Hundreds of pupils from schools in remote parts of Tigania in Meru County have fled learning institutions due to biting drought, with many seeking herding camels in neighbouring Isiolo in order to earn a living. School attendance in the lower zones of Tigania West, Tigania East and Buuri East has dipped as the effects of a three-season crop failure bite. According to The Village Trust (TVT), a non-governmental organisation operating in the region, at least 20 schools had sent appeals for food to start feeding programmes in order to retain pupils.

Dr Sarah Kilemi, TVT’s economic advisor, said they are concerned after receiving reports of some hungry pupils fainting in class or while playing in the sun-scorched playfields. Speaking at Kibiru Primary School where she donated foodstuffs expected to take the 300 pupils through three weeks, Dr Kilemi urged the government to start irrigation projects in the area to enhance food security.

Appeal to alumni

TVT CEO Doreen Kendi appealed to the alumni of various affected schools to come to the aid of the institutions to help the pupils go on with their studies. “As these pupils suffer due to drought, their counterparts in areas with plenty of food are still studying, yet they will sit the same examinations,” she said. Ms Kendi said the area had experienced an increase in teenage pregnancies during the lengthy period pupils stayed out of school, and said poverty was one of the contributing factors. Last week, the organisation gave out bursaries to 47 bright but needy students who joined Form One this term.

Kibiru Primary School’s headteacher Anthony Kimani said parents who had heard of the food donation had expressed optimism that their children would return to school. He said 18 boys who sat this year’s KCPE had stayed away from school and only returned to take their exams. Two other boys never turned up and are said to have secured employment in Wajir County. “This is a major challenge to performance in examinations. I talk to many children who tell me that they have not eaten anything for long. If we can get a school feeding programme, they can come back,” said Mr Kimani. Former area MP Kilemi Mwiria, who was present, said the problem of famine has been recurrent in the area and needs a permanent solution to help residents afford basic needs.

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