Shame!! Who Will Appreciate These Patriots' Efforts To Uplift The Lives Of Mwananchi?



Learning to read and write is a fundamental right yet, more than 30% of Kenyan adults are illiterate. It has never occurred to many that Kiambu County has an incredibly big share of the same. This is an alarming statistic as literacy is a crucial step to acquire the basic skills needed to cope with the many challenges children, youth and adults will face throughout their lives.

Today, education remains an inaccessible right for millions of children in Kenya and around the world because of inequalities that originate in sex, health and cultural identity. Factors linked to poverty such as unemployment, illness and the illiteracy of parents, multiply the risk of non-schooling and the drop-out rate of a child by 2. Many children from such disadvantaged backgrounds are forced to abandon their education due to health problems related to malnutrition or in order to work and provide support for the family.

Poor literacy affects many aspects of an individual’s life, increasing the likelihood of poverty and the risk of experiencing both social and economic strife. It is difficult for an individual or a society to progress when their population cannot read or write at basic levels. In fact, on a national level, there is a significant corresponding negative impact on long-term prosperity.

To most of these disadvantaged young people and adults, non-formal education (previously referred to as ngumbaru) is their only hope to learning.

To ascertain the levels of literacy, our team visited various areas adult education centres within Kiambu County and the findings were very dire. Though we acknowledges the work already undertaken in tackling illiteracy problem by the government agencies, there is a lot that needs to be done. Too many people, particularly in the rural areas, literacy remains out of reach.

Neglected Sector

The adult literacy teachers, especially the volunteer teachers, are a neglected lot whose welfare has been ignored by the authorities.

For instance, our visit to Gatundu Town Adult literacy class gave us some firsthand view of what these lot goes through.

Mary Karigu is the adult education teacher in the centre of about 20 adult learners who are forced to learn in a very small class with no facilities at all. She single-handedly handles the basic literacy, post literacy and also caters for KCPE and KCSE private candidates who have to sit for seven subjects.

“I am a part-time teacher and the only teacher in this centre. I am expected to handle all these categories of students. It is quite a big challenge as all of them cannot be handled in the same manner due to their diverse levels of literacy. We have no books which is a big problem especially when dealing with the KCPE and KCSE candidates who are faced with a specific task of passing their exams,” said Mrs. Karigu.

She reckons that her efforts to hire part-time teachers has been an uphill task since they demand sh. 500 per session or sh. 10,000 per month, an amount which is beyond the abilities of most of her students.

She says that illiteracy levels in the area are quite high. So many people approach her every day wishing to enroll for these classes due to the challenges they face in their day to day lifestyles, but most of them retract back due to financial constraints.

She boasts of a very rich success story of students who have successfully passed their exams and used these certificates to either join tertiary institutions or polytechnics.

“We have had some students who sat their KCPE and KCSE here and have now been enrolled at Decans and NIBS colleges and are happy that we gave them this chance. What they thought that would never be a reality due to their levels of literacy has now been overcome and they can now pursue careers of their dreams,” she said.

Otherwise, these teachers have to make do with work without pay as the government does not adequately reward their efforts. The part-time teachers are not in the government payroll. Their contribution is only rewarded with a monthly honorarium of sh.2,000 which is irregular and not guaranteed.

Mrs. Karigu’s predicaments and challenges are a replica of all the part-time adult education teachers all over the country.

Success Stories.

43 year old John Muruga is one success story of the Gatundu Adult Education Centre.

He was brought up from a poor background, with parents who could not afford to educate him and his siblings.  He grew up as a shepherd and later in life joined a friend in Gatundu Town who trained him as a motor vehicle mechanic.

His experience in the field of mechanics has been that full of frustrations and disappointments as he needed to know how to read some of these instructions in the trade.

Muruga lamented that during his stint as a mechanic, he has missed out on so many lucrative job opportunities, some even as far as Dubai, due to the lack of these educational documents.

He points out the world today is demanding for an educated lot otherwise, those who lack basic literacy are in for a very challenging future.

“After suffering for quite some time, I opted to join this literacy class where I was able to basically read and write. I am now able to explain myself in Basic English and can handle any customer or situation in my work. 

Last year I sat for my KCPE and I am planning now to pursue for the next one (KCSE),” said Muruga.
Christine Njeri Muthiora, a 56 year old and a mother of four is on beneficiary of this programme. She had dropped out of school in Standard six due to financial constraints.

In 2009, she enrolled to an adult education class and sat for the KCPE exams the same year. She has now enrolled for a KCSE class this year courtesy of PCEA Kirangari Church.

She also reckons the challenge of the teaching staff and learning materials which she says has been their greatest predicaments.

Francis Mugo from Karera Village in Gatundu South Constituency drop out of a Form two class due to indiscipline.

“I decided to register for my KCSE here after realising that I could not do anything without a certificate. I am proud of my dad for sponsoring me back to class even after what I did,” said Mugo.

His advice to those students who are being involved in schools unrests that life is not as simple as they assume in school. They may be lured by peer pressure to do something wrong but immediately they get out of the school gate, they face this world as individuals. He added they should remember that life was very hard without that Form Four certificate.

To cut a long story short, if we want Kenya to meet its potential and become a prosperous, modern society, we must urgently address illiteracy. The government must also address the plight of the adult education teachers who are at loss to explain the manner in which they are treated.
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