August 16, 2012

The Price for Illetracy

The wraths of Climate change affect both those who well understand what this phenomenon is and those who do not.  During the Millennium summit when 189 countries signed the Millennium development goals (MDG) in Newyork, 2000, there was a growing understanding that poverty, development and climate change are intertwined. Efforts for economic and social development have been largely successful but have been countered by natural disasters such as famine, hurricanes and tsunamis all related to climate change. There was a resolve to increase understanding of these problems, their causes and also to improve chances of innovation for adaptation. The second of the seven MDG’s is to achieve universal primary school education by 2015. That is a short three years from now and it would be inaccurate to report this as having been achieved in many parts of the world.

The adage that innocence dwells from wisdom and never with ignorance, or ignorance is bliss might as well have been demolished when they tore up the walls of Berlin. In the hills of Iveti Location in Eastern Kenya, where electricity, internet and smart phones are as peculiar as a crown on a bull’s head, we met the innocent face of little Mumo. He is a standard 4 pupil which is equivalent to level 4 in elementary school but knows not of climate change. Mumo is oblivious of the increasing temperatures that force his mother to stay up all night queuing to fetch water or the excess of it from the predicted rains that have hit the area since the visit a month ago due to changing climatic patterns.

He probably helps in the farm every year in picking coffee beans during the harvest season but has no idea what happens to it afterwards. Maybe they use coffee to make necklaces, furniture or for making dresses, he does not know.  This is common in his village where although they plant coffee, many have never had the luxury of drinking a cup of processed coffee. They don’t care either since their needs are more basic than that. With just one primary school in this area, Mumo walks seven kilometers everyday to get the free primary education offered by the government. The ratio of teachers to pupil is 1:60 and there has never been a library in the only school in the area.

Coping with illiteracy by 2015 is a goal that will weather with time if these conditions continue as deplorable as they are. Going to school for these children and many in rural Kenya means that they will not be married off early and they will learn new crafts like weaving, modeling and carving that earn their families income. Many have learnt of strategies to protect soil and water by mulching, terracing, building stone gabions and filling up rills with stone to prevent soil erosion. These tactics have enabled their families to feed themselves and have enough surpluses that are sold to earn income. Mumo’s family makes almost $70- $250 per month from the sale of vegetables which enables the father to go to buy books and also cloth the family.
90% of all 48 tribes in Kenya practice some form of female genital mutilation (FGM). Some girls have escaped (FGM) by getting educated thus shun these dangerous practices that risk the health of the girls and spread HIV as the same blade is used on all the girls in a particular day without any form of hygiene or sterilization being applied. Many girls have died from this practice and many NGO’s have focused on eliminating this practice.

As 2015 draws near, efforts to improve education will most certainly affect all other MDG’s. Inreased literacy will improve health and sanitation (goal 4, 5 and 6; Reduce child mortality, improve maternal health and combat HIV, malaria and other diseases), improve food security and reduce soil degradation and deforestation (goal 1 and 7; Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty and Ensure environmental sustainability), increase the percentage of girls enrolling in primary education (goal 3; Promote gender equality).  In doing all the above, different sectors will be involved both nationally and internationally that will, increase self growth and achieve last goal 8 that seeks to Develop a global partnership for development.

Submitted by Carol Gichobi for Project Survival Media  (PSM)



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