Closed for Business: The pandemic closes schools putting children in danger
The Coronavirus crisis has already had a devastating effect on Kenya. There has been a huge jump in unemployment and an even bigger increase in crime rates due to the lack of financial support from the government. Now with all schools across the country forced to remain closed until the start of 2021, the future for so many vulnerable children hangs in the balance.
Since the historical closure was ordered by President Uhuru Kenyatta almost 6 months ago, many of Kenya’s disadvantaged children have had no contact with their teachers. Living in cramped conditions and struggling to survive, they simply can’t afford to access the online learning programmes launched as a substitute during the restrictions. And when schools do reopen they almost certainly will not be able to pay the extra tuition fees which could be imposed. This means that a large number of the 15 million or so primary and secondary school students may not return to school at all - trapping them in lifelong poverty.
With the absence of a school structure many disadvantaged children are increasingly exposed to a variety of dangers. There has been a big rise in cases of young boys using drugs and drinking alcohol to cope, while there has been an explosion in teenage pregnancies. In fact, 152,000 Kenyan girls became pregnant over the course of the recent lockdown - a jump of 40% on average monthly figures. According to Rosslyn Ochieng who is the Principal of Kadika Girls High School, “the prolonged closure had taken girls’ schools back to the drawing board”.
Over the past few months the team at DCI has been fighting to make sure these disadvantaged children are not left behind. By providing educational and emotional support through regular community visits and a new text helpline, we have acted as a safety net to countless children living in dire poverty. During a recent visit we counselled those who have been exposed to domestic violence and provided essential medical items. Through our community projects, girls empowerment and gender-based violence programmes we are working hard to ensure that every child is given all the support they need and is ready to return to school next year.
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