Idara Ya Usalama Yalaumiwa Kwa Pombe Haramu Taita – Taveta
Author: Mwongela Kamencu
Newsletter: Dagoretti News
Education is a crucial tool for people’s lives and very critical for any society’s progress. It is seen as a tool that can be used to eradicate ignorance, poverty and diseases in the Kenyan society. It is on this basis that the National Rainbow Coalition government, led by President Mwai Kibaki in 2003 made primary education, offered by government schools, free and compulsory.
Dagoretti area, which covers Dagoretti North and South Constituencies, has more than 15 public primary schools. public primary schools in Dagoretti in conjunction with the provincial administration have, to a large extent enabled children to get basic education .While this was and still is a commendable move to ensuring children from low-income neighborhoods like Dagoretti have access to education, primary public schools in Dagoretti are faced with challenges that hinder the same education that is supposed to provide.
With the increased enrollment of students public schools in Dagoretti have become overcrowded. The pupil to teacher ratio could be in excess of 50:1 in these primary schools. This has detrimental effects on the quality of learning for the students. It is beyond the overburdened teacher to ensure that every student gets the necessary attention to ensure that they live out their potential. There are students who need more help than others and will only benefit if they have a close relationship with the teacher. This probably is the cause of poor performance in academics from Public schools. Private schools in the area are able to capitalize on the crisis of overcrowding in public schools by making sure that teacher to pupil ratios is more reasonable, which makes it easier for students to learn. That kind of education comes at an expensive price charged in school fees by private schools which excludes children from poor backgrounds who have to settle for public schools.
Overcrowding in the schools has fomented a sanitation and hygiene crisis in the same institutions. A look at the schools’ washrooms and toilets reveals total negligence of these sanitation amenities. Most primary schools in the area have a population of around 1000 pupils, yet they have less than 30 toilets for both girls and boys. For an outsider visiting these schools during their break times and lunch times, the sights therein can be quite shocking. Students are sighted in long queues leading to their toilets while some boy students are sighted helping themselves at some corners of the schools’ fences. It’s a more difficult situation for young girls who need more privacy; have to contend with the long queues. Some of the toilets are in a dilapidated state on the verge of collapsing. Pupils use these toilets oblivious to the danger that they face.
Water shortage is not new to most of the schools in Dagoretti. Those that lack water tanks probably have no water. How is it possible to have washrooms without running water! Lack of soaps and toilet paper further puts the health of the young children at risk who most of the time are forced to skip school due to hygiene-related diseases. Such an environment is not conducive for learning as children lack the concentration to attend to their studies.
Lack of infrastructure in majority of the schools in Dagoretti; Chairs, desks and classrooms are too few to be used by the many students of these schools. Most class rooms are not able to accommodate the large number of students. Students are compelled to share desks which makes writing and reading very uncomfortable. The worst scenario comes during the rainy seasons as dilapidated roofs leak leaving the learners stranded with no place to learn. Proper infrastructure is crucial for quality learning to take place, As it stands, children in Dagoretti might have to continue suffering unless the community and the area leadership intervenes.
The offices of the Member of Parliament of Dagoretti South and Dagoretti North, and the community through the schools’ parents’ associations should assist in making sure that teacher are present in class and there is hiring of new teachers to cater for the large number of pupils.This is a major challenge in public schools where teacher absentia is prevalent, children inform their parents of the classes they have lost on a daily basis. This is unfair, Students make sacrifices– they brave the poor sanitation facilities and poor infrastructure – to learn yet they have to contend with their tutors’ absenteeism. This could be the reason why most parents consider taking their children to private school. They believe that teachers are ever present in those schools and are under supervision. This persuades the parents to believe that their children have a higher chance at getting a quality education at private schools rather than public schools.
You would think that these problems are already too much for our public primary schools to handle. The threat of grabbing of these schools’ land is also another challenge that communities have to contend with. In 2015, Kenyans were shocked when Lang’ata Road Primary school’s land was on the verge of being grabbed by a private developer. school’s in Dagoretti are also vulnerable to similar land invasions. School fields which are used for sports and games are targeted by private developers for construction of high-end estates, which upon completion might include a private school for children coming from these estates .Thereby further alienating children of the poor. This is a real threat as there are many ongoing conflicts either between schools and developers or community itself.
The community and authorities must work together in curbing drug use among school children. The abuse of drugs in public school in Dagoretti is a concern. Living in informal settlements which expose them to various social vices as well as peer pressure, younger students are vulnerable to such environments which could affect their school performance and commitment prompting them to drop out of school. These drugs exist in the community, drug peddlers in the area are members of the community and they show no hesitance in selling these drugs to children. Earning a profit is their objective. The community in Dagoretti must protect the future of their children by ejecting drug peddlers from its midst and keeping them away from the children’s reach.
The condition of public primary education in Dagoretti is saddening. The education that children of the poor in the area receive seems to be a mechanical exercise – these children merely learn because it is compulsory not because the government feels that the education would play a transformative role in their lives. It is disheartening for this to continue as allocations for education in the Constituency Development Fund exist. Though there has been some effort recently to renovate some schools in Dagoretti south, more should be done especially for sanitation facilities and infrastructure. They deserve education which is their right and better premises for learning. The community must also take the responsibility of rooting out drug dealers from their environment. They must be concern with their children’s environment. Lastly, the community and government must make sure that school public grounds will not be grabbed by selfish individuals. We must treat the future of our children with the seriousness it needs.