USOMA school health, social and academic development
Usoma Primary school is located just a few meters from the Kenya Pipiline terminal and
Kisumu Airport. It has a population of 375 pupils including baby class and nursery school.
The school is headed by Mr. Joseph A. Ndege, deputized by R.O.M. Wandera, with Mr. Paul
Otieno as the senior teacher.
This is a school where the teachers and children are vibrant and enthusiastic despite the numerous setbacks that bedevil them in their pursuit for better
education. A visitor to the school is amazed at the ability of the staff and students to keep going under such difficult conditions. Usoma is a peri-urban village, and it is hard to fathom that the school is such a short distance from the center of Kisumu City.
Discussions by the senior teacher and a board member have revealed numerous issues that are a hindrance to the school’s academic performance and the health and social development of the children. KEMRI has conducted studies in the village, and in one of these studies on water quality, with collaboration from the United Nations University in Canada, it was found that almost all the water sources in the community are not potable. The main income generation of the village is fishing, sand harvesting from the lake, and small businesses.
According to the Senior teacher, Paul Otieno, many children are orphans, some staying with
relatives, while others stay alone with siblings. Absenteeism is therefore quite high among
these children. They often skip school to look for money to help themselves. Some participate in “boda boda” activities, while others join sandharvesting in order to raise money.
There was a feeding program that used to help in keeping the children in school, but when it stopped, the children have to find their own food. Teachers often dip into their own pockets to help with examination fees, as many of the children cannot afford.
The school has suffered even more lately because it is supposed to be relocated due to the
expansion of the Kisumu Airport. In a way, it has been abandoned for now since no one wants to put their efforts in a “temporary” situation. This so called temporary situation is in reality years.
According to the board member, this will be no less than 3 years. These poor children
are therefore going to be ignored and neglected until such a time as the processes for their
movement are complete and become a reality. Until them, the students and teachers will remain marginalized.
Some of the main issues
There is no water available at the school. Children bring water from home. This water is used for cooking, and children drink it. The school does not have the capacity to treat it due to lack of resources. Teachers carry their own water because they know that the water brought by the children is not potable. Containers that the children use to bring water to school are often dirty.
The school used to have leaky tins so that the children could wash their hands. Unfortunately someone stole it. Therefore children have no way of washing hands even after visiting toilets. This is therefore a situation where even if the health workers teach hand-washing as a tool in reducing infectious diseases, they cannot make an impact.
There are six toilets for the students and two for the teachers. Only one of the teachers’ toilets has a door. Four of the students toilets have doors and two do not. It is therefore difficult for the children to use the door-less toilets, particularly the girls. The toilets have leaking roofs so that it is impossible to use them when it is raining.
According to the senior teacher, this is a big problem. This is really not surprising as this has been noted to interfere with girls’ school attendance in many low income communities in Kenya. Lady teachers often step in to provide assistance. Sometimes donors have donated substandard pads that the girls find difficult to use.
Classroom conditions are very poor. Apart from the staff room and class 8, the rest of the school is mud walled classrooms. Blackboards were rehabilitated, but not all classrooms have them. Some classrooms don’t have doors. Cattle often come into the classrooms at night to sleep, and break furniture in the process. Desks in each class are very very few. Not enough desks, so some children sit down. Floors and walls are not plastered and the dust is unbelievable. Most classrooms have leaking roofs. When it rains, children have to huddle in corners to avoid the rain.
Stationery and teaching aid a big problem. There are no storage facilities. Only one cupboard is available, so when books are collected from the students, they are at the mercy of the leaking roofs when it rains.