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Kenyan Schools Risk Closure As Learners Skip Classes Over Drought

Kenyan Schools Risk Closure As Learners Skip Classes Over Drought

Mbeere residents in Embu County are concerned about the severe drought that has hit them; families can hardly get drinking water for themselves or their livestock.

Residents have been without rain for a very long time. Children are starving and in pain, and the situation is causing them to lose concentration in school—at worst, they miss school entirely.

The situation is worse in Meru County. Shrubs dot the expansive farms on the outskirts of Meru town, with many homes deserted as many families have fled in search of food and water.

A third of the population in Meru County now prioritizes survival, but students in 39 schools across the county are the hardest hit by hunger, with a number of children suffering from malnutrition.

Meru County Commissioner Fredrick Ndunga says learners in 39 schools have been skipping classes due to the ravaging drought.

Schools in the Tiaty constituency are also on the verge of closing due to acute food shortages caused by roadblocks placed on major roads as part of an ongoing security operation.

The operation’s goal is to smoke out and disarm bandits who are wreaking havoc in the area.

Residents claim they can’t get fresh produce from Marigat or other towns.

According to Yuda Losutan, an elder from Nginyang’, the semi-arid constituency is not viable for agriculture, and locals normally get fresh produce from neighboring towns such as Marigat and Kabarnet, but they are unable to get food because vehicle and people movements are restricted.

In Tana North and Tana River sub-counties, schools face closure as families relocate to Tana Delta’s fallback grazing fields.

As the national examination approaches, the Department of Education is conducting an exercise to determine the number of students and schools affected.

Khalif Hassan, county director of education, stated that the drought has had an impact on education.

“There are many areas in Tana North and Tana River sub-counties where families have migrated with livestock to Tana Delta, due to drought. Students are also bearing the brunt,” he said.

The official advised parents who are migrating in search of water and pastures to enroll their children in low-cost boarding schools to ensure their children’s learning continuity.

“We have opened low-cost boarding schools in Oloserea, Bangale, Balambala, Mororo Primary and Waldena. We are asking parents who migrate with livestock to leave their children in those schools,” he said.

Hassan urged parents who have relocated to Tana Delta to enroll their children in nearby schools, stating that they will be accepted even if they do not wear uniforms.

Teachers employed by school boards are also not paid as a result of a drop in parental income, threatening the completion of the curriculum.

“If a community’s source of water has dried up, teachers and syllabus coverage are affected because students are not in school,” Hassan said.
However, the official urged principals not to expel students for failing to pay their fees.

He suggested that they begin the food for fees program by allowing parents to bring livestock and other farm produce instead of money.

Tana River has not received rain for the last four seasons, resulting in the drying up of water pans and poor pasture regeneration.

The education sector has also suffered as a result of the prolonged drought.

Tana River is in the alarmingly worsening drought phase, according to the National Drought Management Authority Drought Early Warning Bulletin for September.

As Kenya endures one of the worst droughts in decades, the government has set up a command center at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to oversee the distribution of relief food supplies.

Nelson Marwa, Principal Secretary of the State Department of Social Protection, says six more counties have joined the list of counties in the red alert phase, bringing the total to 29 counties severely affected by drought.

“The situation is worsening, and we are in the drought alarm phase,” says Godana Noor, Meru County coordinator for the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA). “So, we are developing a response plan for the short-term and long-term in terms of relief food that we require in Meru County.”

Meru is one of the 29 counties that urgently require relief supplies, which is why the government is taking action.

Trucks take turns offloading relief food supplies at the NCPB headquarters, while others are loaded for transport to affected families in the 29 counties.

Two weeks after President William Ruto flagged off the first consignment of relief food to drought-stricken counties, this command center was established.

The government’s establishment of the command center coincides with a pledge to make funds available to purchase food for families affected by the severe drought.

“Majority of that food has basically gone out, and he also ordered Ksh.900 million be spent on buying more relief food through Kenya National Trading Cooperation. That money has been wired to the Kenya Trading Cooperation and they have started bringing in food en masse,” adds PS Marwa.

According to the PS, the number of counties affected by drought has increased from 23 to 29, with calls for close collaboration among actors at the county level across the affected counties to ensure that relief food supplies reach those in desperate need of food.

The government says it is monitoring the distribution of food supplies to affected counties and has set up a communication line with various players to ensure that the vulnerable are reached.

With weather forecasters predicting a failure of the October-December rains, the state insists it has enough water in storage to mitigate the effects of the drought.

Kenyan Schools Risk Closure As Learners Skip Classes Over Drought

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