Tuesday, June 22, 2010


A novel project is helping to combat the twin problems of early marriage and low school enrolment among girls in North Eastern Province.

Girls from poor families, who face the danger of being married off early, are accessing secondary education, thanks to relief food supplies.

Dubbed the “Food for Fees Scheme”, the initiative has ensured that 102 girls at Kutulo Girls’ Secondary School in Wajir East, among hundreds of others, pursue their education dreams in the boarding facility started barely three years ago.

The scheme, borne out of the government’s relief food programme in arid and semi-arid areas, involves undertaking a valuation of the relief supplies received by each school. The schools then use the monetary value to offset fees for needy students. The innovative project, according to the deputy provincial director of education, Mr Lawrence Kirimi, was borne out of the need to enhance accountability in the relief food programme.

In the past, provincial administrators and school heads had been accused of illegally diverting relief supplies. “We don’t send students home for school fees because many parents are nomads and keep moving,” the deputy principal at Kutulo Girls Secondary School, Mr Mohammed Hassan, said.

Located 125 kilometres from Wajir Town on the Wajir-Mandera Road, the school is a result of the local community’s realisation that many of their daughters could not proceed to Form One due to a shortage of girls’ boarding secondary schools. The school admitted its first batch of students in 2008, with the support of the Constituency Development Fund.

According to Mr Hassan, the school receives relief food worth Sh150,000 to Sh200,000 per term. The relief supplies include maize, rice and cooking oil. “We calculate their value at market rates and divide the total among the needy students said the deputy headteacher, adding, they give priority to the orphans.

This is a big relief to girls whose parents and guardians cannot raise the Sh17,627 payable on admission to Form One. For instance, 40 have this term received Sh5,050 towards payment of their school fees. During the first term, all students were awarded bursaries ranging between Sh3,000 and Sh5,000.

“Girls’ boarding primary and secondary schools could be the solution to low enrolment rates in the region,” said Mr Hassan. “If this school was a day school, we would be having about 12 students.” The school has recently benefited from a Sh3 million dormitory capable of accommodating 80 girls from the Ministry of State for the Development of Northern Kenya and Other Arid Areas.

A donation of Sh700,000 from the Arid Lands Resource Management Project, Phase Two, will be used to buy beds and desks. The larger Wajir District, now composed of five districts, has only five girls’ secondary schools: Wajir Girls, Bute Girls, Hon Khalif Girls, Habaswein and Kutulo, translating to a ratio of one girls’ secondary school to five for boys.

In the area, like the entire North Eastern Province, girls have been at a disadvantage in accessing education. “We established a girls’ boarding school because we found it important to educate our daughters. There was a high drop-out rate then, not today,” said Mr Issack Hussein, the Kotulo chief.

The administrator admitted that the problems of early marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) remained the key challenges to girls’ education in the region, but added that the vices were being gradually eliminated.

Lacks facilities

“FGM cannot disappear in a day. But we hope to wipe it out in the next decade,” he said. Although Kutulo Girls, set to present its first Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examinations candidates next year, still lacks facilities like laboratories, a library and a dining hall, both teachers and students express confidence that these challenges will be a thing of the past in the next few years.

Indeed, the school, just like its motto, “Be the light”, is a bright spot for girl-child education in this area where little regard is given to their welfare.