Literacy, is defined as the ability to read, write, speak and listen in a way that allows us to communicate effectively and make sense of the world.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Kenya’s adult literacy level stood at 81.5 per cent in 2018 up from 78.7 per cent in 2014.
In Kajiado County, only 70 per cent of the adult population is literate with 30 per cent of the population unable to read and write.
Traditional beliefs and cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early marriages and moranism remain the biggest drawback to improving the literacy levels among pastoral communities.
Kajiado County Director for Adult and Continuing Education Mercy Njiriri revealed that the cultural practices and beliefs are deeply rooted in the society and this poses as a hindrance in promoting education.
Njiriri added that the economic lifestyle of the Maasai community also makes it hard for them to enroll for adult education classes as they move from one place to another in search of water and pastures making learning difficult.
“The illiteracy levels in the county is still high at 30 per cent. This is attributed to many factors among them cultural practices such as FGM, early marriages, moranism, nomadism among others.” Said Njiriri.
The Director noted that promotion of adult education especially among the elderly men in the Maasai community remains a challenge in rural areas as men view the adult education program as a preserve for women and idlers.
According to the Maa culture, men and women are not allowed to mix and interact freely in public. Some men also prevent their wives from attending classes as they do not want them to be more educated than them.
“Elderly men view it as a taboo to sit in the same room with women so most of them keep off. We have been forced to introduce separate classes for men and women to ensure that no one is left out, although this is becoming a challenge due to lack of sufficient tutors” she said.
The officer urged the locals to stop practicing outdated cultures and embrace change so as not to be left behind adding the only way one could empower themselves economically and socially was through education.
The Director emphasized that lack of basic literacy deprives people access to decent jobs and full participation in their communities.
Another challenge faced in the efforts to boost literacy levels, she said, is lack of enough teachers and instructors at the centers adding that in some classes there was only one teacher teaching all the subjects in a class of more than 50 learners.
“The number of instructors in the county is small compared to the areas they are required to cover. I urge all stakeholders to chip in and assist us in training tutors and providing learning materials and desks,” said Njiriri.
Other challenges include inadequate classes, poor infrastructure, lack of transport, insufficient funding, poor learning environment and lack of updated learning and teaching materials.
By Rop Janet