So They Can in East Pokot: Part of our Education Collaborative

In 2016 So They Can visited East Pokot, Kenya, for the first time at the request of the local community.

East Pokot is in an isolated region with a population of 160,958 (Women 51% and Men 49%). It is an extremely poor region that faces serious child protection and education issues with illiteracy rates of 96%.

School attendance is extremely low, especially for the female population. In 2013, an extensive study conducted by Uwezo[1] found that East Pokot had the lowest literacy and numeracy rates in all of East Africa (362nd out of 362 districts). Almost all school age students have illiterate parents. It is difficult to convince parents to ‘sacrifice’ their children to school and forfeit a bride price or free labor, let alone get them to pay for a uniform, tuition, and school supplies. If a parent is asked to financially contribute to a student’s school costs they are likely to pull the student out of school. Further, this community are nomadic pastoralists and therefore children are taken out of school when family move in search of feed for livestock.

Another major educational issue in East Pokot is the severe lack of teachers and a very low teacher retention rate.

GIRLS ARE MOST AT RISK

Upon getting their first period, East Pokot girls have their hair braided and dyed red as a sign that their parents are ready to accept bride offers.

There is a prevalence of early, forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) (even though both the practices of early marriage and FGM have been declared illegal by the Kenyan government), forced labour, violent cattle raiding, and malnutrition in East Pokot and all impact negatively on their children.

So They Can’s Education Collaborative in East Pokot aims to support the provision of quality and affordable education for both boys and girls through providing teaching/learning resources, capacity building for teachers and Board of Management’s, improved boarding facilities and community sensitization on the importance of education.

So They Can aims to work with 7 schools; 2 secondary schools and 5 primary schools. We would like to create four “Centres of Excellence” where we concentrate our resources on 2 secondary schools and 2 primary schools.

The So They Can Family Strengthening Programme (FSP) will also be delivered to the region, designed to prevent children from being moved into residential care. The FSP support varies from assisting with a child’s educational costs to the parents’ training in income generating activities and parenting skills.

This critical programme is now supporting more than 50 children helping girls gain to access to an education and not fall victim to harsh cultural practices.

Our Family Strengthening Program is run in conjunction with our Miti Mingi Village in Nakuru, a family based care village for orphaned and vulnerable children.

[1] Uwezo means ‘capability’ in Kiswahili. Uwezo is a five year initiative that aims to improve competencies in literacy and numeracy among children aged 6-16 years old in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.