KENYAN TEACHERS ON STRIKE BUT XO LAPTOPS TAKE OVER
Hey everyone, my name is Sydney. I am writing this article in conjunction with my friends members of the IT club. We go to Eshibinga Primary school in western rural Kenya. We are members of the Eshibinga IT Kids. The club began operating in our school in March this year when one Jane and other good people in the USA brought us two xo laptops. We have about 40 kids as members of the club. In the recent one month we have been on an eventful summer holiday. This week Monday we reported back to school eager to learn and work on our laptops. Indeed we also have news that a donor in the USA has added us two more xo laptops. Little did we know that we were in for a shock. Let me begin the story right from the very beginning.
Kenya received international praise when it made public primary school free in 2003. The program enrolled more than 1 million children who had never entered a classroom. But the influx of students led to severe overcrowding. In our class seven B we have 72 kids. All of us squeeze in a small room which is meant to host only 40 kids. We sit in rows of 18 benches. You can imagine 72 students fitting on 18 benches. Most of the time in school we sing, play and draw with little teacher supervision because we have only 12 teachers to attend to the entire school with a population of 1200 kids. That is the sad picture of Eshibinga primary and all public rural schools in Kenya.
To ease this kind of scenario the Kenyan parliament early this year allocated around $53 million for hiring more teachers. The news was well received by all the pupils, teachers and parents. However, one week before schools re-opened after the summer break hopes of ordinary Kenyans were dashed. We heard on radio that the ministry of finance had diverted the money for employing more teachers to the ministry of defense. Kenya has never been to war. Yet most of the county’s resources go to the army whose spending is not publicly scrutinized.
Now to the shock that hit us. We arrived in school this week to find; NO teachers. This is because more than 200,000 Kenyan teachers went on strike to protest the diversion of government funds meant to hire more teachers and ease classroom overcrowding. The protest will affect more than 10 million children in primary and secondary schools and will continue until the government agrees to hire more teachers. an other gifted students were conducting classes without teachers. Students could seen studying in groups.
The radio reported last night that’some 79,000 teachers are needed to reach the internationally recommended teacher to student ratio of one teacher to 35 students. Kenya’s public schools see an average of 100 students for every one teacher, though some classes have only one teacher for 200 pupils. The teacher’s union projects a shortfall of 115,000 teachers in the next couple of years as the population increases.
Poor children like us in overcrowded rural public-school classes receive little time with teachers, while children in private and urban schools are lavished with attention.
“Children of this country are not enjoying equal opportunities,” Magret my classmate announced this morning. “Who will save the poor child and the poor parent of this country.”
According to research done earlier this year by ‘Uwezo’, (a pressure group that aims to improve literacy among children in Kenya) which we saw in a local newspaper says that nearly 20 percent of 13-year-old Kenyan students (most of us in this club are 13-16) cannot complete a math problem meant for 7-year-olds. The reason we guys cannot perform is because we lack teachers.
Now taxes will have to be increased if the teachers are to be hired, said Washington a member of our group. “The government will increase taxes and thus cause spiraling of food and fuel prices causing great hardship for many poor rural people like us.
Our teacher recently told us that Britain suspended payments to the Kenyan government intended to help poor schoolchildren after $45 million in international donor money went missing. The U.K., a major donor to Kenya, said the cash would be given to aid agencies instead and the portion of stolen funds that it donated must be repaid.
While we were discussing this sad state of affairs affecting our schooling, Robert arrived carrying our usual two xo laptops. They are normally stored at the school office. The principal had sent Robert to pick them from his office. He also had left a note for us. We opened it and read it out aloud.
“Make good use of these xo laptops and take good care of them. They may be the only teachers you may see in this school until the government ends the ongoing teachers strike”
We immediately got working on our laptops. They are our only hope, our refuge in these very hard times. Our worry is how to re-charge them after the power goes out. So that is our story this week. Teachers are on strike, but our xo laptops have replaced them effectively.
KENYAN TEACHERS ON STRIKE BUT XO LAPTOPS TAKE OVER