A story of how community teams improved school attendance in Kapsoya, Kenya
One major challenge facing children around the world is access to basic education. The second Millennium Development Goal sets universal primary education as a key target for all nations by 2015. And free primary education was identified as crucial to attaining that goal.
Despite the free primary education policy introduced by the Kenyan government in 2003, many children who should benefit from it are still out of school. One community in Uasin Gishu County—Kapsoya—realizing that their children were not attending school or performing as well as they could, through the quality improvement team, decided to intervene.
The Kapsoya quality improvement team (QIT) is supported by AMPATH PLUS in Uasin Gishu County. Through the Child Status Index assessment, the team realized that most children in their location were performing poorly in their examinations, both in primary and secondary school. Further analysis pointed to the fact that absenteeism from school was the cause of poor performance and that girls were the most affected. Instead of attending school, children were engaging in various activities to enhance household income, supporting their parents in the farms or with the family business. Girls were marrying at early ages to alleviate the economic strains within the households.
To address the poor performance of the children, particularly the girls, the team developed possible solutions which included promoting savings and loans programmes for the caregivers, mobilizing local resources for payment of school levies, promoting income-generating activities by the caregiver, engaging school management and the provincial administration in the awareness creation on importance of education for both boys and girls, and promoting academic mentorship programmes.
As a result of the intervention by Kapsoya quality improvement team, results from one primary school known as Koibarak Primary show remarkable improvement. At the time the QIT started working with this school in 2012, the school had dilapidated classrooms and toilet facilities. Through the Constituency Development Fund, the school’s facilities have tremendously improved. For example in 2012 the teachers and pupils shared a two- door toilet facility; however, currently there are a two-door toilet for the teachers, a two-door toilet for boys, and a separate two-door toilet for the class. The once mud-walled classrooms have also been knocked down and replaced with modern, spacious classrooms. The school enrolled pupils in class one to six only in 2012. Through the support of the QIT, the school has grown, and in 2015 the school enrolled students in class one to eight. At the same time that enrolment has grown—from 354 in 2012 to 781 in 2015—school performance has also improved tremendously.
Kapsoya quality improvement team was trained on the model for improvement in 2011. Over time, the team received coaching and mentorship support through ASSIST and AMPATH PLUS coaches, enhancing the team capacity to mainstream quality improvement into service delivery for vulnerable children. The team was also supported during the formation stage to ensure a multi-sectoral representation in the team, including the provincial administration, the police, representation from the Area Advisory Council charged with general child protection in the area, caregivers, children, community health workers, public health officer, and a teacher.
The QIT has endeavoured to involve key stakeholders in the education of children in the location. The greatest stakeholders targeted were the caregivers and parents. Through the school management committee elected by the parents, the team ensures that parents are contributing to improve the school facilities and ensuring their children regularly attend school. The structure established within the school can now roll out awareness mobilization and ensure caregiver participation with little input from external sources.
The dedication and resilience of Kapsoya QIT has been impressive, as I have seen while I provided the team with technical assistance to plan, organize and document their work over the past two years. Even when I thought that they were about to give up, every subsequent visit to the team proved me wrong, and over time they are now able to demonstrate that a community structure, if well organized and coordinated, can bring meaningful change to the life of children and the community.