Commuting to School in Nairobi

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Along the Langata road, Nairobi, pupils commuting wait for public transport back home after a long school day. Pupils in different colours of uniforms from different schools in the area dot the road side as if waiting to greet some dignitary. It is just a repeat of what happens to them in the morning. Going to school and back home for pupils in Nairobi is never easy and some kids have to walk long distances to and from school.

It is way past 6 p.m now. Two pre – teen girls sit on the kerb stones  staring listlessly at the static traffic. Occasionally they poke each other and point at a Matatu, daring each other to ask the conductor to let them in. Their request though, dies on their lips at the conductor’s glare. Bid lost. They stare on. A little boy, probably 6 or so lies on the grass behind them, thumb in his mouth, fast asleep – overtaken by fatigue and the long wait. Four boys approach a conductor and before they can place their request, the driver shouts, “Na usibebe watoi, sitaki ngori na macops”(don’t let in the kids. I don’t want trouble with the traffic police) The Matatu conductors maintain closed doors. The boys go back to their games.

It is already dark around the fringes of the horizon. A crowd of 13 – 14 year old boys and girls surround hawkers selling wares on barrows by the road side. At the sugarcane barrow, they rummage through the peels and chaff for edible parts. The hawker, already used to them just indulges them. A sleek car with all tinted windows rolls by. The door opens and a hand beckons at a crowd of girls waiting a little away from the others. Three girls nudge each other then hesitantly approach the car. The door opens wider;no hand this time. The girls troop in – for a lift.

Commuters in Matatus speculate and  deliberate the intentions of the sleek car owner. Long debates by commuters in various Matatus take place. No one does anything about it though…….

Yet, I believe things don’t have to be this way. Children don’t have to be subjected to this kind of life. Things can change.

With devolution, Counties now have the honors to improve on the public school facilities in the various counties so that pupils do not have to do long commutes to the ‘good’ schools. Education authorities need to ensure that teacher’s in all schools stay on their jobs and that quality learning is offered in all institutions so that parents feel confident to send their children to any nearby school.

Parents too need to rethink enrolling their children in far flung schools. If they can not afford organized school transport, they should enroll them in the nearest school possible. The safety of our children should be priority, not an after thought. As much as possible, parents should try and ‘live’ a day in the life of their school going children’s.

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