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Kenyan schoolchildren face challenges left by recent floods

© UNICEF Kenya/2007/Mwabe
Nixon Bwire, 13, and his schoolmates pose for a picture as he shows off the large fish he just caught from a nearby river.

By Julie Mwabe

NAIROBI, Kenya, 1 February 2007 – Nixon Bwire, 13, grins as he runs towards his friends, who are throwing stones across a stream that has been running through their school ever since floods struck the area. Nixon shows his amazed friends the large fish he just caught from a nearby river.

A student at Gamba Primary School in Kenya’s Tana River District, Nixon is one of thousands of schoolchildren who were affected by the heavy rains that pounded most parts of the country beginning last October, causing massive floods.

“Our home was destroyed by the floods and we have nothing left. My parents cannot even afford to pay my older siblings’ school fees since we have no cows left to sell,” says Nixon. “I will sell this fish so I can give my father the money. Maybe this money will assist him to pay for my older sisters’ school fees.”

Devastating impact on schools

The rains have been by far the worst in a decade, reportedly claiming 20 lives and displacing 150,000 people.

The impact on schools has also been devastating, with as many as 350 schools and a student population of about 150,000 affected. Floods severely damaged many schools’ water and sanitation facilities, leaving behind a pungent smell and the risk of diarrhoeal diseases – including cholera.

During the school break in December, hundreds of families who had been displaced by the floods took shelter in nearby schools. When classes were to resume in early January, up to two weeks of learning was disrupted in some schools because displaced families were not yet able to return home.

© UNICEF Kenya/2007/Mwabe
Kenyan children attending class at a flood-stricken school.

“Children have had to learn in very difficult conditions since schools reopened at the beginning of the year,” said the Tana River District Education Officer, Mr. Katata. “The strong winds that accompanied the rains blew off the roofs in some schools and also destroyed the classrooms.

“Although the children have resumed learning, there is a concern for their safety as some flood-damaged schools are in very unstable condition,” he added.

Rapid education assessment

UNICEF has been dispatching emergency supplies – including 1,600 education kits – to all the flood-affected districts since November. In the current ‘mopping up’ phase, the emphasis is on helping families get resettled and schools up and running.

An emergency rapid education assessment was recently undertaken by the Government of Kenya, various non-governmental organizations and UN agencies to evaluate the floods’ impact on education and take quick, effective action to rehabilitate schools.

Along with its partners, UNICEF is contributing to a coordinated effort on the construction of school toilets and classrooms. To date, UNICEF has received $200,000 from donors towards this effort, but a further $200,000 is still required to ensure that all the flood-affected schools can function normally.



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