Who will listen to the plight of Boni girls?

Hindi senior chief and deputy commissioner Stanley Mutua speak to pupils of Bargoni primary school.The girls attending school is at its lowest.
Hindi senior chief and deputy commissioner Stanley Mutua speak to pupils of Bargoni primary school.The girls attending school is at its lowest.

Before the ranking of schools in national examinations was banned last year, Lamu institutions were always among the country's worst performers.

The on-going teachers strike, now on its third week, is expected to worsen the already dire education standards in the county.

Reasons cited include drug abuse and indiscipline among schoolgoing children and permissiveness on the part of parents and guardians.

The situation is even worse for Boni girls who for a long time have been suffering in silence.

The hunter-gatherer Boni community continues to be marginalised and lags behind in all sectors of the economy, including education.

Only one Boni girl, Shariffa Ali, has attained college education after undertaking a certificate course in ECDE. She is currently a teacher at Bargoni Primary school.

Only 11 girls in the community have successfully completed their high school education.

When their colleagues in other parts of the country are busy chasing their dreams through education, Boni girls are being married off early.

Some parents from Bargoni, Hindi, Mokowe and Witu are clinging to age-old traditions requiring them to marry off their young daughters to old suitors.

The girls are normally betrothed at birth and married off when they are around 11 years old.

Nalaya Bolo, whose daughter was married off by her husband as soon as she attained the age of 13 last year, says she still weeps for her child but can do nothing about it.

“I told him Salma was too young to be a wife and he beat me up. I had seen other girls go to school and become teachers and nurses and I wanted that for my Salma. She was in class four when her father married her off. I wish I could help her. She almost died during childbirth recently. She is still so young and should be in school,” says Nalaya.

“We know what can happen to a woman with no education. Many mothers don’t want their girls to be married off early but they bow in submission when their husbands speak. Personally I will never forgive myself for letting my daughter down,” she says.

Hindi senior chief Abdalla Shahasi said the numbers are on the rise and there’s need for all stakeholders to rescue Lamu girls from forced early marriages.

“Many girls are betrothed and married off to old men. Parents treat their girls as objects that are meant to earn them wealth. Girls, some as young as 11, who should be in school, are acting as wives to men who are older than 40 years. It’s unfair and this needs to stop,” Shahasi says.

Shahasi said girls from the Boni community should be given an equal chance to get an education.

“We try to hold barazas and tell the men to allow their girls to go to school. Although they don’t talk back, their faces reveal that they don’t buy what’s being said,” Shahasi says.

“This is a war that can’t be won easily. Education stakeholders need to come up with workable solutions. Otherwise very soon we will not have any Boni girl attending school. The education of these girls should be given attention just like girls in other parts of the country.”

Maendeleo ya Wanawake Lamu chairperson Anab Hajji said retrogressive cultural practices are dragging the county behind.

“No one has the right to marry a minor. Let’s speak for these girls and help change their future. I know if we come together we can do something and save the remaining girls. The county government should put in place laws to prosecute anyone who marries a minor,” says Anab.