Mandera Woman Representative Amina Gedow has challenged locals to shun retrogressive cultural practices and take their young girls to school.
She said cultural practices like female circumcision and early marriages are denying many girls opportunities globally.
“Times are changing and we need to be accepting and conform to these changes that give every child an opportunity to go school,” she said.
Without giving an exact figure, Ms Gedow said a number of young girls in Mandera have been rescued from early marriages by different agencies and taken to different schools countrywide.
“So many girls run to different offices and also to me wanting to go to school but the parents are adamant, only interested in marrying them off at a tender age,” she said.
Habiba Alio is among many girls who have been lucky to escape early marriage and is now a Four Two student.
While narrating her story to fellow students at Banisa Girls Secondary School in Mandera, Habiba said she was married off to a man older than her own father.
“I realised I was being married off to a man who was older than my father to be his third wife,” she said.
She confided her fears and unwillingness to become a wife at age of 13 to a neighbour who helped her escape.
“I am now in school and my fees is paid by the county woman MP but there are many other girls out there who, due to lack of a voice, get married off,” she said.
The student challenged the county leadership to stand up against cultural practices that deny girls the right to education.
At an event to launch education bursaries for at least 523 students in Mandera, several school heads decried the deplorable conditions in girls’ school in the county.
“We are facing a lot of challenges in girls’ schools in Mandera since our community does not value girl child education,” said Mr Mohamednoor Ibrahim, the principal of Liban Nomadic Girls School in Mandera North.
According to Mr Ibrahim, most parents have disowned and abandoned their girls in school.
“We are having girls who have been abandoned in some of the schools because either they refused to be married off or the parent does not see the need of educating her,” he said.
Mr Abdirahman Haji, the chairman of Banisa Girls Secondary School board of management, said they plan to sign a memorandum of understand with parents to enable girls finish Form Four.
“We are planning a meeting with parents where an MoU will be signed between individual parents and the school never to marry off their child until she finishes Form Four,” he said.
Banisa Deputy County Commissioner Noah Tanui said the government has devolved enough funds to ensure education is properly funded in all parts of the country.
“We have enough funds coming to the grassroots through the county government, National Government Affirmative Action Fund and the National Government Constituency Development Fund that [can be used] to solve problems in the education sector,” he said.
He said it is only through educated that Mandera residents will get a fair share of the national cake.
“When you are educated you will get a bigger piece of the national cake as education elevates ones competitiveness from the village to the global scene,” he said.
He challenged girls in Mandera to seek education for a better life.