Forgotten People

Street Child Begging

Street Child Begging

Northern Kenya is a land of vast expanses of dry acacia bush, and dusty clay, with a rugged, mountainous rocky backdrop. Hidden in its seemingly deserted and wild immensity lie many small villages, a thousand or so people in each living in small mud houses; living close to the land; in harmony and agony with the forces of nature. They are pastoralists, no longer roaming the length and breath of Africa but confined to smaller and drier spaces. In many cases they are a forgotten people. The road to their land is a crumbling hint at days long gone when there was a tar road. Now there is a small twisted and pitted path of tar in the middle of the road, more treacherous to traverse than the dirt trucking trails along the sides but beware of the deep erosion that can catapult you down the side of the mountain to be found in pieces at the bottom of the ravine.

But let us return to the people. In most areas of Kenya, you see signs of development. Buildings being built or repaired, roads being repaired and constructed, houses, people, vehicles. But in some areas, the people gather in the main building of the village, the church. Dressed in a mix of western second hand clothes or more traditional kanga and blanket, they laugh and sing and chat and cry. They are drawn close for protection, drawn close for support. The effects of global warming have reached those whose lives for centuries have been close to the land and in harmony with it. Now they suffer.

Most seek hope in their young people, in education. But where are the schools? These forgotten people have little or no access to education. They are proud of the school the Red Cross came to build and struggle to find the funds to send their child to school.

“Madam, this boy would like to speak to you”. He is 13 and in Class 5. His English is perfect, “Please help me, my mother is going to take me from school to help with the younger children.” Top in his class and performing better than many in more developed schools, he desires education.

Primary children walk sometimes more than 6 kilometers one way to go to school each day! Lucky to make it through Class 8, their hope dies. After Class 8 there is nowhere to go. The closest high school is 23 kilometers away! The cows and goats need to be grazed for survival. The cost of transportation and boarding school fees is beyond the means of most. The economy is in goats.

In some areas, the government Community Development Funds are active. Schools, dispensaries, and roads are being constructed and large signboards announcing the construction through CDF Funds and the constituency. In other areas live the forgotten people. Many of those who have traveled beyond their village, return to state, “We do not live in Kenya”.

The reasons for forgotten people are many – sensitive, political and remote – but a key to the solution lies in education. A literate population is an empowered population. As global warming, country boundaries, governmental regulations, and even tourism have forced them to enter the larger world, so they need the tools to defend, protect and control their village. Education will allow their lifestyle choices to be theirs.

Note: Forgotten People is the name they call themselves.

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