With learners at home due to the deadly coronavirus pandemic, most of them are being exposed to drugs and substance abuse, outdated practices such as early marriages and bad company which could ruin their future dreams.
Many parents and guardians, reeling from the harsh economic effects of the pandemic, are hardly spending enough time with their children as they have to work extra hard to provide for their families and pay rent among other expenses.
In the current situation, girls in some rural communities are at the risk of being exposed to female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriages, forcing them out of school.
The girls, who have been at home for close to three months, have no regular supplies of essentials like sanitary pads which are given for free in school.
This could see them get lured into bad sexual behaviour.
Understanding the risks that girls are exposed to while at home, a community radio station in Isiolo has rolled out a mass sensitisation drive that seeks to ensure parents inculcate good values into their children and ensure their safety.
Using a vehicle mounted with a public address system, journalists from Radio Shahidi are moving around the county sensitising parents, mainly in far flung areas, on the need to monitor their children and to know whom they spend time with while at home.
“We are aware of the challenges that the learners go through while at home and we trust that the ongoing campaign will help ensure their safety and protection of their rights,” the radio station’s Director Simon Githaiga said.
The project also aims at addressing domestic violence cases occasioned by the ongoing dusk-to-dawn curfew by promoting coherence, peace and tolerance between couples.
The radio station in partnership with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), Isiolo County government and the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) is offering the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) lessons for primary and secondary learners.
Among those who have been keenly following the KICD recorded lessons are over 30 learners at Hope Children Home, which is about 500 metres past the Isiolo airport roadblock towards Meru County.
During a visit to the centre, we find four secondary students seated outside the house, listening to radio using a mobile phone placed at one of the windows while taking notes.
Young boys and girls continue to play about 200 metres from where the students are.
Denis Muthukumi, a Form Four student at Sacred Hearts Secondary School, is among the orphans housed at the centre and who had been sent home over fees arrears prior to closure of schools due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
“The lessons are very beneficial because they are covering the topics that we had not covered and are also helping us to revise,” the candidate said in an interview with the Nation.
The student noted that they are sometimes forced to teach those in primary school to save power on the mobile phone so that they do not miss their lessons which are broadcast from 2 to 5pm. The primary school programme runs from 9am to 12pm.
About three kilometres away, we meet George Kimathi, a Class Seven pupil at Hekima Primary School, at their home adjacent to Kulamawe Police Post. His elder sister takes him through some calculations as his sister, Martha Mwenda, a Form One student, skims through one of the textbooks.
While he appreciates that the programme has helped him continue with his studies, the young lad wants the one hour session offered by the radio under the Catholic Diocese of Isiolo extended.
“The calculations are challenging and that is why I have to be assisted by my sister but the other subjects are okay,” a jovial Kimathi says.
VSO Kenya Communication Officer Rachel Okwar said the community radio is the most effective way of reaching out to marginalised people.
“Our organisation teamed up with the radio station as part of heeding to the government’s call to provide lessons to learners following the closure of schools,” she said.
The radio station, in partnership with Caritas and Action Aid, has also started a three-month Covid-19 campaign dubbed #KomeshaCorona. This is done through its daily interactive programmes and giving of prizes to listeners who provide correct answers to questions on the coronavirus.
The programme aims at ensuring adherence to the health guidelines on personal hygiene, social distancing and wearing of face masks. It also keeps locals abreast with news on Covid-19 developments.
Areas covered by the radio broadcasts include Leparua, Kipsing, Oldonyiro and Ngaremara.
GIVE RIGHT INFORMATION
The station manager Mawira Mwirigi said the ongoing sensitisation has helped deal with misconceptions and misleading beliefs among the public.
“Our aim is giving them the right information so that they take necessary precautions in regard to the disease,” said Mr Mawira.
Education Chief Administrative Secretary Mumina Bonaya said the KICD programme is meant to keep the learners engaged so that they do not indulge in promiscuous behaviour.
Ms Bonaya, during recent a visit in the county to assess the progress of the government’s programme, said the syllabus will continue from where it stopped once schools reopen.
“The ongoing programme is meant to keep them engaged and ensure that they do not forget what they had been taught before they were sent home in March,” the CAS said.
The station’s director called for concerted efforts from all towards containing the disease, further asking the youth to be at the frontline in the fight.
Parents, he said, must assume the teacher’s role and ensure that their children are busy while at home and keenly following the lessons.