MUST READ: A day in a Kitui school where students learn under trees

If 4x+2 = 14, find the value of x; it is a mathematical challenge that class six students of Kemwaa Primary School in Kitui County were required to solve.

A mathematical challenge that easily resonates with their current situation, but in their case, x is known.
All the school’s upper classes, from class four to seven, are undertaken under the three main trees in the compound, and as the sun moves, so do they.

If education is the key to success, and schools are the places where one is supposed to gain the initial knowledge from, then where is x, in this case, the basic infrastructure. That’s how complicated life is for the hundreds of Kemwaa Primary School pupils and their teachers – who are not spared either – since the administration block, staff room and head teacher’s office are all under a tree; the fourth one with enough shade, within the expansive compound.

The school is located at the foot of Mutha and Emwaa Hills in Voo location, a place where temperatures sour high as soon as the upper edge of the Sun appears over the horizon in the morning.

‘Jealous’ of counterparts learning in classrooms

It is their teachers who have been trying to heal their wounded esteem but the students who spoke to Capital FM News know the truth – it is their right to learn in a conducive environment.

Under the trees is not one of them, they say. “We feel bad when learning under trees. It is more painful since we know other children out there are learning in a better place,” a class seven student said.

He is expected to sit for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) next year, and despite the lack of proper infrastructure and books for learning, he is optimistic that he will perform well.

The rest of lower classes, learn in some three dilapidated mud-walled classrooms that can easily be blown off by a strong wind. A spot check by Capital FM News on the nursery school ‘classes’ established horrible conditions for the future leaders.

“Sound a sound b…” their teacher would be heard teaching them. Alphabetical letters have been sown on a sack and mounted on the wall. They don’t have books. For example, the teacher would ask the children to ‘write’ say letter c, the only option they had was writing on the soil since they did not have exercise books.

We are tired

They are fatigued of moving with the sun and the unforgiving whirlwinds as they learn.

This comes with insurmountable challenges, as narrated by the school head Mathew Musanga to the Capital FM News crew. “The condition is like this because of the poverty around this area. The parents are mostly peasant farmers who rely on the rain, which is inadequate,” he said. He revealed that “the school started in 2010 under a baobab tree.”

The school has only three teachers seconded from Teachers Service Commission, while the rest have been employed by the parents. “We have to bear with the situation…you know teaching is a noble job and that is why we do it under trees,” he said.

He has informed all stakeholders but no help has been forthcoming.

During the rainy season, he says the normal learning programme is usually disrupted. To make the matters worse, each class has only two textbooks. In late December last year, the government announced that the ratio of books should be 1:1 and is currently procuring books directly for schools.

According to the Education Ministry, the government is spending Sh7.5 billion to procure books for schools. But for this school, that remains to be a good tale, told from Nairobi.

“We would like to be like any other school out there, for our pupils to be competitive,” the school’s headteacher said. Even as the pupils struggle to ‘find the value of x’, the big question is, until when?

This article was first published on Capital News and was written by Joseph Muraya.

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