By Dr. Judith Oloo
Taabu, youngest of six children in her family is a 12-year-old girl from Korogocho (Koch) slum located in the northeast of Nairobi. It is estimated that more than 200,000 people live in the 1.5 square kilometre area. Her parents eloped and moved to the city from their village in Rumuruti region in the early 90’s. Unfortunately, her father passed away after contracting cholera and since then, her mother’s mandazi (fried Kenyan doughnut) business has been the source for their evening meal and sometimes breakfast; which constitutes of black tea and mandazis remaining from the business. Taabu and her siblings assist in settling other household expenses by collecting plastic bottles and selling them to kerosene oil suppliers in Koch. Over the weekend, they help their mother in vibaruas (casual jobs) such as washing clothes, houses and general cleaning for privileged people in the next neighbourhood.
Taabu attends Jitegemee Primary public school located within Koch. She desires to go to university, study medicine and be a doctor who treats all manner of sicknesses including that which killed her father. She dreams of making a mark in her society so as to improve the lives of many young children from similar backgrounds.
However, Taabu’s dreams are threatened by the fact that the education she receives at Jitegemee Primary school will probably not allow her to realize her dream. In her standard 4 classroom, there are 137 pupils who are taught by 3 teachers. Though she goes to school regularly and punctually, she hardly performs well mainly because she cannot hear her teacher’s instructions, as the class is too big. Her school does not have textbooks and other basic facilities such as clean drinking water and enough washrooms. In fact, many of her friends miss school occasionally because many households cannot afford a meal and it becomes difficult for children to learn with hunger pangs. Taabu’s case is similar to that of about 800,000 children in Kenya.
Education is a fundamental human right formally assured by the Government as provided for in the Constitution of Kenya in [Article 43 (1) (f), Article 53 (1) (b)], various laws and international systems that Kenya is party to, particularly the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Hence education is an entitlement of all children in Kenya including those residing in low-income neighbourhoods. Children in the similar situation as Taabu’s are discriminated upon since they do not receive the same quality of education like those from middle-income and affluent families. Taabu and her friends rarely compete effectively in national exams since they are completely locked out of good schools (provincial and national schools) and so further marginalization occurs. Thus, children unlikely make it to college.
According to the Right to Education Country fact sheet, the introduction of free primary education in 2003 has seen a significant increase in enrolment of pupils. Years have gone by and the growth of disparities in the quality of education provided to children in low-income settlements and that received by children from middle-income families is noteworthy.
We, The East African Centre for Human Rights (EACHRights) have made the following recommendations to the Government of Kenya in a bid to alleviate discrimination that children like Taabu face daily.
- To urgently build more public schools in informal settlements.
- To monitor education provided by private actors in informal settlements by setting standards in the curriculum taught, ensuring there are enough and qualified teachers and presence of facilities such as classrooms, washrooms and playing fields, among others.
EACHRights strongly believes that education is a tool for empowerment. We call upon like-minded organizations and stakeholders in the education sector to join us in continuing the fight for equal education standards for all children in Kenya.