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Invest more in education for lasting peace and growth in arid areas

By Gerald Lepariyo | January 24th 2016

When The Standard on Sunday highlighted the dire state of Nachurur Primary School in Tiaty constituency, Baringo County, I felt a tinge of huge frustration. Majority of Kenyans were stunned to learn that some 300 pupils are attended to by only two teachers and that they study under trees with snakes and cows for companions.

However, for Baringo residents, decades of neglect and marginalisation coupled with persistent inter-ethnic conflict have made this normality for our children. Most communities here are nomadic pastoralists, and we depend on livestock for survival. As a young man from the IIchamus community, a minority, my entire childhood was spent in this very activity, looking after our animals, searching for pastures and water and protecting our homestead. It is my parents’ commitment to education that ensured I attended school, culminating in my graduating from the University of Nairobi. Still, for the majority of children in semi-arid areas, attaining decent education is often times a farfetched dream.

The North Rift region is riddled with intractable conflicts, all revolving around the culture and practice of cattle raiding. The biggest impediment to future and education of children from this region is intrinsically linked to cattle rustling.

The welcome break brought about by devolution through the county governments, is yet to be fully seen in education. County governments in these areas must work harder to foster integration between previously warring communities. The county leaders must also convince the nomadic pastoralists to adopt a new cultural attitude, one where their young people’s future is in education and not in cattle rustling.

Peace building aside, the resources required to ignite education on a grand scale cannot be provided by the county government alone. Even if you include funds from the Constituencies Development Fund, the expenditure to build educational capacity in Baringo County, cannot be enough.

For arid and semi-arid regions, we must consider two pertinent factors. Firstly, that the majority of nomadic pastoralists move about, making it nearly impossible for children to consistently attend school. Even the few mobile schools available cannot be sustained because of the threat of violence during cattle raids. Hence, security must be beefed up.

Secondly, we must encourage the communities to educate their children. The children must not be both shepherds and learners. They should be given ample time to learn. How about offering boarding facilities for them? We must put in more resources.

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