- Ekaru said a boy is entitled to look after cattle, whereas a girl without specific chores can also drive cattle to graze.
- Says if the government really cares, they should leave each family with a bright boy and average girl at home — and send the rest to school.
Most Turkana pastoralists would rather have their children herd cattle than go to school. After all, cattle are a family's most important asset.
"We prefer boys with a high IQ to look after cattle because they are able to predict raids and alert the community to take cover," said James Ekaru of Turkana North.
If the government really cared, he said, they would leave each family with a boy and girl at home to do essential work and chores. Then they can send the rest to school.
A boy is entitled to look after cattle, whereas a girl without specific household chore can also drive cattle to graze. Only boys get to carry Ak-47s ad G3 rifles.
We prefer boys with high IQs to look after cattle because they are able to predict raids and alert the community to take cover.Pastoralist James Ekaru
Turkana traditionally has recorded poor performance in the KCPE and KCSE exams. last year was no exception.
Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok has called for a dialogue with parents, the director of education and local leaders to discuss issues that have led to a poor showing in schools.
Nanok said that of 8,000 students who sat the KCSE exams, only 227 students qualify to join university, which is far below their target. The low numbers force his government to hire professionals such as doctors and engineers from other counties.
Although every child has the right to free and compulsory primary and secondary education, many pastoralist children are not allowed to study and instead told to look after cattle.
Anyone who forces a schoolgoing child to herd cattle is liable to be arrested and fined.
Ekaru said they disagree with the government and NGOs who urge parents to send children to school. When all the children are in school no one will take care of their livestock so going to school is a waste of time, most parents say.
“We respect the government's order to send our children to school but we value our livestock most of all. If the government really cares, we should have at least one boy and one girl at home to look after cattle and do domestic work," he said.
Nicholas Loree, the headteacher of Meyan Primary School in Kibish subcounty, said enrollment is typically low since parents keep their children out of school.
Loree has urged the county and national governments to build more schools because many students have to trek more than seven kilometres to school, and back.
“Parents need to be educated on the importance of taking children to school. It will be done if NGOs and the private sector support school food programmes to attract more children," he said.
County Director of Education Peter Magiri has urged Unicef and NGOs to ensure Turkana children go to school.
He said there are many children who should be in school who are loitering in remote areas such as Turkana North, Kibish subcounty and elsewhere, looking after cattle.
"We are ready to ensure that Turkana children go goes to school to acquire knowledge so they can be leaders in future. NGOs play a very important role I urge us to unite to ensure boys and girls get a chance to learn," he said.
He wants NGOs to educate parents on the importance of sending children to school — before the situation worsens.
Patrick Kimolo, Kibish deputy commissioner, said going to school is the only way to fight harsh conditions such as hunger, drought and insecurity that surrounds them daily.
“With the help of area chiefs, we will hold at least three barazas a month to ensure parents realise the importance of supporting children to learn,” Kimolo said.
(Edited by V. Graham)