4 September 2006


Primary school tuition has recently been declared to be free in Kenya – one of the good news stories that can be attributed to the efforts to implement the Millenium Development Goals

Nevertheless many people, especially in places such as Kibera cannot afford the additional costs associated with education such as uniforms and books. This together with the absence of government schools in Kibera has seen the flourishing of informal schools typically owned by individuals, community or religious groups. Such schools have little or nothing in the way of resources and depend on donations and the charging of fees for their survival. Ease of access and the absence of additional costs still make such schools a more attractive option for the poor of Kibera compared to attendance at government schools. Unfortunately many children are frequently sent home for failure to pay school fees.

The quality of the education provided in schools in Kenya varies greatly, but everywhere I encountered a firm belief in its value with families prepared to make great sacrifices to provide an opportunity for their children to obtain an education.

The Christian Brothers support a primary school and clinic at Ruben (an urban slum in Nairobi), a primary and secondary school at Embul-bul (on the outskirts of Nairobi) and Edmund Rice Secondary School in Arusha, Tanzania.

Empowerment through education is clearly more effective than charity in lifting people out of poverty. It is also obvious that the work of the Christian Brothers and other charitable organizations working in places like Africa, rely heavily on the generosity of supporters and volunteers to provide funds for resources, building programs and student sponsorship.

Yet the value of an education to a person is diminished if employment opportunities are restricted. For example it is of limited value to educate a teacher if the government cannot afford to build schools or employ the teacher.

Again the need to address the underlying causes of poverty becomes apparent.

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