NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 22 – Up to 60 percent of school-going children in slums have no access to free primary education benefits, according to the Africa Population and Health Research Center (APHRC).
APHRC Director Alex Azeh who was quoting a report done in 2002 dubbed Population and Health Dynamics in Nairobi’s Informal settlements said school-going children in slum areas had no access to adequate food.
Dr Azeh who spoke in Korogocho slum where he had gone to witness the handover ceremony of Kisumu Ndogo primary school from the Israeli Embassy said it was paramount for the government to provide free meals in slum schools in order to attract more pupils.
“Out of every 1,000 live births in slum areas, 180 will not see their fifth birthday and the cause of death is mostly preventable. The free education government programme does not cover community based schools and the government should extend goodies from this initiative to community schools,” he said.
The APHRC director added that basic things like food could positively make a difference in the lives of slum dwellers and prevent unnecessary loss of lives. He further said that the country’s achievement of its Millennium Development Goals as well as its national agenda all depended on good health and education.
“Whether or not this country achieves its long and medium term plans depends on good nutrition for the citizens of this country and adequate educational facilities. There is need to equally invest in education and health as they go hand in hand,” he said.
On his part, Israeli Ambassador to Kenya Jacob Keidar called on private/public partnerships to develop slum communities and promote their well being. Ambassador Keidar asked the government to invest in human resource through quality education and health saying returns from this would in the near future be immeasurable.
“He who saves one soul saves the world and with combined efforts from everyone in this country a lot will be accomplished,” said the Israeli Ambassador.
Gender, Children and Social Development affairs minister Esther Murugi who was also present proposed the setting up of a slum feeding programme to cater for the health needs of children living in informal settlements.
Also present was area MP and assistant minister for Nairobi Metropolitan Development Elizabeth Ongoro who added that education was the best platform to beat poverty. Ms Ongoro said the private sector also had a part to play in empowering the needy in society.
“It is only when you understand the intricacies of slum life that you understand the role played by corporate entities and other private players in the lives of slum dwellers. Education is the best and most important gift you can ever give to someone which is why we should all contribute,” she said.
Assistant minister for roads Lee Kinyanjui said there was need for the government to provide adequate facilities that would go hand in hand with free primary education.
“We should put emphasis in education. We might not feel the difference before our MPs leave office but the impact will be felt in generations to come,” he said and commended the Israeli embassy for its efforts in developing the slum.
Others present were the school’s headmaster Kennedy Auma, Ambassador Keidar’s wife Osnat Keidar, area DO and chief, CFC bank chairman Charles Njonjo, representatives from the UN-Habitat and other private sector personalities.
The community school has 407 pupils from the neighborhood and is run by a school management committee. The Israeli embassy handed over 12 newly constructed classrooms and a staff room to the school to commemorate the country’s 62nd independence anniversary.
The Israeli embassy has also set up a center for the disabled people in Korogocho slum.