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Stemming poverty at the Coast

By | February 2nd 2010 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By Ngumbao Kithi and Philip Mwakio

Kenya’s poorest constituency could be the hardest hit by the withdrawal of funding for the free primary education programme by the United Kingdom and America.

The Kenya Poverty Report that raised plenty of political heat in 2008, ranked poverty levels in Ganze at 84 per cent, compared to 30 per cent in Bura. The report from the Ministry of State for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030 was criticised in Parliament by some MPs, who claimed it had been doctored to increase allocations from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) for certain areas.

According to the report, the 21 constituencies in Coast Province contribute almost 10 per cent to Kenya’s total national poverty.

Mr Fred Mweni (centre), Chairman of the Coast Province Investment Conference addresses journalists at the Travellers Beach Hotel, Mombasa at the end of the two-day Coast Investment forum. With him are the Secretary of Wapwani Diaspora, Mr Emmanuel Nzai (right) and the Chairman of Coast Peoples Forum Richard Mambo. Photo: Maarufu Mohamed/Standard

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Nevertheless, Ganze MP Francis Baya told the over 200 delegates attending the Coast Investment Conference last week that 98 per cent of children of school going age now attend classes in his constituency, arguably the highest for the area since independence.

Baya said they had decided to fight poverty in the constituency by investing in children’s education. But if funding to primary schools slows down to a trickle after the donor-freeze, dropout rates may increase, puncturing the progress already made.

Every village

The MP said following the success of the free primary education, the constituency plans to use money from the CDF to put up at least one secondary school in every village.

"We do not want people to laugh over the fact that Ganze is the poorest constituency in Kenya. We want to use the facts to help our people through education," he said.

"We have decided to ensure the children do not go elsewhere to school, but learn within Ganze Constituency, and we are building at least one secondary school in every village," he said.

Baya said the only challenge would be getting employment for the children after completing school.

Seek solutions

Baya said he decided to use the conference to improve the image of the constituency, by highlighting positive developments, and seeking solutions for the poor in Ganze.

Baya, who is also the Immigration assistant minister, said the free lunches organised by the World Food Programme and direct discussions with community based organisations, have given hope to the local people, encouraging more parents to let their children attend classes.

The World Food Programme and the World Bank have cited poverty as the primary hurdle to erasing illiteracy in Kenya’s rural areas. Many children end up working to help put food on the table, rather than go to school, pushing up levels of child labour in the area.

Credibility test

The Coast Investment Conference faced a credibility test, when several MPs who attended the official opening failed to turn up afterwards.

A session for the Coast Parliamentary Group meeting was therefore postponed, as the MPs were not available to answer the questions.

There were only seven MPs who attended the meeting, including Dr Naomi Shaban, Dan Mwazo, Thomas Mwadeghu, Francis Mwatela, Mohamed Dor, Samuel Dado and Calist Mwatela. Coast Province has 23 MPs.

Dr Steve New, an American investor, said the province is well suited for growing chili, which has a huge market in the European union.

Several members attending the conference demanded a statement from the Government over move to privatise the Kenya Ports Authority.

Dr Shaban said the purpose was to sell certain berths at the port, and not the whole facility as initially suggested.

"We as Coast people have rejected the move and we shall not allow such things to happen in our midst," she said.

Commenting on housing, Prof Walter Oyawa said the country’s housing policy is responsible for the mushrooming of slums like Kibera in Nairobi, because it does not promote use of cheaper, but long lasting building materials.


KPA Kenya ports authority CDF coast region coast MPs Coast Province Coast Province Investment Conference
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