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No easy ride for pupils in Pokot

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 25 – It’s a welcome visit to the AIC Asilong Primary school in Pokot County.

The school is located in Kacheliba constituency, a few kilometers from the Kenya-Uganda border.

This is an area infamous for cattle rustling and children here rarely go to school.

Cleophas Poghisio, the head teacher, says the pupils come from as far as across the border in Uganda to get education.

“They come to school late and very tired and when you are teaching, they can’t concentrate, may be they have not even eaten from home,” the head teacher explains.

Like many other schools in the nomadic community, Asilong Primary School lacks basic facilities.

It just has four mud structures that serve as classes. The irony is that pupils here have access to E-learning through solar energy.

“We have a church and because we lack classes, on Sunday we use it as a church, during daytime, it is a class and during night hour we use it as a dormitory. During day they (pupils) take the beddings outside and they use the same church as a classroom,” Poghisio says.

Although a mixed boarding school, Asilong primary school had no boys’ dormitory for a long time. This made it difficult to retain boys in school and most of them would drop out to join community activities.

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But with the assistance of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and the Safaricom Foundation, the boys early this month got a better accommodation.

Michael Turenya, a standard eight pupil, could not hide his joy.

“Previously we had an iron sheet dormitory and it was not very conducive and we decided to be sleeping in the church but now with this new dormitory we have beds and mattresses,” he says.

Safaricom Foundation Trustee Nzioka Waita says it was not an easy project to implement.

“It’s been a very difficult project to execute, you can imagine we are in West Pokot and we had to bring construction material all the way from Eldama Ravine because they were not available in any nearby place,” Waita says.

Asilong primary school was started in 2003 as a day school but was later changed to a boarding school because of the nomadic nature of the community.

This was aimed at keeping the children in school as explained by Jackson Korikwangan, the Kenya National Union of Teachers Chairman in Pokot County.

“When they want to move in search of pasture, they have no one left behind to attend to the children so we believe that the only way we can help our people is by having boarding schools. We don’t have here the support of the government. The parents are bringing in whatever resources they have to ensure their children learn because they have now realised the importance of school,” Korikwangan says.

He adds that the 320 pupils who attend this school face difficulties during the rainy season.

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“Most of the times when it rains in the morning, the children stay at home but if it rains in the evening there is another challenge for those children that cross seasonal rivers if it floods and so they are forced to sleep in school,” he says.

The school has only five teachers and the Information and Communications Minister Samuel Poghisio who is also the area MP promises to push the Teachers Service Commission to employ more teachers.

“This school started as a church sponsored school and so our challenge was at what point do we get to take over the running of the school so as soon as we are able to get that clearance, we are going to use CDF to improve the school,” the minister says.

The challenge now remains feeding the children in school.

This is because the area is dry. Also the food aid that comes from the World Food Programme is meant for day scholars and is lunch only.


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