Wed May 06 18:52:22 EAT 2009
Guns-for-education policy boosts school attendance
Six years ago, he was among a group of armed youths eking out a living by herding cattle and protecting the community.
Six years ago, he was among a group of armed youths eking out a living by herding cattle and protecting the community. He traversed valleys and crossed rivers in search of “wealth” and hardly a month would go without taking part in cattle raid.
But all that is history today. He has since done away with the spiteful life and embraced education under the programme dubbed guns-for-education, an initiative by the Provincial Administration in Rift Valley to boost school enrolment.
Michael Lokue, 22, a Standard Three “pupil” at Kacheliba Mixed Primary School can not only write his name, but speak English and Kiswahili. Rift Valley provincial commissioner Noor Hassan Noor toured the school recently to receive 30 illegal guns surrendered following the launch of the programme three years ago.
The programme supported by the Ministry of Education makes it compulsory for members of the pastoral community to take their children to school. “Most have not taken advantage of the free primary education to enrol their children in school, hence the forced education,” explained Mr Noor.
He has directed provincial administrators to take stern measures against parents who fail to take their children to school. And when Mr Noor toured Kacheliba constituency, Mr Lokue stood tall among the 800 pupils at the school and testified against illegal arms.
“The gun did not benefit me for the five years I took part in cattle rustling. My life was always at risk,” confessed Lokue at Kacheliba district officer’s office where the guns were handed over. Today, an expression of pride is written all over his face as he discloses with confidence his ambitions in life after he was convinced by his uncles to go to school.
“It was a hard decision to make,” he said. But age is just but a number, and I will never regret joining school late,” he said. According to the PC, “the programme involves exchange of illegal arms for learning materials and other support to encourage community members to discard cattle rustling and embrace education”.
The initiative also aims at preventing early marriages and discrimination by parents in providing education for their children. Statistics from the local Education office indicate that more than 10,000 pupils have enrolled in schools in the larger Pokot District following the launch of forced education.
“It’s time the pastoral communities discarded cattle rustling and embraced education in order to attain development. This is an outdated culture which should be discouraged by all leaders,” said Mr Noor. The initiative, which has been supported by the Catholic Church, has helped to boost education level in Pokot, Turkana and Samburu districts.
The church has been at the forefront of building schools to accommodate children ready to embrace education. The church, through other donors also sponsors some of the pupils who have enrolled in school. The Government supports the programme through provision of relief supplies especially food.
Also benefiting from the forced education are girls who would have otherwise been married off by their parents but have now enrolled in school. “I had to escape after my parents made arrangements to marry me off and secure more animals,” says Pauline Chemariach, 22, a Standard Four “pupil” at the same school.
She is among other children aged above 20 years who have enrolled in the school and receive support from the Catholic Church and the Ministry of Education. Seventy groups have been formed in Arlale and 20 others in Kacheliba to promote education.