They come, they feed, they learnDate Posted: 26 July 2012
As we enter the school compound, my attention is quickly drawn to the stream of bare foott children heading to the school latrines. They happily stride to the leaning latrines oblivious of the many dangers that lurk therein. Our arrival is met by wide innocent smiles from dry-skinned boys and girls teeming around the vehicle. “Go back to class or else you will be punished”, we urge them. With childly giggles, they run off with the microbes from the latrines firmly engraved on their feet and between their toes.
Their classrooms are not any better, especially those belonging to the lower classes that had the walls blown away by wind during the rainy season. Standard 3 pupils have to make do with a classroom with just two walls and the roof hanging over their heads like the proverbial Sword of Domiciles.
Welcome to Kunya Primary School circa 1961. Its establishment at the height of colonial rule meant that it served a large catchment area since it was one of the few schools around at the time. Today, five decades later, the school is in a deplorable state. It heavily relies on NGO support; most of the classrooms having been rehabilitated by Kisumu Urban Apostolate Programme (KUAP), Concern Worldwide and KOP.
Omega Foundation, in conjunction with KOP, started the school feeding program, which currently serves the 516 pupils of the school (this fluctuates between 520-580 pupils within a given year). The programme which begun in the year 2009 has helped to provide nutritional support to children who would have otherwise dropped out of school for lack of food.
About 40km from Kunya Primary School, at Kochogo Feeding Centre, is Kevin Otieno Kidi, who at only 8 years old already plays the role of a breadwinner. He has to feed his aging grandmother who is too weak to work or walk. Orphaned at a tender age, Kevin, a Sandard 1 pupil at Disi Primary School, has learnt that nothing comes easy and so when the school bell rings for lunch everyday he runs to the Kochogo Feeding Centre for a quick meal and then asks for a portion to take back to his grandmother. “Otange”, as he is commonly known, eats life with a big spoon and despite the many hurdles that one may see ahead of him he wants to go to school and become a bus driver.
Kochogo Feeding Centre has a programme that feeds about 180 children in the Ombaka area of Kochogo. On this day, we find a group of KOP students cooking, cleaning, serving and playing with the children at this feeding programme. Also in the programme is 9-year old, Lucy Akoth, who together with her sister, aged 4, totally relies on the food provided at the centre. Her mother who is a casual worker can only provide for herself and her one year old toddler. “Should we fail to eat here for any reason then we have to go hungry until the next day”, says Lucy.
The importance of the support offered by these two feeding programmes, both nutritional and psychological, cannot be overemphasised. These children have the hope to continue their education uninterrupted by the absence of food, as was the case before the establishment of the programmes. As we drive away little boys and girls run after us waving and shouting, “Bye”. What a remarkable sight.
Omega Foundation Communications Officer