Mary and Rehema sleep in adjoining bunks at a girls’ dormitory built by ChildFund at a school in Samburu County, Kenya.
They’re both 14, and when they get a little older, they both want to work in healthcare. There’s something empowering about the idea of becoming a professional healer. Where they’re from, girls don’t often get that opportunity.
In the pastoral communities of north-central Kenya, the pace of life rises and falls with the seasons.
The sweltering blue sky of the dry season grows gray and heavy when the rains come, first the short rains and, later, the long.
Livestock — the basis of the local economy — are born, have their own babies and die. Most children grow up helping their families look after cattle, donkeys, camels and goats.
But for girls — who often aren’t encouraged to go to school — livestock sometimes becomes the inherent, inadvertent purpose of their lives, the limit of their learnings about the world.
Teachers around the world go to great lengths every day to ensure their children have access to education.
When ChildFund met Eric during the Africa Food Crisis, his village in Kenya had not seen a drop of rain in more than a year.
Students were dropping out of his school because their parents were forced to flee their homes in search of greener pastures for their livestock.
Eric was determined to keep his school open against all odds.
“For the last two years we had very little or no rain,” Eric said. “From last year, we have not received even a drop of rainfall.”
“There is, right now, not enough pasture, and even water, to sustain the animals around.
“People are forced to look for water. There is water about 50km from here but that is not for livestock, that is for the people first.”
During emergencies children are often forced to leave school. Sometimes it is temporary, and families are able to relocate to a place where their children can re-enrol or return once the emergency has passed.
Unfortunately, too often it is permanent.
Eric was worried about this happening at his school, so he and his staff devised a strategy.
“Some years back we were forced to close the school because of a passing drought like this one,” Eric said. “But recently we made a strategy.”