Achieving learning for pastoralist communities in remote Marsabit

Published December 17, 2014 by Silas Odindo

Teaching in progress at Balaah Centre in Marsabit CountyTeaching in progress at Balaah Centre in Marsabit County

Lack of schools, teacher shortages, frequent ethnic clashes and poor communication infrastructure are just a few of the many challenges that hinder access to education by young people in remote areas of Northern Kenya. These challenges are even more acute for the young girls of Marsabit County.

The high cost of the predominately public education system in the country further compounds these challenges, making schooling unaffordable for many as fees can represent more than 50% of the very poor’s income. As a result, most children aged 6 to 18 are not enrolled in school.

For those students that are lucky enough to go to school, ineffective teaching and lack of proper meals affects their readiness to learn, creating further missed opportunities. Traditional practices that give preference to boys’ education present further challenges to girl’s education.

Education is one of the most important drivers for ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Since the 1990s, targeted actions by a number of countries and their development partners have helped reduce by half the number of out-of-school children around the world. Yet, to this day a lot of school-aged children are not in school and there is abundant evidence that learning outcomes in many developing countries are alarmingly low, especially among disadvantaged populations. This global learning crisis is a major impediment to expanding both individual opportunity and national development.

Adeso is doing its part to addresses these challenges. Mary is one of the young women who attend classes at one of the non-formal education centers run by Adeso in Rage, Marsabit County, as part of the Mobile Non-Formal Education (MNFE) project, supported by the Partnership to Strengthen Education and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE).

“When I was 15 years old, I fell ill and after futile visits to local hospitals, my parents decided to visit a traditional medicine man. His diagnosis indicated that a spell was cast on me and it could only be undone if I am married off,” recounted Mary.

This cut short her education as she assumed new responsibilities as a wife.

With the introduction of the non-formal education centers, many young women who were denied access to literacy have enrolled for classes.

The MNFE classes, which are carried out inside a tent, are tailored to people’s nomadic lifestyle. They are flexible and were created to accommodate married women like Mary as well as young boys as they are conducted during both morning and evening hours. Young boys are therefore able to attend classes in the morning before they leave for grazing fields and in the evening when they return, while married women can attend classes during the day after they are done with household chores.

The MNFE project works to ensure that all children and youth can not only go to school, but can also acquire the knowledge and skills they need in a bid to lead healthy, productive lives, secure meaningful jobs, and contribute to society. The project focuses on boosting literacy levels among the community, improving school/education quality, and emphasizes inclusion of the hardest-to-reach children from the most disadvantaged groups.