Kenya: Boost for Education Brings Hope to Turkana Girls

President Uhuru Kenyatta and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will co-host a summit in London on July 28 and 29 this year, in an ambitious funds drive to raise $5 billion (Sh535 billion) to support education programmes in 76 lower-income countries under the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

Closer home, 22,000 learners in Turkana County will benefit from $900,000 (Sh97.2 million) that will be used for their education through a pilot programme that will later be rolled out globally.

Under the GPE-Elimika Project, which GPE is running in collaboration with Rotary International and the Ministry of Education, Turkana County was chosen due to the vulnerability of girls in the region.

The three-year project is piloting in the county where cases of girls dropping out of school due to early marriage, retrogressive cultural practices and lack of access to quality education are an unsettling norm.

Some 300 teachers and 160 support staff from 50 schools in Turkana Central and Lioma sub-counties will also be trained on various competencies.

The deputy headteacher of Loyo Primary School, Dorcas Lokidor, has been losing students to teenage pregnancies. One of her Standard Seven pupils, Deborah (16), gave birth in December last year amid complications.

To save her pupil and her dreams of becoming a doctor, Ms Lokidor pleaded with Deborah's mother, Alice, to allow her to join her classmates in January as they figured out how to balance academics and parenting.

"The school has a strong guidance and counselling unit that inspires hope in our girls. We try to encourage the teen mothers to get back on track as soon as they give birth and support them by allowing them to take their children for clinic visits or to breastfeed their children during break. They must, however, remain focused on their academics," Ms Lokidor said.

Undermined the quality

Deborah's story is not new. She falls in the grim statistics of girls in the county being 1.3 times more likely not to go back to school against their male counterparts. Her 36-year-old mother also did not get formal education and does menial jobs to care for her five children.

"We earmarked Turkana based on the alarming rate of dropouts witnessed in the county. We need to act fast to save the girls, who still experience more hurdles than their male counterparts when pursuing quality life," noted Geeta Manek, a Rotary Foundation trustee.

The nomadic way of life of the Turkana people has undermined the quality of and access to education, as evidenced by the low literacy levels prevalent in the county.

"The GPE programme mobilises global and national efforts to contribute to the achievement of equitable quality education and learning for all," noted GPE chief executive officer Alice Albright during the GPE launch in Nairobi.

The tripartite partnership will develop and disseminate messages and psychosocial support to teachers, non-teaching staff, learners and parents.

It will also build the capacity of headteachers, teachers and non-teaching staff and learners on Covid-19 management and aggressive back-to-school campaigns.

The county master trainers will be trained on public health protocols. Training manuals will also be developed to build the capacities of various stakeholders.

The project will also train teachers on alternative methods of curriculum delivery, ICT and distance learning.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has driven creativity in our learning institutions, which calls for more stakeholder engagement across every tier. The GPE project will help accelerate the use of digital learning materials among underserved communities," said Elyas Abdi, the director-general at the Ministry of Education.

The GPE-Elimika Project was fronted by the Rotary Club of Muthaiga and Metro Bethesda in Washington, DC, with implementation support from the Rotary clubs of Karen, Nairobi-East, Ruiru, Nairobi Connect and Nairobi-Lang'ata.

In the global rollout, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana and Zambia will be included alongside countries in Asia and South America. It will also be extended to other counties in Kenya.

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