School provides refuge from FGM

May 27, 2011 12:00 am

, MARICH PAS, Kenya, May 27 – Charity firm World Vision has opened a girl\’s secondary school in Marich Pas, in West Pokot, in response to the increasing cases of Female Genital Mutilation in the area.

St Elizabeth will be more than an academic institution serving the girls as a home, and providing them with a safe haven from harmful traditional practices and enabling them to learn in a safe, affable atmosphere.

"The school project came up as a result of increasing numbers of girls in Pokot West district failing to transition from primary to secondary level.  The girls were dropping out of school due to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and forced to early marriages. Majority of the girls in this school have run away from home to escape these practices," said National Co-ordinator for Education at World Vision Kenya, Salome Ong\’ele.

The construction of the school was made possible through the Sh20 million donation of Margo Day, a World Vision donor from the United States of America.

"Ms Day visited St Elizabeth Primary School early last year and she was heartbroken to learn that the girls could not go back home during the holidays and that most would not transition to secondary school due to lack of support," said Justus Koech, a Donor Liaison Officer at World Vision Kenya.

Dominica Chelatan, who ran away from home to escape FGM, is in form two at St Elizabeth Primary School and has been living at the rescue centre since her arrival.

"When I was in primary school, I never knew I would one day be lucky enough to attend a secondary school. Then it was just a dream, but now my dream has come true, and no words can describe the gratitude I have for Ms Day and World Vision."

In the larger Pokot district, girls and women are subjected to harmful traditional practices and are marginalised in decision-making within both the community and family level.

"When a girl has undergone FGM she is considered an adult and thus ready for marriage. Girls as young as 12 years old are forced into early marriages," Mr Ong\’ele said.

Cultural values are said to hinder enrolment of children in schools with boys expected to tend livestock while girls are forced into early marriage upon undergoing FGM.

According to national statistics, West Pokot is among the eight districts with the lowest literacy rates in Kenya.

Before 2007, the district had 49.79 percent and 29.81 percent literacy rates for men and women respectively, compared to the national level rates which average at 81.26 percent and 65.74 percent for men and women respectively.

An evaluation conducted by ETC East Africa Ltd, in May 2008, show enrolment levels in this area are still low compared to other parts of the country, this is a result of the little value placed on education in the area affecting the transition rates from primary to secondary school for both boys and girls.

World Vision hopes literacy levels improve due to the school, which is already operational with a total of 72 girls enrolled.

Microsoft East Africa is partnering with World Vision to setup a computer laboratory in the school fully equipped with 40 computers.

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