By Noellah Musundi, Kenya Red Cross Society

A group of children gather on two unsteady benches under a tree. One of the benches is broken. A black board leans over another tree. This is the classroom of Nashipa pre-school in Singiraine village, Kajiado West.

The pupils of the school range from three to ten years. On their tiny faces you can clearly see the effects of drought, malnutrition and potential health issues.

The only black board the school possesses is divided into three: one corner is for the pre-unit, another for class one and the remaining corner for classes two and three.

The time they spend in school is also divided into morning and afternoon sessions to guarantee a place for everyone to sit.

Hungry

“These children come from poor families and the drought has made it even worse. The school cannot afford to feed them. Most come to school very hungry and it affects their learning,” says Gideon Ntikika, the only teacher of the school.

Families are supposed to cover a school fee of 300 Kenya shillings (almost three US dollars) to cover the cost of teaching materials and the teacher’s salary. But most parents are in default due to the struggles caused by the drought. Ntikika is forced to manage the school at almost zero cost.

“I cannot say no to the parents when they plead with me to educate their children. I see their suffering,” he explains.

“Most are jobless, have lost all their livestock and are very poor.”

The school is in shortage of equipment of every kind. The text books are outdated and worn out and when it’s windy, the worn pages fly in all directions. The bigger pupils share their pencils as they are costly to most parents. The children in baby class just play with each other, since they do not have crayons or drawing books.

“I personally even struggle to buy chalk, so we try to minimize the usage of the little I manage to get,” says Ntikika.

Scorching sun

He has been running the school since 2012. Every morning he walks for four hours to reach the school, and the same distance in the evening to return home. The walk to the school is a real challenge for the pupils as well. At times some of them fail to attend due to the scorching sun that heats up the ground.

Most of the children do not have shoes and the soil literally burns their feet. Instead of a common uniform, they come wearing all kinds of uniforms and home clothes, some tattered.

“My biggest wish is to have real rooms with iron sheets, individual black boards for each class and water storage tanks to tap water when it rains,” says teacher Ntikika. “Salary support and availability of the teacher’s books would also be very helpful.”

Kajiado County is one of the most drought-affected counties in Kenya, enduring malnutrition and food insecurity. The Kenya Red Cross Society has been responding to the drought crisis in several counties since 2016. The Kenya Red Cross Society intends to reach 1,373,294 people in 15 counties by July 2018, by providing nutritional support, food supplies, cash and rehabilitation of the key communal watering points, among other interventions.