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Baringo teachers appeal for help to keep children in class

By Julius Chepkwony | May 28th 2019

An ECD pupil at Pakka Hills primary school in Tiaty taking her Lunch time meal. Enrollment at various schools in Baringo has gone down after the government failed to fund school feeding programme. [Kipsang Joseph/Standard]

It is 10am at Barketiew Primary School, deep inside Baringo County.

Inside a Standard Eight English class, there are only three pupils out of the 15 who have registered for this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination.

Overall, enrollment this term has fallen from 154 pupils to just 90. Head teacher, Joseph Kipkech, however says things were different when the school had a feeding programme.

“The Government has not been funding the programme since May 2018, and when the food left, the children also left,” he says.

Those who stay rarely do so for the full day.

“By midday many are hungry and lose interest,” says Kipkech.

Cold kitchen

The school’s kitchen looks cold and deserted. The utensils have since been locked up in the store. Incidentally, the kitchen, not the classroom, is the main focus for pupils everyday they arrive in school.

“They come in the morning, whenever they see there are no signs of cooking going on in the kitchen by 10am, they begin to leave,” says the head teacher.

There seems to be only one unwritten school rule here: No food, no classes.

“Most pupils come to school because of the food offered. We have seen the population decline since we have nothing,” says the head teacher.

On Tuesday last week, the school received a paltry 150kg of maize and 50kg of beans. The food was delivered after the Assistant County Commissioner’s office intervened. It will keep a few more children in school, but only for a week. 

It is not just the lack of food that teachers and learners in the school have to surmount. Water is rare too.

According the school’s deputy head teacher, Isaac Rotich, children and teachers, walk as far as 10km to fetch water. And as insecurity in the area spirals out of control, these trips are becoming increasingly dangerous. Moved by the plight of their pupils, teachers used to give up part of their salaries to buy them some food. But eventually, this became unsustainable. 

“We would buy them food as we wait for supplies from the Government. We were, however, overwhelmed and gave up,” says Mr Rotich.

The situation is the same at Tuluk Primary School, where the head teacher, Zakayo Cherutich, says the number of pupils has been declining steadily from 215 last term to 140 this term.

According to Mr Cherutich, more parents are withdrawing their children after realising the school feeding programme is no more.

Of the 140 pupils, 48 board at the school. But this might not be for long, as only five kilogrammes of food is left in the school’s stores. 

“If this continues, we will be forced to shut down the boarding section as we struggle to keep the pupils in schools,” said Cherutich.

At Yatia Primary School, attendance is better. Out of 272 pupils attending school last term, only 42 dropped out. The teachers are, however, worried that more will drop out as soon as the school’s food store runs dry, and which could be very soon. 

The school used to receive Sh110,000 yearly from the Government to feed the children. This, however, was stopped without notice.

“The school has been surviving on donations from well-wishers,” says Stanley Chesut, the deputy head teacher.

If the Government is serious about its 100 per cent enrollment policy, he says, it must restore the school feeding programme.

Poor performance

At Kagir Primary School, the head teacher, Joseph Kibet, is not very optimistic about this year’s performance in national examination. He says unless the school feeding programme resumes, all indicators point to poor performance. 

The situation is the same in more than 30 other schools in parts of Baringo North, Baringo South and Tiaty sub-counties.

Baringo County Education Director Moses Karate said his office was aware of the situation and had contacted the ministry’s headquarters for help.

“The government promised to wire money in support of feeding programme,” he said.

As for when this will happen, the education official is not sure.

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