Wednesday, April 11, 2012

School fees in Kenya

 School Fees in Kenya: Why we should care.

After three years of teaching I ended up teaching for a year in rural Kenya.  My school is one of the poorest of the region and holds about 350 students.  Although primary school is officially free in Kenya, secondary school is not.  My students, many orphans or children of single parents, are for the most part poor farmers.  During fee collection days more than half of the schools is drained.  Students are asked to go home and come back the next day with money. Many of them do come back the next day with a few shillings while others never come back.  School fees equal about 130,000 KS (about $150) per year.  Most people in my community make about 100 KS a day. This makes it almost impossible to send one child, let alone four or five to school and continues a cycle of poverty.  At my school, less than half of all the students who finish first in their class can afford to even attend a semester of college.  One of my students wrote of his situation heartbreaking well when he said “my problem is I have ambition.”

I am a firm believer that education can be the great equalizer.  School fees are a major factor that keeps communities like mine poor.  Education beyond form 8 is too expensive for the poor, while the rich are able to pay for the best schools in Kenya or boarding schools around the world. Parents choose between food, medicine, and school fees.  Some of my sophomores in high school are twenty years old because it takes years for parents to save up enough money to educate.  It is heartbreaking to see my incredibly bright, hardworking, and capable students, who really are desperate to learn (they ask for more quizzes and homework), forced to leave school because they just don’t have money.  Even more heartbreaking to think that they will never have a chance to live up to their full potential.  “The problem is I have ambition.”

This is the future generation of Kenya: brilliant and innovative and yet many of them won’t have the opportunity to change their country, our world; to be an engineer, a doctor, a teacher, or a politician, a voice for peace and justice.  What talents are we wasting?

Why should we care? I first of all think there is a Christian argument here.  Jesus calls us to tend to the poor and needy. To speak of those who do not have a voice.

 Beyond that, the US throws millions of dollars of aid on countries like Kenya.  A lot of this aid disappears down the black hole of corruption.  This year has really opened my eyes to corruption and the extent of it has really surprised me.  I believe a lot of that aid would not be needed if countries like Haiti (or Kenya) if the whole population could be educated.  Imagine a new generation of students in countries all over the world being given the opportunity to learn.  I believe this would raise a new generation of thinkers, of problem solvers. Developing countries will become more developed with innovative ideas and dictators will fall with a population in which every man and woman can think for themselves.

Perhaps this is the naïve, ignorant, uninformed ranting of an (still) idealistic teacher who sometimes this year feels she is boarding on going insane.  Still, when we look at Jesus’s message of how He wants us to represent ourselves here, we cannot afford to ignore these kids. 

Now what is the best way to help?  No idea.

1 comment:

  1. Your connecting Jesus' call to the need of Kenyan students is profoundly moving. Thank you!
    Thank you for caring enough to teach in Ratta.
    Thank you for caring enough to tell this story.
    What is the name of the student whose problem is ambition?