By Sarah Ooko, World Vision Senior Communications & Media Officer, Kenya
Ten-year-old *Jane used to herd cattle at her family’s home in Baringo County, Kenya. Even though this appeared to be her normal life for a long time, she always longed for more.
Her dream was to one day get an opportunity to go to school as other children she used to see, passing by her home with uniforms and school bags on their backs.
Jane's kind of life is a reality for many children living in remote, impoverished communities where families still abide by retrogressive cultural practices that deny children opportunities to get formal education.
Due to lack of awareness on children’s rights, many parents in these areas still view boys and girls as a source of labour or wealth for their families.
Consequently, they refrain from taking children to school and instead choose to retain them at home so they can perform various tasks. These include herding cattle, collecting firewood, fetching water, taking care of their younger siblings among other household chores.
As girls get older and reach their teenage years, they graduate from these roles and transition to motherhood after undergoing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and being married off in exchange for dowry that brings wealth to the parents.
Through its Kenya Big Dream project funded by Margo Day, World Vision has been addressing this challenge in Kenya by empowering parents on children’s rights and how they can enable children to enjoy life in all its fullness, and prosper.
These sustained advocacy initiatives, done in collaboration with the government among other key stakeholders, is increasingly encouraging affected communities to allow their children to go to school.
In Akoret, a remote region within Baringo County, World Vision partnered with the Kongor Africa Inland Church (AIC) and the government to establish an effective accelerated learning programme that is giving the out-of-school children an opportunity to get formal education.
The accelerated programme accommodates older children who are above the normal age range for recruitment into pre-primary or Early Childhood Education (ECDE) classes in Kenya. Most of these children are between the ages of 10 and 17 years.
These children are integrated into basic education for a period of six months (through tutoring by skilled teachers), after which they become eligible to join primary school in different grades or classes depending on their competencies.
“This initiative is a dream come true for many children in this area who have always wanted to go to school. We will support them and monitor their performance all the way, to ensure that they are comfortable and able to complete their education,” says Moses Chepkonga, the World Vision Kenya Big Dream Project Manager in Baringo County.
Shanice, who is among the children currently enrolled in the accelerated learning programme is over the moon with excitement.
“I love going to school and when I heard about this initiative by World Vision, I was very happy. My dream is to become the best doctor in Kenya in the future,” she says.
Samuel, her fellow pupil adds,“We are facing a lot of challenges back at home. So, I want to focus on my studies now so I can become a teacher in the future and help my family and community.”
Plans are underway to launch similar initiatives in other parts of the county so more and more out-of-school children can get a chance to learn.
*Real name of the child is withheld to protect her identity.