How Poverty Affects Education in Kenya
The state of education in Muungano, Kenya, for the last 30 years has been continually deteriorating.
Poverty contributes to poor attendance in schools. Researchers have observed that most dropouts find themselves in early marriages and working as poor laborers such as house-helps, peddlers, and charcoal burners. This leads to falling standards of education and an increase in dropout rates.
This has also resulted in a low rate of children joining costly primary and secondary school education programs. High poverty levels in the community, due to a scarcity of opportunities, remain a major reason that parents fail to meet their children’s educational financial obligations.
Introducing the Community Based Education Fund
Investing in education is the one of the most effective means of getting people out of poverty. Education is the key to increased opportunities. It leads to better quality jobs and encourages individuals to reach for their full potential. Education pulls a family out of poverty by increasing their earning capacity, thereby providing a means to contribute not only to the family economy but also to community development. Most of all, education leads to expanded choices for those living in devastating poverty.
To combat the cyclical challenges to education, CHOICE Humanitarian established the Community Based Education Trust Fund (COBETF) in an area that covers five villages in rural Kenya. This fund has two key objectives: to improve access and quality of education for children’s functional development and improve parents’ readiness to meet the financial obligation of their children’s education.
The COBETF program was introduced, organized, and funded by CHOICE. To ensure community sustainability and endorsement, CHOICE works hand in hand with local leaders and stakeholders. Operational oversight is handled by the Community Based Organization (a registered non-governmental, non-profit, non-political, and community-run organization), technical and legal guidance is directed by the District Education Officer, and the fund is executed in collaboration with the area Ward Administrators.
Thanks to the COBETF program, these five villages of Muungano have seen significant improvements in educational opportunities and participation. For example, in 2020, 25 scholarships were made available to the community. More young women graduated, increasing from three graduates to 10 graduates. Literacy rates improved from 43% in 2015 to 57% five years later. By 2020, over 90 students were in secondary school with the help of the COBETF, with an additional 90-plus students in their next level of schooling or waiting to advance.
In addition to directly impacting the students, the fund developed a culture of saving amongst community members. The community now feels a collective responsibility for the importance of children's education.
George’s Perseverance for Education
George Mkamba, the last born in a family of four, is a resident of the Silaloni community, Kwale. Two of his siblings completed a portion of their studies but couldn’t continue with college due to financial challenges.
In 2020, despite the difficulties of the economic lockdown brought on by the pandemic and the challenges of low market opportunities in a drought area, George started planting and selling kale plants. This small business helped him earn funds that he used to pay for internet access on his phone so he could continue online learning despite the closure of schools.
George, a beneficiary of the COBETF program sponsored by CHOICE Humanitarian with support from the Marriott Daughters Foundation, went on to become a student at Moi University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management. This is just one happy ending for dozens of other graduates who benefited from the Community Based Education Fund.