The Ministry of Education has embarked on a public campaign programme that seeks to increase the number of children out of school, enrolled and retained in schools.
The programme launched at a Nairobi hotel is dubbed; the National Out Of School Children (OOSC) study and the ‘Operation Come to School Programme.
It targets sixteen counties including; Baringo, Bungoma, Garissa, Kajiado, Kilifi, Kwale, Mandera, Marsabit, Nairobi, Narok, Samburu, Tana River, Turkana, Wajir and West Pokot, where the number of OOSC is high.
Education CS Prof. George Magoha, in a keynote speech read on his behalf by the Principal Secretary (PS), State Department for Implementation of Curriculum Reforms, Prof. Fatuma Chege, thanked UNESCO and UNICEF for carrying out the study and coming up with interventions to address the problem of children out of school.
He further appreciated all the partners for the financial support towards the realization of the targeted interventions to save children from ignorance and return them to learning.
“This will complement the government’s efforts in ensuring no child is left behind or fails to access basic education,” the statement read.
The CS assured that the government has given priority to the disbursement of Free Primary Education and Free Day Secondary Education Funds and also provided all schools with learning materials.
However, he noted that African countries continue to experience substantial challenges despite the significant progress in promoting access to quality education at the national and global levels.
“These challenges include; low access to education by the vulnerable children and those from marginalized regions, low achievements in literacy and numeracy, weak linkage between training institutions and industry, low demand from TVET training and gender disparities among others,” CS noted.
The CS was further dejected by the statistics provided showing some counties in ASALs are home to high numbers of out of school children.
According to the Survey Report, there were 52 boys and 48 girls for every 100 OOSC within the 16 counties and herding, casual labour, boda boda business, and house chores accounted for at least 50 per cent of all the activities that OOSC engage in on a daily basis.
CS Magoha said there is need for concerted efforts, collaboration and partnerships, parental empowerment and engagement, media campaigns and other strategic interventions to be applied in ensuring all learners access and complete education.
“This situation calls for all children to go back to school and society must encourage and play its role in promoting all government initiatives like the one we are launching today,” he said, quoting the former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan who said, ‘Literacy is the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential,’
He also expressed his awareness of the primary goal of the programme to enroll 250,000 children, 50 per cent boys and 50 per cent girls and 5 per cent children with disability, who are out of school, to access quality basic education.
“I cannot overemphasize UNICEF’s role in supporting some of the continued interventions such as the dissemination of National Re-entry Guidelines, Mentorship Policy and provision of psychosocial support to learners rejoining school after dropping out and also the undertaking of the various water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes in primary school,” he said.
The CS urged all the stakeholders to take note of the recommendations made in the National Report and take requisite action, to ensure all children go back to school in line with the government Policy.
The baseline of the OOSC report projects the success of increasing access to education, which is a reflection of the government’s commitment to free primary and day secondary education, as envisioned in the ‘Big 4’ Agenda.
On her part, PS Prof. Fatuma Chege welcomed players in the programme including the National Council for Nomadic Education in Kenya (NACONEK), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
She observed that the OOSC and ‘Come to School’ programmes aims at attracting and retaining children in schools, citing very good research reports on children’s education by the stakeholders.
“It is our duty as adults, experts, education practitioners and government officials to explore, investigate and find out the causes that are keeping these children out of school,” she said.
By Michael Omondi and Faith Kinyanjui