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Girl shines despite odds as African Day is celebrated

By Jeckonia Otieno | Published Mon, July 17th 2017 at 10:33, Updated July 17th 2017 at 10:35 GMT +3

Rachel Lutomia will be gracing the national schools and colleges music festivals in Kakamega next month with a solo verse.
The Form Two student at Marukusi Secondary School in Matete, Kakamega County sailed her way through the zonals, sub-county, county and regional levels each time emerging top to represent her school.
The constant lack of school fees has not deterred the journey of a girl whose life borders on mystery. Lutomia stays with her father in a family of six.
"I have never met my mother because my dad says that she passed on but villagers tell us that our mum is alive. We do not know who to believe," says the Lutomia who often finds herself out of school due to lack of school fees.
The mystery deepens because her father insists that their mother passed on due to cerebral malaria but this she says cannot derail her from pursuing her dreams.
At school, Lutomia is the guidance and counselling prefect who takes part in debates and drama says that she knows what to focus on and that family sideshows will not derail her dream to be what she desires in life.
"Our dad is a casual labourer and he has to take care of basic needs which often leave him unable to care for matters like fees," she says.
However, this has not put down the soft-spoken Lutomia who recently wowed the crowd with her rendition of Ujana, the solo verse that she is taking to the national competition. She recited the verse at Cheptais Boys Secondary School where the national celebrations for the Day of the African Child happened.
Afraid of missing out on education despite her talent, Lutomia reveals that her greatest fear is dropping out because she wants to develop her talent in acting even as she pursues medicine.
And her teachers agree that apart from just having a dream of being a doctor, she also can make a very good narrator, a quality that often blends well for those who pursue a career in broadcast journalism.
But all hope is not lost even as she says that a well-wisher has ensured that she stays in school by taking care of her fees – how long that can continue she is not aware but she hopes against that she will complete her basic education.
Lutomia is among the majority of Kenyan children exposed to various vulnerabilities even as Kenya celebrated the African Child on June 16.
A press statement released by civil society organisations led by World Vision noted, "Over the past six months, we have interacted and listened to children across various parts of the country and today, we jointly highlight the key issues that require action by the political and administrative leadership at the National and County government levels."
This came against the backdrop of the theme, The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for Children in Africa: Accelerating protection, empowerment, and equal opportunity.
One of the issues the organisations raised was that more than 1.2 million children of school going age – like Lutomia - are in need of urgent school attendance basic essentials and a sustainable school feeding programme.
In response, Principal Secretary state department for social protection Susan Mochache, noted that while the government has a responsibility to care for all children, problems could rise due to meagre resources.
Mochache says that the government is creating 15 homes in 15 regions around the country to help care for children who are vulnerable. Each of these homes can take 500 children.
"Plans are also afoot to offer free secondary school education so that no child misses school due to lack of fees," says Mochache.

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