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Fatuma’s Digital Diary: Girls’ education in Kenya’s largest slum

© UNICEF Kenya/2008
UNICEF Radio and Voices of Youth Digital Diarist Fatuma Roba in Nairobi, Kenya.

KIBERA, Kenya, 4 April 2008  Kibera is Kenya's largest slum, right in the heart of the capital city, Nairobi. The slum's million-plus inhabitants struggle with extraordinary poverty and high crime rates. As is true throughout Kenya, the vast majority of Kibera's residents are under the age of 30, and less than half of the district's youths ever begin secondary school.

One of Kibera's residents is UNICEF Radio and Voices of Youth Digital Diarist Fatuma Roba. For the past year, Fatuma has been recording her life in Kibera on radio equipment provided by UNICEF. She has become particularly concerned with the subject of education.

The Kenyan Government abolished primary school fees in 2003 and introduced free secondary education earlier this year, but these policies have been slow to reach Kibera.

‘Girls should be educated’

Zachary Ombati, deputy head teacher at the Laini Saba private primary school in Kibera, told Fatuma: "We have so many schools here in Kibera but they are not government-owned. Therefore, we are not benefiting from free primary education. When it comes to secondary schools, we don't have a public secondary school in Kibera slum." 

As a result, many families end up paying for private education, and poverty forces them to choose who among their children gets the chance to go to school. Often, the sacrifice of staying at home falls upon the shoulders of Kibera's young girls.

"Girls should be educated as much as boys," says Bridget, a 14-year-old girl who spoke to Fatuma. 

Hoping for change

In reality, however, Fatuma says that only one-third of Kibera's girls go to school. Some work with their families doing housework or taking care of sick relatives. Others get into drugs or prostitution, or marry young with the hope that they might get money from their husbands to pay for school fees.

According to Mr. Ombati, many of the girls become pregnant and never see the inside of a classroom again.

Fatuma hopes this will change with the government's promise of free secondary education for Kenya's youth, even though it may be years before Kibera's children benefit.




UNICEF Radio and Voices of Youth Digital Diarist Fatuma Roba reports on girls' education in Kibera – Kenya’s largest slum.
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