Agony Of Wasted Years In The Forest


Most if not all of the inhabitants of Mosop are pastoralists who lead a nomadic life; moving from one area to another poses a foreseen danger to the education of their children because they neither start nor continue schooling normally as they should.

By Isabella Maua

Located about 65 Kilometres from Bungoma town is Mt Elgon sub county, a region straddling at the boundary of Western Kenya and Eastern Uganda.

Amidst the rugged topography, series of mountain ranges with varied peaks, valleys and gorges lies education thirsty boys and girls whose dream of becoming tomorrow’s elite in society balances on a weighing scale.

A walk along the areas of Kibundo, Toomoi, Chepkitale, Kamuneru, Kibieto, Kapsang’, Kamarang’, Kapkirok, Chesiro and Chebwek (to mention but a few) one would easily come across a bunch of children either herding cattle, carrying firewood or playing in groups around their homesteads.

The sad truth is that these children are of legible age to join early basic education but due to abject poverty, parents’ ignorance or simply lack of educational facilities, they live in oblivion.

Mt Elgon Sub County Director for Education, Donald Etiang’ confirms that among other challenges facing ECDE enrollment, the areas have unfriendly terrain with many living in abject poverty.

“The terrain in Mt Elgon region is generally rugged and very mountainous, imagine if it is very difficult for us as education officers in the region to reach those areas, how about the children who are supposed to start school?” noted Etyang’.

He however, observes that despite the fact that every public school has an Early Childhood Development Education centre, most of the schools in the forest areas are very far from homesteads.

“An example is the distance from Iyaa to Kewa which is 12 kilometres away and inaccessible by motorbikes or vehicles, definitely a child cannot walk that long to acquire the most precious commodity under the sun which is education,” explained Etyang.’

In the recent past, the county of government of Bungoma has stepped in to fill the gap of insufficiency or lack of teachers therein.

In an exclusive interview with The Times Newspaper, Chief Officer for Education, Nicholas Kiboi disclosed that the county government would be employing 115 qualified ECDE teachers in the 2023-2024 financial year.

“We are determined to build a very strong foundation for our children from their basic education stage which is ECDE;despite the challenges we face as a region we are willing to buy land from the communities living around and inside the forest so that our children there can access schools comfortably,” noted Kiboi.

Education being a key aspect of life, undoubtedly has many stakeholders who include but are not limited to teachers, parents and the pupils themselves; teachers here go through untold agony that they shared with The Times Newspaper crew.

Lelmuko Ndiema is a teacher at Tomoi primary school and he divulges that as much as they are dedicated to share the knowledge with the upcoming generation, not only the adverse weather condition hinders the process but also chronic absenteeism.

He narrates:“Most if not all of the inhabitants of Mosop are pastoralists who lead a nomadic life; moving from one area to another poses a foreseen danger to the education of their children because they neither start nor continue schooling normally as they should.”

Lucy Chemtai a teacher within the vicinity recounted an incident where they almost lost a fellow teacher because of Asthma that was caused by extreme cold experienced in the region.

“One night our colleague got an Asthma attack which she developed once she was posted at Chepkitale given the fact that she came from Nyanza which is a very hot region, we had to carry her using a sack for over 10 kilometres so that she could get a motorbike to the nearest hospital about 25 km away,” Chemtai recalled amidst tears.

The region’s sub county director proposes that improvement of infrastructure will be very crucial besides erecting low cost boarding schools in the affected areas.

“I believe in school climate as a major factor affecting education output hence need for major investment in ECDE institutions, this will appeal to the children and keep them at school,” he accentuated.

Another solution to increased enrollment in ECDE at the required age, he adds, would be introduction of school feeding plan across Mt Elgon region with emphasis on the forest regions.

Illiteracy and ignorance among parents in the forest areas has played a very big role in derailing the enrollment of children since many of the parents see no value in education.

Mama Chebet from Kimama is a middle-aged, mother of eleven children and besides being illiterate, she discloses that her children enrolled in school at the age of over eight years because she found no need to take them earlier as suggested by education experts.

“I would not want my children to walk long distances through the freezing morning cold in the name of going to school and after that come back to loiter in the village with no fruits from the strenuously sought for education,” she lamented.

In this quest, there is dire need for sensitization among parents on the importance of education and taking children to school at an ideal age.

The school feeding program which is already being implemented by the county and national government at different levels should also be fully implemented in all ECDE centers as it is being implemented in Arid and Semi-arid areas to alleviate these issues.

Poverty is another crucial issue deterring many children from starting school as observed by Etiang’.

“Many of these children are living with very old guardians who needless to say have little or no resources to cater for their basic need let alone education,” he observed.

These cases are majorly a result of internal displacement caused by war and killings that occurred in 2007 by the infamous movement known as Sabaot Land Defence Force which claimed many lives.

Dr.David Wanyonyi Bungoma County CECM for Education and Vocational Training promised that despite the challenges, they’re dedicated to not only ensuring these children get quality education but also access the new rolled out digital learning program.

“Through the partnership we’ve signed with EIDU Digital learning, we shall ensure ECDE centres in Mt Elgon benefit fully from the program, over 100 teachers will be trained on how to use smart teaching devices to plan and deliver engaging lessons in line with CBC,” Wanyonyi said.

Even with evident effort from both county and national governments to ensure that children deep in the forest are equalized with others through education, parents and the society have a task to accomplish; hopefully with an open mind and readiness to accept changes these children will also have a reason to smile each morning as they wake up to enter class and write down their way into a bright future.

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