Despite the steps Kenya has made in basic education, 23 per cent of girls are still being forced out of school by early marriages, teenage pregnancies and female genital mutilation (FGM).
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) says these girls are married before their 18th birthday.
UNICEF figures show that about one in every 12 girls lives under the danger of FGM, which further predisposes them to early marriages.
This problem is particularly rife in rural Kajiado. According to the 2015 Kenya National Adolescent and Youth Survey (NAYSHC), teenage pregnancy is one of the leading causes of school dropouts in the county. School girls here are also in danger of FGM and early marriages.
Paul Maiyasek, a teacher, says culture plays a big role and exacerbates the problem. Once girls have undergone the cut, they are considered mature women and their parents see no need to educate them.
They are therefore married off and the dowry they bring used to educate their brothers.
“Wherever they go to sleep, the girls are never sure whether they are safe. Some are sexually abused,” says Maiyasek.
Fifteen-year-old Jane escaped marriage by a whisker when her would be husband refused to take her, saying she was too young and ought to be in school. Now, at her young age, Jane is an active crusader against early marriages.
“My father came in one evening and pointed at me. It meant that he was marrying me off. It was a done deal,” recounts the Class Seven pupil at Esonorua Primary School in Kajiado County. With a group of other 23 girls from across Kajiado County, Jane underwent a week-long training to become girl-child rights advocates in her home area. The training conducted by the Centre for the Study of Adolescence (CSA) taught the girls how to teach their peers how to escape FGM, teenage pregnancies and early marriages.
At the end of the training, the girls and their teachers will go back to the villages to be peer educators.
“My dream is to be a doctor but if I miss out on this, I want to be a Member of the County Assembly in Kajiado,” says the girl whose favourite subjects are science and English.