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Monday, June 26, 2017

Pokot pupils study in grass-thatched huts

Teacher Fridah Lokapel during a Kiswahili lesson. Adults are forced to stand during the lesson to allow young ones to sit.
Teacher Fridah Lokapel during a Kiswahili lesson. Adults are forced to stand during the lesson to allow young ones to sit.

On the slopes of Chemusar and Sositin hills in West Pokot county lies a village with 200 households, but it has no child who has sat for KCPE exams since they were introduced in the country.

Residents feel neglected by both national and county governments, since there is no leader who has visited the area to help them find a lasting solution to their problems.

“We voted for a new constitution, hoping it will open up this region and help us get government services swiftly,” resident Samson Apor said.

HOMEGROWN SOLUTION

The residents in 2006 decided to set up Chemusar Primary School to help young children get an education.

The Star visited the village to establish why the school has not been registered by the Education ministry since it was opened.

There is no road linking the village to the other side of the county. This reporter and Catherine Mukenyang, a Pokot professional passionate about education and health, had to trek 30km to get to the school.

After climbing and descending several hills under the scorching sun, we finally arrived at the school at around 1.30 pm.

Some pupils had already left since it was about to rain and the only volunteer teacher, Fridah Lokapel, was about to leave since we were late.

The school has two classrooms that serve a population of over 100 pupils from the village with no toilet.

The grass-thatched classroom also serves as a kitchen for the school. The parents decided to donate beans and maize so that their children can get lunch in school.

Lokapel said the school has no learning facilities and they are forced to borrow from neighbouring schools 15km away.

“I decide to close school sometimes and walk for over 15km to neighbouring schools to borrow chalks and other learning materials,” he said.

Lokapel said she combines nursery school and class one pupils and teaches them for two hours, before releasing them to play as she teaches class two and three again for two hours.

“I spend only fours in the school since I'm forced to walk back to my village 10km away,” she said.

She said she sat her KCSE exams in 2013, and immediately the results were out, she was approached by parents from the school to help them teach the children since they had no teacher.

“I'm currently helping them as I undertake a diploma course in Early Childhood Development when schools close,” she said.

She said the school has not decided on its official school uniform since there are no proper structures in place, and the main aim of the school is to help reduce illiteracy.

HOW IT STARTED

School chairman Joseph Kapel said they decided to set up the school despite the many problems facing it since the village had over 350 children who were yearning for education.

“We decided to set up this grass-thatched classroom in 2006 since children below 10 years were not attending school. The nearest school is over 15km away,” he said.

He said the community donated the land and they decided to use readily available materials in setting up the classroom.

Kapel said they decided to employ class eight dropouts from the neighbouring village to help in teaching the pupils.

“We felt neglected since 53 years after independence, we don’t have any school or a road linking us to this place,” he said.

Daniel Katanga, a parent, asked well-wishers to help them set up structures in the school.

He criticised the county government for donating plastic chairs to the school and yet they had no place to store them.

“Our county officials have misplaced priorities. How can they donate chairs when we don’t have any structure? The county should consult residents before implementing some projects,” he said.

The parents said the school has been locked out of major government projects, and asked well-wishers to help in setting up permanent structures in the institution.

“This school cannot benefit from the free laptop project because we have no power and they will not be able to install solar on this leaking roof. There is also no road that will enable the government to transport laptops to this place,” Katanga said.

CRY FOR EQUAL SERVICES

Mukenyang, who donated books, pens and iron sheets to the school asked the national government to make sure that pupils from the region are not denied free primary education.

“It’s a pity that these children are not benefiting form government services and yet their parents voted for the Jubilee administration,” she said.

She said the community had abandoned vices like cattle rustling and female genital mutilation, and asked the government to ensure it delivers equal services to its citizens.

She also asked Education CS Fred Matiang'i to visit the region and ensure that children from the village access free primary education.

“The Cabinet Secretary has helped in transforming the sector, but the impromptu visits to schools should not be in urban centres only. He should also consider visiting grassroots since many children are suffering,” she said.

Mukenyang also asked the government not to ban opening of new schools in the country since there are some regions, especially in marginalised counties, that are in dire need of new schools.

She asked all leaders from the county to unite and see that the school has the required facilities to help reduce illiteracy levels.

“The school doesn’t have washrooms. As leaders, let’s put our political differences aside and help our children,” she said.

The village also has no health facilities, and most children who are under five years are not immunised.

Rose Samson said that mothers in the region have not benefited from free maternity services, and they give birth in the hands of traditional birth attendants.

“Our children have not received any immunisation. The Beyond Zero campaign van doesn’t reach this village because this area is inaccessible,” she said.


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