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Where children prefer fishnets to books

By | December 5th 2010


Standard writer

It was jubilation as pupils from Lili Vision Academy in Kisumu graduated this week.

Charles Auko, five, was elated he would in January join Class One. His dream is to become a medical doctor. His father, Dickson Ochieng’, was equally happy with his son’s sterling performance.

"This is my first child and I want to give him the very best in education," says Ochieng’.

However, somewhere on an Island in Lake Victoria, Joseph Ochieng’, 10, knows nothing about school. He doesn’t know what it means to be a medical doctor. He has never been to school and is not planning to join any school soon. The only training he is proud to have accomplished is swimming.

"I really wanted to go to school, but after realising there were no schools here, I lost hope and took up fishing," he says.

Ndeda island in Bondo District.

Joseph’s fate mirrors that of many other children, not only on Migingo but other islands as well.

The over ten islands harbour a population that has been neglected by the Government. Some also lack medical facilities, schools, shopping centres and clean water.

According to Migingo Beach Management Unit Chairman Juma Ombori, the island has many children but no single school. Most of them, he says, take up fishing when they reach school going age.

"It is an issue that should be looked into. Not a single Early Child Development (ECD) centre is on Migingo Island. Where do we expect the children to go to school?" he poses.

Ombori says HIV/Aids and underage prostitution by girls are rampant.

Some of the girls enter early marriages that do not last.

Nyatike District Education Officer Siloma Kinayia says Migingo lacks schools even though many children living there are of school-going age.

He says Aluru Island, a few kilometres from Migingo, got its first ECD centre this year though it has been inhabited for years.

"The major challenge is that residents keep moving with their children from one island to another," says Kinaiya.

Educationists suggest that the Government should build rescue centres where children can stay when their parents move elsewhere. "When we have such centres, pupils will not drop out," says Mbita DEO John Ololtua.

At Oyamo Island Primary School in Bondo District, the population of pupils is swelling but many of them are likely to drop out.

With 38 households, the island has a population of 3,500 according to the last year’s census results.

The school has 270 pupils, most of them in Class Four and below.

The head teacher, Mr Ken Peter Nganyi, says the dropout is alarming and wants the Government to intervene.

In some Islands, the school administrations have developed a strategy to ensure dropout is reduced. Pupils in classes six to eight are allowed to go home for 20 minutes to bring food. They spend the night in school where they are kept busy with assignments.

Ndeda Island Primary School in Bondo runs a similar programme. At 5pm, the pupils go home to bring food for supper and breakfast.

The classrooms are turned into dormitories at night.

Ms Martha Otieno, a teacher at the school, says the programme has helped curb high dropout rate.

Pupils of Ndeda Island Primary School learn under a tree. [PICTURES TITUS MUNALA/STANDARD]

She says last year only one girl sat the KCPE exam but this year, they had five candidates.

"We ensure they all come back and also talk to their parents. We do this to ensure we maintain them in school," she said.

The area Assistant Chief Mark Onyango appeals to NGOs and the Government to help children living on the islands.

He said the children face many challenges and many of them are orphaned as a result of HIV/Aids.

During a visit to Ndede and Oyamo Islands in his Bondo constituency, Finance Assistant Minister Oburu Odinga said more funds should be allocated towards the improvement of education and health sectors.

He appealed to the Government and community leaders to ensure more schools and hospitals are built.
"CDF funds should be allocated to schools and health facilities," he said.

On some Islands such as Remba, where drugs and prostitution are rampant , the Beach Management Unit officials have taken the law into their hands to ensure boys of school going age do not go to fish.

The officials hunt for the boys who have dropped out of school and ensure they go back. But this is not enough. They say the Government and NGOs’ should chip in.

"What we are doing is not enough as we still face challenges. After tracking some of the boys down, they flee to other islands to avoid school," says one of the officials.

Khalif Ibrahim, the Remba BMU treasurer, says to address the problem they talk to parents about the value of education.

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