Drought killing dreams of pupils, report reveals

George Kebaso @Morarak

Recurrent drought and conflict in arid and semi-arid lands is killing the dream of education for thousands of children in Kenya and across the East African region, a new report indicates.

The grim statistics in the Save the Children study says at least 12 schools in the region close daily in the marginal areas because of lack of food, water and ever looming conflict often sparked by scarce resources, especially pasture for livestock.

The report, scheduled to be released today, indicates that out of 10 children, only three are enrolled in schools in Kenya’s drought-prone areas of Wajir and Mandera, with the situation worse for girls.

Only two out of 10 girls in the two counties are enrolled. Even fewer complete their education according to the report. “Schools close due to lack of water and the few children enrolled drop out to migrate with their families in search of water and pasture,” said Save the Children Regional Director in East and Southern Africa David Wright during a meeting in Nairobi this week.

“This group would not only reach their potential, but will also face grave dangers to their health and well-being. No child should miss out on their right to an education,” he added. “It is especially crucial to keep schools open during a drought because they offer a perfect opportunity to give children food, water and vaccines”, added Wright.

Similar observations were made by the organisation’s country directors for Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Ethiopia. The War on Children: Time to End Violations Against Children in Armed Conflict report that is being released today, warns that 90,000 children in South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, are at risk of dropping out of school this year. More children than ever — at least 357 million globally — are now living in areas affected by conflict, a new report reveals.

The report shows this number has increased by 75 per cent since the early 1990s, with one in six children globally now living in impacted areas. “In total, this year 4.7 million children are at risk of dropping out of school across South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya — displaced from homes and schools because of the dual drivers of hunger, drought and conflict,” the report further says.

Wright said, this translates to 12,000 children leaving school every day before getting their qualifications. The report shows that children as young as eight-year-old are being recruited by armed groups in the region.

Since 2010, the number of UN-verified cases of children being killed and maimed has gone up by almost 300 per cent, while incidents of denial of humanitarian access have skyrocketed by more than 1,500 per cent.

The widespread stigma around rape and sexual assault means it is an especially under-reported aspect of conflict, but it is clear that this issue remains prevalent and that both girls and boys are at risk.

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