Bursaries and access to higher education in Turkana County
BY DR. JOHN TERIA NG’ASIKE
With economic indicators repeatedly reporting the County as the poorest in Kenya with high poverty, educating children in Turkana remains a challenge.
The recent economic report notes a drop in the county’s poverty index (from 90s-70s percentage drop), thanks
to the County Government’s effort. But poverty is compounded by illiteracy of parents who cannot supervise their children’s education.
The Government has given some relief to parents by providing free primary and day secondary education. In addition, there is hope in tuition support for higher education as the County Government provides student bursaries.
Further, constituency development fund(CDF) is available at the constituency to cover costs of higher education. Tullow Oil Company has added to the bursary kitty and supports graduate students pursuing engineering courses, alongside providing tuition to bright students in secondary schools. Earlier before the introduction of CDF, churches built secondary schools and sponsored large numbers of poor children. Also humanitarian organizations like World Vision, Child Fund contributed. The colonial administration isolated Turkana until early 1960s when the Catholic Church opened a mission in Lorugum, marking the beginning of serious education activities. Education infrastructure and funding for higher education engineered by churches has produced the current Turkana elite. However, the Catholic Church has today shifted from providing free education, to paid education, which is inconsistent with the church’s role to serve the disadvantaged in society. The challenge though is the readiness of Turkana to take up the responsibility of educating children that has long been a tradition of the churches and NGOs.
I am aware the Turkana still depend on people outside the County to give education, especially in teaching and administration. Majority of educated Turkana now in leadership in Kenya are products of free education by the
missionaries and NGOs. My concern is the extent to which we have broken the cycle of poverty after receiving
free education from the missionaries, churches and NGOs.
In my case, I made a commitment that after benefiting from a bursary, I would
educate my own children and if possible extend a hand to a relative. However, this appears not to be the case for many Turkana elite who benefited from free
education. I am afraid to observe that Turkana elite have developed a “free education syndrome” from the missionaries who sponsored them. This is a mentality where well-to-do families also struggle for bursaries for their children.
Teachers, soldiers, civil servants, NGO,chiefs, politicians struggle to secure bursary funding for their children and relatives. As a result, the surest way to get a bursary in Turkana is to be well-connected. The poor and the orphans are likely to miss the bursary because of lack of a voice and political connection to argue their cases. It is sad to meet poor children with letters of admission to national schools, but without hope of making it to these schools. These children usually have nothing including money for requirements and transportation.
As the well-connected parents lobby to get bursaries at the expense of the poor, poverty gaps continue to widen as the
“handouts dependency syndrome” continues to linger in the minds of Turkana elite. The elite have taken over the bursary funds to pay for further education in colleges at the expense of poor children.
It is not only the children of these elite who are benefiting from the bursary, but also the elite themselves have turned
to the bursary money to pay for school based programs or evening classes at the Universities. Politicians are using CDF and County Funds to reward their cronies in the name of bursaries. With limited resources, who should benefit from the Turkana Bursary? Should it be the elite, their children, the poor or the orphans? I leave this question to the Turkana leaders and elite to think about. I want to advise that if you have a job, please pay for your children’s education. Pay for your wife’s education. Also, adults returning to the Universities should seek alternative ways of funding their education. Let us give a chance to children to benefit from the little resources available in the county.
Dr. John Teria Ng’asike is Senior Lecturer and Education activist, Mount Kenya University, Lodwar.
TSC and the Plight of Turkana Teachers
LODWAR, TURKANA CENTRAL Turkana County, which is known for its perennial drought and famine circles,Read More
NGO donates to vulnerable pupils
LODWAR, TURKANA CENTRAL At least 36 needy pupils of Canaan Primary School have received schoolRead More