The failure by the national government to reopen schools in Boni Forest in Lamu East which were closed due to insecurity has been cited as the major contributor to an increased number of teenage pregnancies and school dropouts in the region in recent days.
In 2014, all the five primary schools of Basuba were closed after teachers fled the area following Al-Shabaab threats.
Basuba Ward is made up of Basuba, Milimani, Mangai, Mararani and Kiangwe villages all of which are listed as terror-prone owing to Al-Shabaab attacks that were witnessed in previous years.
Only a handful of ECDE centres including Kiangwe, Basuba and Mangai are functional but still lack teachers.
Elders from the minority Boni on Wednesday said there has been an increase in teenage pregnancies which is stifling the community’s transformation to modernity.
The Boni are traditionally hunters, fruit gatherers and honey harvesters but for the past five years, they have been unable to conduct their activities especially after the government launched the multi-agency security Operation Linda Boni which subsequently denied them access to Boni Forest.
The elders said they are worried that the community might never really get to attain the required educational and development standards to match the rest of the country if the government continues closing their schools.
The elders said many of their girls of school going age are now pregnant, with many being forced to enter into young marriages to escape the discrimination that comes with getting pregnant out of wedlock.
Mr Ahmed Dokota said it is now five years since the schools were closed putting the fate of learners in the region in limbo.
“It’s unfortunate that our schools in Boni Forest continue to be closed five years on. Very few parents have managed to transfer their children to other places to proceed with learning. Majority of the children here have so far dropped out of school altogether. Our girls have also become victims of circumstances. Some have been impregnated and forced into early marriages. I believe this can be solved only if our schools in Boni Forest will be reopened,” said Mr Dokota.
The Boni villages have more than 500 learners but only 280 pupils have been transferred to a safer learning zone at the Mokowe Arid Zone Primary School in Lamu West to proceed with learning.
An elder, Barissa Musa, noted that many young girls in Boni Forest are naïve and are being taken advantage of by men who impregnate them and then dump them, creating an extra burden on their parents.
“There are so many of us here who have our pregnant daughters in our houses as we speak. We can’t really blame the kids. I mean, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. They are supposed to be in school as their peers but because of the security situation here, they haven’t set foot in a classroom for five years. Anything is expected at that point,” said Mr Musa.
The Boni are also worried that their children might end up in the hands of drug peddlers and other criminals who take advantage of their illiteracy to use them as agents of the illegal trade.
They want the government to intervene and have the schools re-opened so as to save their young generation from perishing.
“The state of education in our villages continues to deteriorate. Teachers fled while our schools remain closed. We need urgent intervention so that our schools are reopened to enable our children to learn,” said Mr Abdalla Yusuf.