Nightmare in Bungoma as 68 pupils drop out of school
A chief in Nzoia, Bungoma County is a very frustrated and worried man. For the past six months he has lost 66 primary school children to forces beyond his control in one of the over 100 primary schools in his chiefdom.
This year has been the worst for Patrick Lukoye as the head teacher of one of many schools under his jurisdiction reported to him that 86 out of the 496 pupils had dropped out.
The shocking news that sent education officials and parents into a panic showed that 40 schoolboys and 26 girls had dropped out of Tembelela Primary School in Bukembe Ward.
By the time of going to press, the administrator, who has 20 years’ experience had sent word to all the parents of the affected children to meet with him at the chief’s baraza to discuss the way forward in that school.
The 66 were from all the classes from Standard One (4) to Standard Eight (2). The others were Standard 7 (8); Standard Six (10); Standard Five (12) and Standard four was the worst with 16 pupils dropping out of school without giving any reasons.
The others were: Standard Three (6) and Standard Two had 10 cases of pupils missing in action.
Says Lukoye: “I miss the good old days of the Chief’s Act when it empowered us in the local administration to use our powerful office to deal firmly with parents and children who drop out of school.”
But that is no longer the case; the 2010 Constitution and the Children’s Act protect minors from corporal punishment by teachers, parents or administrators like Lukoye.
Says the frustrated chief: “I was given this list by the principal of the school who appealed to me to summon the affected parents and hear from them where the problem could be. He adds: I would also appeal to them to return their children to school forthwith.”
Notes Lukoye: “As I speak to you now, I have invited them for a special meeting and will use it to address the issue to the best of my ability.”
According to Lukoye, the main cause of school dropout in the area is poverty and deaths which have left many children orphaned.
Lukoye also blames poor parenting skills as another challenge which has led to some schoolgirls being violated and used by child-traffickers for the sex trade especially along the busy Eldoret-Uganda Highway at Bukembe, Nzoia and Kanduyi towns.
Some of the pupils are also survivors of sexual violence, especially girls who are sexually abused.
Africa Media Voice on Gender Based Violence, a consortium that has been formed journalists and lawyers from Kakamega and Bungoma counties notes that teachers and close relatives were the leading perpetrators of incest, defilement and rape cases.
Nathan Ochunge, a member of the Africa Media Voice on Gender Based Violence says they made the decision when they realised that the problem needed more than just reporting in the media.
“Action was required in addressing the issue of sexual and gender based violence,” explains Ochunge.
According to research done by Africa Media Voice on Gender Based Violence in Bungoma County last year, and reported in April this year, 51,037 schoolgirls dropped out of school and became mothers.
The damning report was released by the Bungoma County CEC member in charge of Health, Stephen Kokonya, who said their purpose was for action to be taken by stakeholders to curb the rising number of pregnancies that has made their county second to Narok County in teenage pregnancies.
Kokonya released the alarming statistics at a public forum in Bungoma town, adding that the worst sub-county was Kanduyi where 14,600 cases were reported followed by Bumula (9,664), Tongaren (6,555) and Kabuchai (5,140).
During a community forum near the affected school, the participants cited many reasons why there was a lot of school drop in the county:
Circumcision: The annual Bukusu circumcision ceremony was linked to violence against women and girls as the initiates are taught how to be a man and they are under peer pressure to test their manhood on girls and women around them.
Disco matangas: Funerals have been turned into harambees (fund raising) and overnight disco music in the name of disco-matangas where cases of incest, defilement and rape are reported. Without chances of being controlled, the girls who attend the funeral wakes remain vulnerable to rape and defilement.
Polygamy: Many young men end up marrying many women who they are not able to sustain. A case was cited of a 17 year old boda-boda operator who still lives with his mother on the family farm in Cheptais in Mt Elgon Sub-county, and is said to have five wives.
In Webuye, case of another boda-boda operator was cited who has three wives and 12 children. First wife died of ulcers because of depression and mistreatment by the husband after he married her two co-wives in less than one month! The stress was also caused by his directive that they must all only eat food cooked in his mother’s house.
Idleness: This was identified as another cause of violence against women and girls especially by the young men and old men who spend the day playing lotto gambling, drinking illicit brew and or taking drugs. Others spend time watching pornography and playing video games.
A trader at the notorious Bukembe market confessed that the area has many cases of violence against women and girls because of its proximity to the Nzoia Sugar Factory that has men who earn good income and the trucks that stop at the market centre along the Uganda highway before getting onto Malaba border point.
Security guards at the market were named as being part of the syndicate where they act as pimps they act linking girls to the truck drivers.