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Why toddlers will continue to rise at dawn for school

By Christine Nyawira | July 11th 2019
The shock of children groping in the dark in search of knowledge isn’t new. Parents wake up children in the wee hours in a rush to beat traffic and get to school on time

It is 4 am and little feet are shuffling in the fog to school in Kiambu. 

For the toddlers, it is a rush to beat traffic before their first class at 8:00 am – often not, arriving early to chilly classrooms without teachers. 

Whilst studies have shown that children below 12 years need up to 10 hours of sleep, the kids will not have much sleep with the evening schedule that awaits them. 

They have to sit through rush hour traffic back to Kiambu.

Theirs is a problem Kenya has had and it is not about to stop any time soon.

But where could the problem be?

Educational development

It's a well-known fact that private schools offer better education and opportunities compared to their public counterparts. 

That, however, does not negate the quality of education that is offered in public schools.

Free education in Kenya has been around since 2003 when President Mwai Kibaki introduced it – a fete that ensured many underprivileged children got schooled. 

The quality has, however, remained wanting. 

If good schools were well distributed in the city and across the country, then parents would ease off on the search for better academic institutions. 


The infrastructure in Nairobi, like many other cities, is class compartmentalised, the more elite a neighbourhood is, the better facilities it has.

 Thus, a lot of good schools are located within the prime locations where rent is high. 

Early commute remains the only option when parents can't afford rent and the general livelihood in areas where it’s closer to school.

Unfortunately, this is the price that parents and guardians have to pay for broken educational and infrastructural systems.

Reporting time could be changed, but that will not matter. The transport and traffic inconveniences will still bedevil them. A lot of working Kenyans leave the house early, and those who are not privileged enough to have house-helps, have to leave home with the children. 


This Privilege comes with the ability to afford resources that guarantee an all-rounded quality education for children: Good schools, and an extra set of hands, private transportation and putting up a home a few meters from the desired school. 

Unfortunately, this is only possible for the select few. Parents have to make do with what they can.

What we can do?

Schools can roll out more school buses to target different residential areas, therefore, avoiding round trips from one school bus. This could help cut the travelling time in half as the buses will ply fewer routes. 

Parents can opt for the nearest schools for the early stages of school and seek change once the kids are old enough to brace these kinds of challenges. 

Toddler schedules can be curated to hours when traffic is free-flowing. This will allow the buses to arrive at their destinations in time.

While beating traffic seems like the surface problem, the root causes lie within three spectrums: Educational development, privilege, and infrastructure.

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