From a goatherd to a student…Simon’s story

Saturday 11 February 2017

By Samuel Khaemba

Photo of Simon herding goats, and now in class

In Turkana County, there are many boys and girls who are affected by traditional cultural practices that keep them out of school. The community’s pastoral way of life relies mostly on boys to take care of the livestock which is seen as a sign of wealth, and girls are kept at home to be married off early. High levels of illiteracy, poverty, child labor and inadequate infrastructure are some of the barriers to education in Turkana.

15 year old Samuel Apua from Turkana County looked after his family’s sheep and goats for most of his childhood. When he grew older, his mother Tioko Ekiru bought him a bicycle which he used for ferrying charcoal to sell at nearby shopping centres. Simon had never stepped in a classroom.

“I used to take care of my mothers’ goats and sheep. Later, I began taking charcoal to sell at nearby centres,” says Simon.

Save the Children through the BASF foundation funded ‘Potu Dang Losukul’ (Let us all go to school) project, has been sensitizing communities on the importance of education. The project uses community conversations, radio spots, school enrolment drives and role model video clips to sensitize the communities on importance of education.  Simon is among many children who have benefitted from this intervention which is positively changing attitudes for communities in Turkana.

Simon’s mother says “I have two boys and four girls. My son Simon used to take care of my goats and sheep, as this is the only wealth and hope that I have.  One day I attended a community meeting where we were told the importance of taking children to school and shown how their future life would be better. I listened and decided to take Simon to school, although it was very difficult for me to let him go. I decided to sell one goat to buy him uniform.” Just like Simon’s mother, more parents have been sensitized through the community conversations and some have allowed their children to go to school.

Simon, who is now a student at AIC Lomil Primary School, says:  “I am happy learning. I know now to write my name and I learn new things.  I wish to become a doctor in future and help those who are in need of medical help in the community. l like science and mathematics.’’

Mr Edung, Simon’s class teacher says, “Simon is polite and hardworking, he knows how to read and write and since he enrolled in this school he has always been top in class.”

“Going to school has made my boy know how to keep himself clean and watching him walk to school daily inspires me to think of a brighter future for my family. I pray for him daily and I encourage him to have big dreams and one day drive a big car and carry me around,’’ says Tioko.

Simon’s access to education is however not without challenges. Every morning he walks 5km to school, sometimes he lacks enough food, and occasionally the seasonal river floods and he cannot cross to go to school.  Simon also says he is worried about his examination fees and his secondary education as his parents may not afford to pay for him.

Mr Edung says: “On some occasions, Simon is absent from school especially when it rains, when there is no food in school and when he is sick.”