At least 120,000 primary and secondary school learners have dropped out of school over the last 10 months in northern Kenya, latest statistics reveal.
Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC) yesterday said 107,556 pupils and 13,478 students have quit class-- dealing a major blow to the government policy to keep all children in school.
FCDC chairman and Mandera Governor Ali Roba said the numbers paint a grim picture of the region, which according to the Kenya Economic Survey 2019, had 1,295,000 children in school.
Mr Roba attributed the dropouts to severe teacher shortage, with learning remaining paralysed in most of the schools.
"In some of the schools, we have only the head teacher reporting, with no pupils present," said Mr Roba.
He blamed the tutors' shortage to the Teachers Service Commission's decision to withdraw non-local teachers owing to security concerns caused by Al-Shabaab.
Shortage of teachers
"We face a shortage of 3,010 teachers in primary schools, with Mandera requiring 1,707, Wajir 1,212, and Garissa 91," revealed the Mandera governor.
"For secondary schools, the shortage of teachers stands at 437 in Mandera, 382 in Wajir and 351 in Garissa, totalling to 1,170."
The leaders noted that some of the learners who have dropped out of school have been lured into illegal groupings, including the Al-Shabab, worsening the security situation in the affected parts.
The FCDC members appealed to the national government to address their plight by hiring more teachers to replace those leaving the region due to security threats.
"Education is a basic right for all Kenyans under the Constitution. We appeal to the Ministry of Education and President Uhuru Kenyatta to help us access basic education for our children," the leaders said in a joint statement.
Mr Roba said half of the people in FCDC region are illiterate, and the current situation will only worsen an already terrible situation.
"Sustainable development is largely dependent on literacy levels. What it means is that this region will be left behind if the crisis of lack of access to education persists," he said.
Al-Shabab attacks have made the government to shut some schools, with TSC withdrawing teachers from the troubled region.
The leaders appealed to the government to help restore security in areas that have reported challenges, including Kapedo, the Isiolo-Wajir border where inter-clan clashes have been witnessed over boundaries, and Wajir-Garissa clashes over land and pasture.
"We are witnessing increasing incidents of violent extremism and sighting of terror cells particularly in Mandera, Wajir and Garissa,," pointed out Mr Roba.
He called on the residents to cooperate with security agencies and report elements of such terror groups in their midst.
The FCDC bloc comprises Turkana, West Pokot, Samburu, Isiolo, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa,Tana River, Lamu and Mandera. It has been holding quarterly meetings in a bid to address drought emergency, education crises, insecurity and the locust invasion.
During their two-day retreat in Naivasha, the leaders also talked about the state of infrastructural investments on Horn of Africa Gateway with a view to finding jointly coordinated solutions to bottlenecks.
Other leaders present were governors Mohamud Ali (Marsabit), Josephat Nanok (Turkana), Moses Lenoolkulal, (Samburu), Dhadho Godhana (Tana River), Fahim Twaha, (Lamu), Dr Abdi Isaack (deputy governor of Isiolo) and Ahmed Mukhtar (deputy governor of Wajir).