Tuesday, September 8, 2015

African Children in Pursuit of Quality Education

Time in Africa unveiled for us what life is like for folks in the real world. They work harder than most, they're nicer than most, and they have the same hope as everyone else. The following article from Kenya illustrates that reality.

by Researcher/Writer: Winnie Opondo 
YALF National Coordinator II, Kenya

The main delivery system for the basic education of children outside the family is primary schooling. 
(World Declaration on Education for All, article 5)

In the very early hours in the morning somewhere in rural Africa, the children are up getting ready for the day ahead. They milk the cows, clean the cow shades and sweep the compound. The hens are being fed too as the children’s morning tea gets ready in the three-stone fire. The kitchen is too smoky; maybe because the firewood is too cold, but nevertheless, the mud and grass thatched kitchen is tidied up.

Cold water is fetched from the borehole and the morning shower, taken behind the bushes, is done within about five minutes. Breakfast is served, hot water containing local tea leaves with no sugar for the lucky ones. For those not so lucky, they have to go to school on an empty stomach, a trend that is so common in rural and peri-urban settings in Africa. These children cannot afford the luxury of three meals a day - let alone a decent breakfast in the morning.

The distance to school is a little over a kilometer away from home, but these indomitable children embrace the morning cold to attend classes. Wearing nothing to protect their feet, they walkon stony and muddy ground and are exposed to other harsh stuffs on the road. Only a few have slippers on and rarely will you notice a sweater on any child. Majority of the children have on torn or worn out uniforms that are really in a very bad shape but this does not deter them from going to obtain knowledge.

The lessons are all taught by the hardworking teachers. The children yawn in between the classes, but they manage to reach lunch hour. One would expect them to run home for lunch but only a few do so. A good number sit under trees telling or listening to stories whilst others lazy around in class waiting for afternoon lessons. Lessons no one is sure the concepts taught will be grasped considering the scorching sun in the afternoon hours and some of them came to school on empty stomachs.

They manage to reach leisure time where they spend time running around the field or playing soccer. From where they get their inspiration, nobody can tell. When asked what they have learnt during the day, not a single soul can recall something meaningful the teacher had taught. Others in the upper classes can hardly construct a single sentence in English. Only a few in the school can read well and comprehend the text they read. But this is the rural setting; so the fact that a 20-year-old is in the eighth level of primary education, or the fact that nearly the whole pupils cannot express themselves in English let alone understand the language, is no shocking news.

Kids in a remote village where drought has ruined
the local economy.  Friends sponsor a group of 40,
some orphans, and others whose families cannot
afford the school fees.  Feel free to join us.  Or
go see for yourself.  We'll be glad to provide
The evening bell rings, signalling the end of the day. All the children rush to assembly ground then head home. The long distance to their homes is still the same but the differences in the evening trekking come with the presence of friends and neighbours plying the same route. There are stories to narrate about and jokes to laugh at and fruits to eat on the way home.

Normal as it may seem to any human to rest after a long day's work, the children reach home, change into their house clothes and they start performing their chores, fetching firewood, washing cooking utensils used during the day, ensuring the cows have drinking water and bring them back to their shades, preparing dinner and a list of other duties. When they sit down to eat in the late evening, they are exhausted already but who is concerned anyway. The comfort and pleasure of being a child is not felt in this area at all.

Their eyes are teary by the time they settle down for night studies because of the smoke that emanated from the firewood used in cooking. Nobody is sure whether the studies will even take place. The paraffin ended so the tin lamps cannot function, the solar lamps are being used by the elderly in the main house, mostly their grandparents, there is no money to buy candles neither is there electricity – which is still a luxury the government promised ages back but have not yet implemented in this region.

The children may opt to sleep after all. Others burn the midnight oil with whatever source of light they can get. Dozing after every five minutes, they manage to peruse through a few pages of their books. As they lie down in their beds or on the floor, they hope for a better tomorrow. The routine will be the same the next day, the following week, months and years to come. But they are grateful they have life and they are working tirelessly just like children in other parts of the world to secure their future. But this is the typical African child, in a remote area to be precise, and that is what makes the difference.

The Young African Leaders Forum (YALF) believes there is a lighting kindle of excellence in every child irrespective of their distinctive or peculiar background. In the process of effectuating sustainable development all over the continent, YALF has vowed to improve the lives of the average African child – especially those in the rural areas. There is unending hope coming to rescue the marauding force engulfing these children in Africa.

Keeping kids in school and adequately fed is perhaps the key element of progress for them and their families.  There are a number of assistance programs that actually make a difference.  World Vision perhaps tops the list for effectiveness among large organizations.  YALF (with whom this article originated) is new on my radar, and looks promising.  Or you are welcome to join us in our smaller efforts.