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Beyond The Classroom Walls: Infrastructure Challenges in Education

By Sheryl Christine

Beneath the Kenyan sun, a thirst for knowledge burns,

But tattered classrooms, walls with cracks, a harsh reality returns.

Overcrowded benches, dilapidated latrines,

Whispers of insecurity in North Rift fight the teacher’s plea.

A single textbook shared by many,

The path to learning- long and steeped: a mountain hard to climb.

Poverty’s grip, stealing precious time.

For some, the choice is cruel and stark,

The call of education’s dream or hunger’s urgent call.

The distant rumble of a storm, a threat of flooding rain,

Schools turn to shelters, lessons lost, another cycle’s pain.

Drought’s parched hand reaches out, withers crops and hope alike,

Empty bellies, weakened minds, the future fades from sight.

The weight of history’s harsh hand, tribal lines that still divide,

Strikes, unequal chances, dreams deferred, a future yet denied.

But still, they fight, these young Kenyan hearts, with burning, bright desire,

For education’s flame to rise and set their nation higher.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

To illustrate, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 26, adopted in 1948, states: “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available, and higher education shall be equally accessible to all based on merit.” Similar to the new 2010 Kenyan constitution under article 53(1) (b).

But the big question is, does every child in Kenya get to access the “compulsory and free education”? Well, my answer is No, and here’s why:

  • There’s a lack of public schools. In some wards within constituencies like Mathare, there are only four public secondary schools compared to the number of registered voters in that locality. This makes children wake up very early to travel longer distances in pursuit of education, risking their safety, and some may be forced to drop out because of safety concerns.
  • There are hidden costs in school fee payments, making it hard for parents from low-income regions to pay for their children’s additional school fees that have not been stipulated by the Government.
  • Reduction and delay in Government incentives and capitation make parents dig deeper into their pockets. Since most of them are incapable do so, this might increase school dropouts or early child marriages.
  • Security and safety concerns: The decade-old situation in the North-Eastern region is a complex issue characterized by banditry, cattle rustling, and local conflicts. Despite the multi-agency effort, this creates a problem and instils fear for school-going children in the North-Rift region. Additionally, dilapidated buildings and poor lighting create safety hazards.
  • Lack of practicable legal strategies, features, and resources to address poverty, child labour, outdated cultural practices, FGM, and children with disabilities accessing quality education.
  • In addition to inadequate or outdated infrastructure, this cuts across many issues like the current problem faced by junior secondary school students with teachers who lack training, overcrowded classrooms due to inadequate school buildings, and long distances that discourage school attendance, especially for young children. Poor sanitation and hygiene, lack of toilets, clean water, and hygiene facilities create an unhealthy environment for children. Limited resources like access to technology, furniture, books, lack of electricity, and proper ventilation can limit students’ exposure to digital skills and make the environment unconducive for learning.

All these issues and more can lower the morale of teachers and students to deliver and be interested in their work, hence making delivery and output low. As a country, we need to implement practical and sustainable solutions like:

  • Increase in investment in Government Funding: Increased government funding could be important for schools to build new classes, libraries, or laboratories and renovate and repair old ones, enabling a comfortable environment for learners.
  • Formulate and implement practicable legal strategies to address poverty, child labour, outdated cultural practices, early child marriage, and FGM, and ensure that all children living in conflicting areas and children with disabilities get available, adaptable, and accessible quality education.
  • Hold the Government Accountable: The Government must ensure that every child within its jurisdiction gets access to quality education, and the people have to ensure that the Government is fulfilling its obligation to its children.
  • Teachers’ Training: We need to adequately ensure that we champion their training by the government to ensure that our children are taught by capable personnel, unlike the current situation with junior secondary school teachers.
  • Inclusion in Strategic Planning: When carrying out needs assessments, ensure each person within the community, like teachers, local communities, and students, are engaged in decision-making on matters concerning the school, and areas with the most need are prioritized and allocated funds accordingly.
  • Maintain Existing Infrastructure and Promote Inclusion: Ensure as a school that funds are adequately allocated to properly maintain and upkeep existing school buildings and facilities.
  • Raise Awareness and Support Non-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society Organizations: Make the community aware of the benefits of education for their children so that they can solely demand that the government work towards ensuring that each child gets quality education and also support groups helping to improve education, especially in underprivileged communities.

The future of Kenya’s youth depends on the commitment to bridge the educational gap. But what role can you play?

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