A village in Ndarugo, Juja Sub County is staring at having a hopeless generation as several of its children have been forced to drop out of school by poverty and school fees challenges to crush stone at local quarries to make a living.
The children flock the quarries with their mothers from Monday to Saturday each armed with a hammer to crush stones into gravel for a pay.
While they are still interested in joining school, their parents can hardly afford, as the meagre wage they earn is only enough to pay house rent and for food.
Margret Wanja has dragged all her four children, one in Form 4, another in Form 3, and the other yet to join Form 1, into the quarries to boost her earnings.
They are paid Sh10, for each bucket they crush. On a good day, she can make Sh300 for crushing 20 buckets and the children 10.
“I know they should be in school, but what can I do. I took them but they were sent home to collect school fees which I don’t have. I have no choice but to take them to the quarry to help me look for money,” she said.
Wanja is among the many parents who flock the quarries with their children so that they can boost their earnings.
Maryanne Waithera, a Nyacaba resident works at the quarry with her daughter who should have joined Form one this year. She crushes 25 buckets each day, earning Sh250.
She says she took the girl to Form one, after buying uniform and exercise books, but the child was sent home to collect school fees.
Poverty has also kept her other two kids, one in class 7 and the other in class 8 out of school.
“The money we get can hardly meet rent and food expenses, leave alone paying school fees. With all these problems, what can I do if not take my children to the quarries to help me get some small money? They will continue staying at home and crushing stones until I get money,” she said.
She says the children have all the while been willing to go to school and have been dissatisfied with stone crushing jobs.
Other than suffering from life threatening respiratory illnesses from inhaling quarry dusts, most of the children have scars and bruises on their hands.
Kelvin Mburu, another parent says their children’s dreams are slowly being destroyed by the quarries but that they have no option to turn to.
“If we left them at home, we’d worry about their safety because there’s nobody there to look after them. That’s why we bring them here with us,” he said.
He wondered why the government was keen on the free primary and secondary education and the 100% transition rate yet did little to instruct school heads not to send learners home for school fees.
The parents called on the national and county governments, and the area MP to visit the area and intervene to save their children’s future career dreams.
By Muoki Charles