KILIFI, Kenya, Sept 21 – Since June last year, Public health facilities in Ganze and Bahari constituencies of Kilifi County have been trying to recruit 60 nurses through the Economic Stimulus Package to ease the shortage of staff (ESP) in vain.
This has been blamed on the high illiteracy levels in that county.
“Education levels are still a challenge because of the cultural issues so at the moment we have not got the numbers we expected,” explains District health administrative officer Odna Lwangu.
The two constituencies have only seven public health facilities.
Although they aimed to recruit 30 nurses for Ganze and a similar number for Bahari Constituencies, they have only been able to get 17 nurses – eight in Ganze and nine in Bahari.
“We have a challenge getting staff from this area and the problem is that we cannot hire from outside these constituencies (due to conditions given under the ESP),” he said.
The government introduced the Economic Stimulus Package in 2009 as an economic revival plan to be implemented in all constituencies for equitability.
“The money is there but we have no people to employ,” Lwangu says.
The recruitment drive has now remained open until all the positions are filled which Lwangu says could take a long time unless they are allowed to ‘import’ nurses from other constituencies.
“The interviews are not competitive because if five applicants turn up, we just take all of them,” he says.
According to the 2009 population census, only 10 percent of the population in Kilifi County has reached secondary school. One percent has attained university education and another two percent have tertiary education.
The County, which is one of the poorest in Kenya, consists of five constituencies – Bahari, Ganze, Kaloleni, Malindi and Magarini with a population of over 1.1 million people.
Lwangu says that some staff who are recruited through other programmes from various parts of the country seek transfer as soon as they are absorbed by government which is often after their three year contract.
“The biggest problem when we get nurses from other parts of the country is that this is a hardship and unfortunately a semi-arid area, and many nurses fear coming here so they don’t honour their appointment letters,” he adds.
“Also when you are employed on contract basis you stay for about three months before you get your salary. So with that you can imagine if someone is in a hardship area unless that person has other avenues of getting money, it becomes a big challenge to some of the new staff,” he states.
High poverty levels, illiteracy and some deep rooted cultural issues are an obstacle to access to education in the area.
A visit to one of the schools, Katana Ngala Primary School in Bahari constituency, portrays the magnitude of the problem.
The school which has a population of 392 students from nursery to class eight is located near a very noisy and dusty quarry. It has nine classes and only seven teachers – all male.
The deputy head teacher Samuel Ngonyo says most students drop out of school from the age of 14 to either work at the quarry or get married.
“Some parents are not interested in education because they are illiterate,” he complains.
A senior teacher, Isaiah Chemosongo, says the lack of enough staff has affected the quality of education offered there which has made it difficult for many pupils to attain the grades required for secondary school.
Chemosongo, for instance, teaches a minimum of eight periods in a day against the recommended maximum of five.
“There is no time for preparation of lessons and sometimes I am forced to go to class just to save the situation,” he says adding “By evening, I am totally exhausted.”
At any given time, there are two classes without teachers.
Last year the school had a mean score of 186 out of 500 which far below average.
And as the country moves to devolved governments next year, those in the health and education sectors would want their governor to address these underlying issues for the county to progress.