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Children are hired to act as scare crows for birds in the rice fields

The Education standards in Mwea, Kirinyaga County have reached worrying proportions with child labour being blamed for the situation.

Out  of  37 public schools from Mwea East Sub-County, only one student managed to score 400 marks in last year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education.

The  Sub-County Director of Education, Joseph Gicheru says the trend is worrying and requires urgent remedial measures.

The official however apportioned blame to most parents from the area who have little regard towards education and their children.

”You will find that even where a child is absent from class for about two weeks or so, the parents do not bother to come to school to share with us why their child has been away. They just take things for granted leaving everything to the teacher,” Gicheru said.

He cited several other factors which have led to the poor education standards in the area most of which required a three – point approach.

Gicheru said child labour within the irrigation scheme especially during planting season, where a child is able to take home up to Sh.500 in a day was causing education standards to go down due to rampant absenteeism.

”When rice reaches maturity stage, some children are hired to act as scare crows for birds which invade the vast irrigation scheme and each takes home from Sh500- Sh800 a day, where the parents benefit from the proceeds without caring about the absenteeism from class of their children,” he said.

At the same time, children are mostly required to provide cheap labour during the harvesting season and all these factors have been identified as serious causes of the poor standards of education in the area.

Most recently, Gicheru said, the entrance of the boda boda into the public transport sector has lured many young boys where even their parents encourage them into this quick money making venture.

The  County Director of Education, Margaret  Mwirigi  concurs with Gicheru that these factors have greatly affected the educational standards while drug addiction is also another challenge that has emerged.

”I do recall that the NACADA team came to assist us at Rurii and Thiba primary schools recently where boys in the two institutions were engaged in hard drugs. The standard seven pupils are badly affected, as they have admitted having smoked bhang,” he noted.

Quarrying within kwa- vee and Mahigaini areas has also contributed to child labour in the area since these are the easy and cheap places where children get ready cash.

A parent, Lillian  Wanjira while admitting that children have been left to fend for themselves at a tender age, blamed the lifestyles within the densely populated settlement villages in the scheme.

She said children were being brought up in an environment which exposed them to various social evils at a very early age due to the small sizes of the highly populated village plots they lived in.

”You find a family with ten children on a 40×50 plot with the immediate neighbour also in the same condition leading to all sorts of social evils including early exposure to sex which makes our children long to earn their own cash to enable them lead the lives they so desire,” she said.

She however, expressed concern over the poor state of their children’s education but said there is little they could do due to the prevailing environment.

Population influx in the county has resulted to sub-division of uneconomical land portions, increase in unemployment, crime, drug abuse and early marriages. This has affected the development of the county negatively.

This calls for diversification of agriculture which is the main economic activity, expansion of marketing channels, setting up of more cottage industries and promoting the growth in the jua kali sector

Efforts should also be made towards controlling of population growth rate and encouraging savings for investment purposes.

By  Irungu  Mwangi

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