Fresh-thinking Primary teacher helps keep students in school throughout drought emergency
Helping keep children in school during the drought
Mr. Ali has been the Principal Head Teacher at Modika Primary School in Garissa Town since 2016. When he joined, only 60 students were enrolled and there wasn’t even access to water within the school.
Kenya is facing an unprecedented sixth consecutive failed rainy season. Garissa is an extremely harsh environment and families who traditionally are pastoralists - herding livestock – are barely able to survive the increasingly severe and frequent droughts.
Even though primary education is free in Kenya, many pastoralist parents struggle to pay for the hidden costs of schooling: uniforms, textbooks, lunches and transport. UNICEF provides education supplies to Modika Primary School, including school bags, teaching & learning materials, uniforms & supplementary kits for children with disabilities.
Headmaster Mr. Ali has ensured there is now clean drinking water available at the school, something students cannot readily access at home. He has also built a kitchen on site and employed a cook. In fact, many parents with younger children, or children who don’t even attend the school, send them for this free lunch. All are welcomed by Mr. Ali.
He says “The parents are very appreciative. They know the latrines were built by UNICEF, the uniforms and the bags come from UNICEF. If we offer school meals too, what else are they lacking?”
Free school lunches provided by the Ministry of Education have never been more important, because this part of Northern Kenya is experiencing the worst drought in 40 years. Although Mr. Ali is proud to have increased enrolment of his school tenfold – he now has 600 students attending – he knows that drought always leads to students dropping out, and this climate-induced emergency risks destroying all his hard work. 110 learners are currently absent (18% of the school population).
Mr. Ali says “This morning I met some parents who have five boys all of whom have just dropped out of school. They had 40 goat and sheep but they have all died.”
2.5 million children in Kenya are out of school and 90 per cent of out-of-school children are living in arid and semi-arid regions of the country like Garissa. These regions are three times more likely than urban areas to have children dropping out of school.
Through a mix of community engagement, access to safe learning, quality teaching, mentorship and government advocacy, UNICEF in partnership with Educate A Child and the Qatar Fund for Development, is running a programme, ‘Operation Come to School Kenya’ which has enrolled and retained 350,000 students into school in the first four years of operation and it’s now been expanded.
Zeinab Ahmed, Child Protection lead for UNICEF in Garissa says: “The link between education and child protection is very clear during an emergency. The drought is increasing the risks of child marriage, child labour and family separation, which in turn affects students’ concentration and psychological well-being. Children are dropping out of school due to the drought, which entrenches the cycle of poverty.
“We need to protect both boys and girls who are currently in school and use the school as a platform for addressing wider protection needs, especially during emergencies. Even if children are out of school, they’re still part of the game, we can still reach them.
“We need to convince the parents, chiefs, elders, that for this area to develop, children need to stay in school at any cost”.
Thanks to “Education Above All Foundation” and to “Qatar Fund for Development” for their generous support to the out of school programme in Kenya.
 ‘Expansion of Operation Come to School Kenya’ Educate a Child Funding Proposal