Girl Child Education in Kalokol -Longech
As thousands of last year’s KCPE candidates celebrate joining Form One, few girls in Turkana County are sharing in their jubilation.
In this deprived and famine-ravaged region, most girls never get to see the inside of a classroom. Indeed statistics from the Turkana District Education Office reveals that of three girls who attain the school-going age of five, only one joins Standard One or early childhood education centres. And for the few who join, too many obstacles stand in their way of reaching upper primary let alone sitting and passing KCPE to transit to Form One.
A visit to Longech Primary School in the county exposes the sorry state of affairs. In 2003, at the start of the Free Primary Education programme, 20 girls enrolled in Standard One, but by the end of 2010 when the cohort sat KCPE, only four were left standing.
Relies on relief
This writer learnt that there are only three teachers, all male, at the school with 400 pupils. Head teacher Stephen Aruoto admitted a good number of girls drop out of school because of poverty in the county that heavily relies on relief food throughout the year.
“Like many of my friends, I do not attend school during my monthly periods because I cannot afford sanitary towels. I miss out a lot every month and it is hard to catch up,” says Sheila Consolot Kanare, a Standard Six pupil at the school.
But her schoolmate Maximila Ekamais blames culture for the dire situation.
“Most parents prefer taking a boy to school than a girl because they believe the female will eventually be married off,” she says.
Mrs Patricia Ekadeli, a senior officer at the Department of Education in Turkana, knows the struggle of the Turkana girl all too well.
“When I joined primary my grandmother wanted me quit and get married,” she says.
She resisted, worked hard and was admitted to Moi Girls’ High School, Eldoret, but since she could not raise the fees she ended up joining Turkana Girls, a district school where she completed her Form Four and went to ‘A’ level.
Today, she is a role model to many girls in Turkana county.
“It is not easy for a girl to get a good education in Turkana no matter how hard they work,” she says. “Most parents just see the wealth they stand to acquire in form of bride price by marrying them off early.”
Ministry of Education statistics show, in the year 2003, when FPE was introduced, 1,500 girls joined Standard One but only 500 girls from the cohort sat for KCPE eight years later. The urgency of the situation dawns on one when they compare the data to other areas, such as Nairobi where there is a primary school that has over 700 pupils.