Three weeks ago, I had a conversation with the principal of one of the high schools in Kariobangi and she gave me saddening statistics on girl’s dropout rates. In her school, out of 146 girls who joined high school in 2013 only 45 sat for their O level examinations last November. A hundred and one girls – almost 70 percent of the original number did not complete their high school education. she did not have the corresponding number for boys and it would be interesting to compare the two.
I have been wondering whether there is a connection between this fact and high levels of poverty witnessed in Kariobangi and its environs. It seems to me that there is. According to the principal, the situation in her school is not uncommon in schools around Kariobangi. Girls routinely drop out of school because of early pregnancies. That a majority of girls who join high school will drop out is the rule rather than the exception in Kariobangi. This has a huge impact on the community. It perpetuates a cycle of intergenerational poverty. Without an education, it is difficult for these girls to see beyond their lives in urban slums and their options are limited. These girls represent a huge well of untapped potential and a missed opportunity for Kariobangi and Kenya.
The high dropout rate contributes to the challenge that Hands of Love Educational Centre is trying to address in Kariobangi. About a third of the parents at the Centre had their first child when they were teenagers. Most of them were unable to continue with their high school education and now they work casual jobs where they earn less than it would cost to put their kids in childcare and early childhood education centers.