“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you” – B. B. King.
This month we are launching limited edition blue hearts for our Back To School campaign. Although Kenya has done an amazing job at keeping cases to a minimum, we went into another lockdown on March 26th.
Our Back To School campaign aims to raise money that will be put into our Welfare Program. To support our employees with school fees and supplies.
Over the last year there have been a lot of changes to our lives, changes that really happened to us overnight. Suddenly we weren't able to hug our loved ones or travel.
A long list of new words that we have never heard became common - social distancing, lockdown, isolation, the list goes on.
While we tried our best to learn the ways of what was going to be a year, possibly longer, of the new normal it became apparent that things were going to be tough for everyone.
Our first lockdown in Kenya started on March 20th last year and much like other countries, schools, restaurants and bars closed. While most business operations were able to open up again after a couple of months, schools stayed closed until January 3rd.
The education system in Kenya has an interesting structure. Local schools are free at primary level, between the ages of 6 to 11 years. Secondary schools are then allocated to students depending on how well they do in their final exams but at a cost. Secondary school in Kenya is not free. This means that all of the best students are sent to the same schools and those who struggle with school are left with the next best option.
One sad and shocking statistic shows that over 1.2 million primary level children do not enroll or attend school. Despite this the literacy rate has increased in secondary level students and as of 2020 has reached 81.53%.
Everyone suffered the consequences of lockdown, with businesses closing it meant many families had no steady source of income.
However, the closing of schools possibly had the greatest detrimental impact on Kenya. Not only did it deprive children of 11 months of education, a wave of knock on impacts happened as a result.
While the government did its best to implement online learning, many children living in rural areas have no access to tablets or phones and therefore were marginalised. The students who were able to access virtual learning were taught in a lecture style and without having a teacher present it made learning harder.
For many children attending local schools, lunch is one of their only meals a day. The impact of this also put pressure on families who were already struggling with limited income, leaving many children hungry. Schools closing also coincided with the start of the farming season which resulted in a rise of child labour.
While all of these aspects are harmful to the livelihoods of Kenyan children, the most worrying aspect is the rise of child marriages in young girls. Evidence shows that girls living in rural communities are often looked upon as a means of income. The closing of schools resulted in a spike of female genital mutilation and sexual exploitation.
With schools going back at the start of May, we wanted to highlight the serious implications closing schools has had on millions of children in Kenya.
Click this link to shop our limited edition blue hearts and help support our employees send their children back to school.