Wednesday 17 December 2014

Mahat Aden is 11 years old and currently attends Balambala Primary School, in Garissa County.


Garissa County has some of Kenya’s lowest school enrolment and attainment figures with 40% of children aged six to 17 having never attended school. The population consists predominantly of pastoralists, living nomadic lifestyles moving their herds with the rains. This makes attending school very challenging for children. Other barriers to education include: extreme poverty, with many households surviving on less than $1 a day; a difficulty in recruiting teachers to work in remote areas; and traditional practices such as early marriage and prioritising the education of boys over girls.


In 2013, Save the Children launched a Cash Transfer programme, piloted across 31 villages in Garissa County. 4,000 families are involved, and the programme aims to reduce financial barriers to accessing primary education for children like Mahat.


Mahat lives with his parents, brother and three sisters. His family scrapes a living through the small income his father is able to earn as a casual labourer; this is supplemented with whatever his mother can earn from selling miraa at the road side. Everyone in the family helps, with Mahat admitting: “I have a very busy schedule…when I’m not in schools, I look after the cattle, fetch water and attend to house chores.”


Mahat’s parents could not afford to send him to both school and the local Duksi (Qu’aranic School), so they chose to send him to the Duksi. When Save the Children’s Cash Transfer Programme came to Balambala, his family was chosen as one to benefit, and his mother, Sahan, became the recipient of 3,000 Kenyan Shillings (KSH) a month.


This stipend came with the condition that Mahat attend school a minimum of 80% each month. “I used not to attend school but now I have dropped out of Duksi in order to attend school…one of the challenges I faced before was lack of school uniform and lack of books …my parents are now able buy for me school uniform and they are fully supportive.


“Things have changed since my mother started receiving money from Save the Children. She sometimes accompany me to school, checks the register and liaise very closely with the teachers to ensure she meets the condition and that I perform better in school. I don’t want to let them down whatsoever and I pray they continue receiving the money so that I don’t drop out of school. When I grow up, I want to be a top ranking solder, so that I can ear good money to help my parents and educate my children” Since the programme began, Mahat’s school attendance has averaged 90%.


More about Save the Children’s Cash Transfer Programme

The Cash Transfer Programme aims to determine whether placing a condition on a monthly cash transfer has an impact on school attendance, particularly amongst girls. 1,500 families receive 3,000 KSH a month, conditional on a tracked child achieving <80% monthly school attendance; 1,500 families receive 3,000 KSH per month with no conditions attached, and 1,000 families form the control group.


Data collected over the first 16 months demonstrates that children within the conditional cohort have a significantly higher average school attendance, at 88% for girls and 89% for boys. There has been a marked rise in school attendance across all three cohorts, with boys and girls in the control group achieving 68% average attendance. The programme to date has resulted in an additional 3,742 children enrolling in school, 1/3 of whom are not being tracked by the pilot, demonstrating a wider community benefit. For Garissa County, which at the last count, had just 44% of girls and 57% of boys enrolled in school, this will make a demonstrable difference.