Religious leaders urge parents to send their children back to school

Christian, Hindu and Muslim leaders speak out as part of the #ComeTwendeShule campaign

31 December 2020
Come twende shule poster
UNICEF Kenya

Nairobi, 31 Dec 2020 – Kenyan faith leaders have released a series of video messages encouraging parents to send their children back to school in January, as part of a ‘back to school’ campaign by the Ministry of Education, UNICEF Kenya and the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK).

The campaign, #ComeTwendeShule, stresses that children are safer in schools than out of schools. In 2020, school closures interrupted learning for over 17 million children in Kenya, who missed more than six months of formal education. The longer that children are out of school, the greater the risk that many of them – especially the poorest – will never return.

Moreover, children not attending school face increased risks, including of violence, abuse, early marriage and child labour. Evidence shows that children, especially those under the age of ten, are less susceptible to COVID-19 and less likely to transmit it than adults. 

Through video messages by leaders of different religions and denominations, the IRCK is supporting the drive for parents to bring their children back to school when classes resume on 4 January 2021.

Reverend Father Joseph Mutie, Chairman of the Inter Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK), highlights the importance of considering the prolonged effects of the school closure on children. “The book of Hosea, Chapter Four, Verse Six, says that my people perished for lack of knowledge,” he says.  “It is important that we do not lose a generation because of us not giving them adequate knowledge.”

Sheikh Abdullatif, from the Kenya Council of Imams and Ulamaa, highlights that children face increased risk of violence, child labour and child marriage while not attending school. “Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said each one of you is a shepherd and each one of you is responsible for his flock,” he says.

Bishop John Warari, of the Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV, underlines that the longer students are out of school, the greater the risk that the poorest among them will never return. “Proverbs, Chapter 22, Verse Six, says train up a child in the way he or she should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it,” he says.  “So, as parents, train your children that school is the best they can have and they will not depart from it.”

Sujatha Kotamraju, from the Hindu Council of Kenya, emphasises that since schools closed in March we have learned that children are not the main drivers of COVID-19 and it is in their best interests to return to school. “From our holy scriptures – Bhagavad Gita – accept that nothing is perfect,” she says. “The example of day turning to night, and into day again, is the best illustration of the fact that nothing in this world is permanent.  The same rule applies for the COVID-19 pandemic.  This pandemic is not here permanently, as medical solutions such as vaccination are nearby.”

Pastor Dr John Macharia, from the Seventh Day Adventist East Kenya Union Conference, stresses that children are safer in school than out of school, where they are at risk of early marriage, sexual violence and emotional abuse. “If you read Genesis, Chapter 33, Verse Five, you hear Jacob saying, ‘These are children that God has given me’”, he explains. “Children are a gift from the Lord.”

Bishop John Obala Oleowaa, of The Catholic Diocese of Ngong, says that it is important that children resume their education for schools are a vital safety net for the most vulnerable children.  “Psalms, Chapter 127, Verse Three, tells us children are a gift from the Lord,” he stresses.  “They are a reward from him.”

The Ministry of Education, UNICEF and other partners are working to ensure that children are as safe as possible when they return to class – including access to handwashing, face masks and social distancing. The religious leaders emphasise that parents must now play their part, by making sure that children get back to learning when schools open their doors on 4 January.

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Videos and posters can be downloaded here

Media contacts

Joy Wanja Muraya
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Kenya
Tel: 0721 466 267

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/kenya