An old African proverb says ‘if you educate a boy you educate an individual but if you educate a girl you educate a family’. It’s believed that the benefits of this will be felt throughout the whole community and the family will likely be healthier with a lower prospect of infant mortality. Education is supposed to be free in Kenya but in reality this isn’t the case. Children can’t attend without a uniform, they need books and they often need to give a small amount of money to teachers, who are paid sporadically by the government.
One good thing is that there is no age barrier to completing secondary education and it is not uncommon for girls to become pregnant and then go back to school after giving birth, sometimes more than once……………From our experience of running a health clinic in rural Western Kenya, the prospect for girls who do not complete secondary education is bleak. There are few opportunities for training in rural areas and they will spend their lives having babies and struggling to feed and educate them and so the cycle of poverty continues.
Sex education isn’t permitted until children are 18, but at our clinic we do provide family planning for adults and vitally important advice on family spacing. With child immunisation now freely available and less children dying from preventable infectious diseases, there is a reduced need to have so many children to support parents in old age. Thankfully this message is getting through, albeit slowly. We do know that the education and provision of contraceptive injections and implants in our local community is having an impact: people say to us that they wish to have enough money to educate and feed all their children so they will now have two or maybe three children only. This is made possible by effective family planning with the end result being of huge benefit to girls who have a greater opportunities for attending school, finishing their education and being in control of their futures.