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Tales of suffering girls and school heads fumbling for solutions

By Standard Team | Sep 14th 2019 | 3 min read

Re-usable sanitary pads displayed on the table during an interview on December 13, 2018. Huru supply sanitary pads for needy girls in both Primary and High school. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

Millions of schoolgirls from poor families across the country have been forced to use crude methods to deal with their menses following the government’s failure to provide them with sanitary pads.

A spot check by Saturday Standard across the country revealed difficulties the girls were exposed to in their quest to acquire education.

In Kisumu’s Nyakongo Primary School, headteacher Millicent Adhiambo said they last received sanitary towels early this year.

According to Ms Adhiambo, a local NGO had been providing pads to vulnerable girls they support under their education programme.

“But our female teachers always have some pads for an emergency in their bags and drawers, which they always provide to save girls who experience menses in school unexpectedly,” she said.

The school has set aside a washroom, which has a special place where such girls can take a shower and change their clothes in case of such emergencies.

The situation is similar at Rongo Primary School in Nyando where there are 300 girls benefiting from the sanitary pads.

“We had to depend on some packs the whole of the last term which were donated by a group of religious tourists from the US who visited the school to speak to the children,” Dorcas Oyier, the headteacher, said.

Swift move

“Once a girl comes to you having a sweater tied around her waist, we understand her situation. We have nicknamed the pads ‘mkate’ (bread) so when they come to request for some, they would say ‘teacher assist me with a packet of ‘mkate’ and we move swiftly to help,” she said.

In Kisii, Bondeka Girls Principal Lucy Anam said her girls had only received the sanitary pads from the office of the Woman Representative Jerusha Momanyi.

“We have not received any pads from the national or even county government and we will really appreciate any assistance,” she said.

In Homa Bay County, headteachers said they receive the pads sporadically.

The teachers said they are sometimes forced to contribute funds to purchase the towels for girls.

And in Central Kenya, most schools are yet to receive sanitary towel provisions this year. Wilfred Nyaga, the deputy headteacher at Mwerongai Primary School in Meru, said although they have been receiving regular allocations of sanitary towels since 2016, they are yet to get any this year.

“We have been receiving approximately 1,800 packets of sanitary towels annually and because we only have around 200 girls in need of them, we have been able to give them at least three packets per term,” he said.

The situation is, however, different in Machakos County, where three schools in Matungulu and Kangundo Sub-counties reported having a steady supply through local sub-county education offices.

In Western Kenya, lack of sanitary pads, tampons, toilets and water is forcing girls to skip school.

Hesborne Omolo, the principal of Kakamega Muslim Secondary School, said girls who can’t afford sanitary pads miss classes at least three days a month.

“The government supplies pads but they aren’t enough and this affects many girls,” said Mr Omolo.

This year, the school received sanitary pads in February when the 173 girls got eight pieces each.

At St Angela Bulimbo RC Primary School in Matungu, pupils last received the sanitary towels early in the second term. Each girl got five packs.

According to the school’s headteacher, Edith Nato, the supply was enough at that moment but the school could not keep any for an emergency.

Shinamwenyuli Secondary School in Butere last received the sanitary pads in March from Kakamega Women Representative Elsie Muhanda under the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF).

Principal Sammy Ogola said they have also been relying on charity and donor groups to supply the 187 girls with pads.

At Booker Academy Mumias, in primary and secondary sections, it is a regulation that parents provide the towels. The school has also put up a relief a package managed by the Guidance and Counseling department.

[Edwin Nyarangi, Kevin Omollo, Stanley Ongwae, Olivia Odhiambo, James Omoro, Erastus Mulwa, Olivia Murithi, Nathan Ochunge and Brian Kisanji]

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