follow pastoralists as they move with their children and livestock.
Hassan Ismail, a child protection officer with Womankind Kenya, says they haven’t enrolled many children in the schools due to migration in search of water and pasture for the livestock.
He adds: “The government should intervene and provide alternative learning mechanisms for the children affected by drought.”
58% out of school
The National Drought Management Authority says drought in Garissa county has been a common phenomenon in the last two decades. During this period, water and pasture becomes insufficient to support the large numbers of livestock, forcing pastoralists to relocate to other places in such of the resources.
This disrupts education, with 42 per cent of children being in school, while 58 per cent are out of school.
According to the 2009 statistics, the county has a gross enrollment rate of ECD and primary at 42 per cent and that of the secondary subsector at 8.2 per cent. The transition rate is at 72 per cent and completion rate is 30 per cent for girls and 70 per cent for boys.
Statistics from the County Government integrated development plan show that the primary school-going population age of 10-14 years is high compared to the population of the secondary school going age of 15-19 years.
There are 191,837 children in the primary school going age, with 54.8 per cent being boys while 45.2 per cent are girls. In secondary school, there are a total of 168,456 children.
“The population for girls is 72,282 since most girls do not proceed to secondary school in the county due to early marriage. The county has 184 ECDE centres, 131 primary schools and 18 secondary schools,” the report states.
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