Risk of Early Marriages

April 27, 2020

The Kenyan government today announced the extension of the travel ban for another 21 days. This means that schools will not resume in May as most parents expected, but again, better safe than sorry. As parents agonize over the fate of their children, talking to the Valvisions Foundation girls in Pokot brought things to another perspective. The real danger now for the young girls in Pokot is early marriages. The economy has been greatly harmed, and in an environment where drought and floods are suffered, Pokot is once again, being hit hard. God, in His grace has, however, spared the District from the scourge of the coronavirus. Pokot has endured very few infections as compared to other towns in Kenya.

Talking to a teacher today, her biggest worry and concern is that most of the students at the Primary School are encouraged by their parents to attend school as they are provided a simple meal for lunch. The schools that do not provide the meals struggle against an inadequate number of students. Staying at home for a long period of time will cause the girls to suffer. Their parents who are not educated, and do not value education as a result, will happily give the girls away for marriage at a young age, in order to fetch some income. The parents do not care about the well-being of the minors, having one less mouth to feed and some extra cash in the pocket is good enough for them.

When one compares children from the city with those from marginalized areas like Pokot, the contrast is considerable, yet despite the tremendous differences, the Pokot students are expected to sit the same exams and pass. The children in the city have access to online teachings and materials while those in Pokot, fortunate enough to finish their primary education, will have to depend on what they learned in the classroom. Teachers have been looking at ways to engage these children in order to keep them busy and out of mischief. Though social distancing does not work well in Pokot, they have been meeting the children in their homes and giving them homework they can do to help catch up on their studies. Having been born and brought up in Pokot and having been fortunate enough to have received an education, has opened the minds of the teachers. Rather than sit at home and watch as the children despair and others get married off, the teachers have decided to do whatever is in their will to help. The female teachers know first-hand that it is education kept them safe from FGM and early marriage. Many such teachers plead with the parents to give the girls time off from house chores so they can read and do some schoolwork. Finding the boys at home is rare as they are typically out herding the animals.

Having smart phones has helped us stay in touch; generally, we communicate on WhatsApp. If the students have Internet bundles, the teachers are able to browse and find material appropriate to help the children at home. The end of year exams are scheduled to go on as planned, as teachers hope and pray that their female students will not be married off. We join hands with them and support them in all their endeavors to reach the girls in their communities.



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