Seven months into the coronavirus pandemic, millions of school-going children, including nearly 10 million in Kenya, are still out of school due to restrictions meant curb the virus spread.
And with rising cases of infections, a majority are uncertain when they will resume in-person learning.
In Kenyan slums, the situation is exacerbated by economic hardships after parents were rendered jobless or subjected to pay cuts as the virus took a toll on businesses. The massive job haemorrhage has particularly hit hard slums that often house casual labourers.
It is this group that a Nairobi community based organisation (CBO) is targeting with a free meal programme for the period schools have been closed.
Shining Hope for Communities (Shofco) is providing food to some 600 students who attended its School for Girls in Kibera and Mathare.
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Shofco founder Kennedy Odede – who himself was brought up in Kibera – says the meal plan is a huge relief to parents and did not stop with the partial reopening of schools on October 4.
Only Grade Four, Standard Eight and Form Four learners returned to class after a 205-day hiatus occasioned the pandemic.
Joshua Aketch, whose Grade One child schools in Mathare, lost his job in Industrial Area, Nairobi when the country went into a lockdown. He says the programme "came through for us in a big way."
Another parent, Selina Atieno, shares similar sentiments. She too, lost her income when movement restrictions inhibited her cleaning job.
"We also were called for food packages, soap and money," Ms Atieno notes.
According to the head teacher of the Shofco school in Mathare Mercy Kasiti, the move was meant to provide a conducive environment for the children at home.
"These children come from some of the most vulnerable communities. We ensured that their needs and that of their parents are well taken care of," explained Ms Kasiti.
According Hecky Andera, the education director at Shofco, the programme is in line with their vision to empower girls living in slums.
He says empowered girls are bound to become agents of change in their communities as they "give back more" when they prosper in life.