Education Under Siege

Education under siege

Education is a right granted by many constitutions across Africa. The Constitution of Kenya, in Article 53 (1) (b) state that every child has a right to free and compulsory basic education and Article 55 (a) the State shall take measures, including affirmative action. Sadly this right continues to be curtailed from primary school, secondary school, colleges and other institutions of higher learning. At primary school level, the right to education is hampered by inadequate budgeting to cater for the needs of students .In Uganda, Article XIV of the Uganda Constitution under social and economic objectives states “that the State shall endeavour to fulfil the fundamental rights of all Ugandans to social justice and economic development and shall, in particular, ensure that: (a) all developmental efforts are directed at ensuring the maximum social and cultural well-being of the people; and (b) all Ugandans enjoy rights and opportunities and access to education, health services, clean and safe water, work, decent shelter, adequate clothing, food security and pension and retirement benefits. Article XVIII. Educational objectives. (i) The State shall promote free and compulsory basic education. (ii) The State shall take appropriate measures to afford every citizen equal opportunity to attain the highest educational standard possible”. [1]

For early primary school going children in Kenya for example, poverty[2] determines retention in school. Many children living in extreme poverty have parents /guardians unable to afford basic necessities of education such as books, sanitary pads and geometrical sets. It is not unusual to see children going to school in patched or tattered uniforms. A tattered uniform has self esteem implications for a child, it makes the child feel odd and stand out like a sore thumb. It is like telling the whole world “look, my family is poor”.

Sexual and reproductive health issues are also a challenge especially for girl’s .In some households, parents have to make a choice between buying food and buying pads[3]. Erratic economic opportunities within households with dependence on temporary incomes add to the challenge facing families. The unstable economic status of low-income families also pushes daughters into exchanging sex for pads.[4]

For pastoralist communities, the challenges are multiple, students have cope insecurity, which also results from border porosity as well as negative impacts of climate change, and the inherent resource based conflicts. Education for nomadic pastoralists’ fits in an emergency context because of the mobility of nomadic communities, the hardships associated with the Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs) and the few teachers with a nomadic background make recruitment, deployment and retention of teachers’ difficult (Republic of Kenya, 2012)[5].

Child labour is a further problems associated with poverty. This is mainly because children have to work in order to supplement family meagre sources of income. Child labour is outlawed in Kenya however there are many incidences of child labour taking place in many parts of the country. Child labour and education are related. When children learn about money at a tender age, many tend to refuse to go to school and instead opt to make money. For example children in areas where economic activities is fishing are vulnerable to dropping out of school to engage in fishing[6] because this is deemed more profitable than staying in school. Some children especially orphans drop out of school because they do not have guardians to take car of them whereas some are heads of households because of death of parents hence they lack parental care and have to eke out a living to survive. In conflict regions, education cannot go on because of safety and security reasons.

Teenage pregnancies, with high reported cases for example in Kenya, especially during Covid 19 have also affected education. There is reported high increase in the number of teenage pregnancies during the restricted movements as containment of Covid 19 and the school closures[7]. For example, who will psychologically prepare the hundreds of girls who have become pregnant to enable them go back to school, of these girls, how many families are willing or will be able to take their children back to school? what care programmes are in place  to support the would be mothers and retain them in school?.

In institutions of higher learning, the challenge continues with college fees being the main hurdle. Increasing university fees is a deterrence to access to education for parents and guardians who pay fees and for students who come from poor families. Tripling[8] school fees for example means parents have to dip deeper into their pockets while they are simultaneously reeling from the negative impacts of Covid 19.

Covid 19 adaptability mechanisms such as online learning have also been a nightmare for many university students’ .For example power blackouts, which is a common phenomenon in many households in Kenya means that one cannot continue with the classes as the classes become disrupted.

Given the intersectionality of right to education with other rights, it is therefore very important to give the right of education the recognition it warrants and at the same time emphasise the role of education in contributing towards transformative communities.

References 

[1]https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/44038/90491/F206329993/UG…

[2] https://eachrights.or.ke/barriers-to-enjoying-the-right-to-education-in-…

[3] https://africacheck.org/reports/65-of-females-in-kenyan-slum-traded-sex-…

[4] https://www.ace-africa.org/almt-improves-access-attendance-in-schools-fo…

[5]http://erepository.uonbi.ac.ke/bitstream/handle/11295/55942/Kibera_Facto…

[6]http://erepository.uonbi.ac.ke/bitstream/handle/11295/24068/Bong‘o_The%20effect%20of%20child%20labour%20on%20primary%20school%20enrol

[7] https://reliefweb.int/report/kenya/covid-19-lockdown-linked-high-number-…

[8] https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2020-08-11-vcs-propose-triple-fees-for-n…

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