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Learners’ agony as nomadism takes heavy toll on enrollment

By Nanjinia Wamuswa | March 2nd 2019
Pupils at Kibilay Girls primary located in Habaswein area of Wajir South and Wajir County. [NANJINIA WAMUSWA/STANDARD]

If Anne lived with her parents, she would be in Standard Seven today. Unfortunately, she dropped out of school last year in unclear circumstances.

Teachers at Kibilay Girls Primary School in Habaswein, Wajir County, say prior to her untimely departure, Anne was being mistreated by a relative.

“She had been a good, jovial girl who reported to school on time since when she was in lower primary. However, she changed immediately she was left under the care of her aunt,” says senior teacher Jane Karimi. Her parents left their Habaswein home with their livestock to search for water and pasture, following prolonged drought in the area early last year. She then started reporting to school late, dirty and looked stressed.

“She would arrive in school past 9am, when others had started lessons, yet she lives near the school,” says Karimi.

When teachers inquired if there was a problem, Anne said she was living with her aunt who was giving her a lot of house chores such as cooking, washing and going to look for water from far-flung places.

Suddenly, she stopped going to school and has not been seen since last year. The teacher says they have tried to locate her without success.

“We cannot tell where she is. We do not know whether she followed her parents or not. We are not sure if she knew where they went to,” says Karimi.

She is however worried with the rampant early marriage cases, the girl might as well have decided to get married because of the difficulties she was undergoing.

“When you hear a girl has abandoned school, or gone into the bush with livestock, chances that she is married are very high,” she says.

The teacher says such cases are rampant, but they try to address it by talking to guardians to allow children an environment conducive for learning. Kenya’s Constitution states that every person has the right to education.

It further states that every child has the right to be protected from abuse, neglect, harmful cultural practices, all forms of violence, inhuman treatment and punishment and hazardous or exploitative labour. Unfortunately, a number of children in Habaswein continue to suffer, especially in the hands of relatives after their nomadic parents move with livestock.


Ordinarily, such girls would accompany their parents as they move with livestock, but the pastoralists resolved to leave them with their relatives to attend school.

This follows spirited campaigns and empowerment by the government and NGOs on the importance of education.

“Following these campaigns, in the last five years, parents have responded well to education matters and have since enrolled many children into schools. They appreciate the importance of education,” says Osman Adan, Protection and Education Project Officer for World Vision in Wajir.

Another student, Asha, says her parents have been out since October last year and she is yet to hear from them.

“My parents left me with my grandmother, and she’s old, cannot do anything in the house. I have to do everything before going to school,” says Asha who wants to be an engineer. Amina lives with a relative in a manyatta. “The family l live with is large, we are forced to squeeze together, which is very uncomfortable. When it’s time to eat we scramble for the available food and when you miss, there will be nothing left for you,” she says.

Amina says being an outsider, she fears fighting for food with her hosts. “My parents left two months ago, and promised to return when rains come,” she says.

Adan says the World Vision has partnered with sub-county education directors and other partners to improve the learning environment, and protect and improve quality standards in education.

He says they have constructed classrooms and libraries.

“We also have programmes that intervene for children who are victims of early pregnancy, rape and forced marriage,” he says.

Habaswein Sub-county Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Director Ahmed Ogle says lifestyle in the area is changing fast and locals have realised the importance of education.

He says drought forces parents out of their homes in search of water and pasture, forcing children to live with relatives.

This has increased enrollment in schools. Ogle says transition from primary to secondary school is also gaining momentum.

However, he regrets there are still children not in school because of challenges emanating from living with relatives.  

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