We don’t need no education

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KOST - making a difference in Kenya
20 March 2015

We don’t need no education

I was thirteen when Pink Floyd’s ‘We don’t need no education’ hit the charts. I could be seen (and heard) roaming around my secondary school , arm through my best friend’s, singing it loudly. It was so cool! Like most teenagers in the western world, education was a necessary evil for me-to be tolerated and occasionally railed against, ‘hey teachers, leave those kids alone!’ we would shout.

Later on in life, I’ve had the good (or bad depending on your point of view) fortune to become a teacher of teenagers, planting myself on the establishment rather than the subversive side of the fence. And I’ve noticed something extraordinary: while students from the UK view education very much as I did as a teen, those I’ve taught from developing or deprived countries always view education as a privilege and an enormous benefit.

And one thing that’s not in any doubt is that education does benefit people enormously:

The facts speak for themselves.

Yet more than one hundred and fifteen million 6-12 year olds in the developing world are not in school. Yes, you read that right: 115 Million! Of those that do go to school, many do not complete four years of primary school before they drop out or are removed.

Luckily for some children, KOST is at hand. When a child is permanently admitted into KOST’s care, the staff assess his or her educational background and he or she is entered into an appropriate school as soon as possible. All of the children in KOSTs care who are of primary age attend Got Rabour primary school. Secondary age children go to live with relatives or guardians while attending four years of secondary school.

However, unlike this country, schooling is far from free: KOST pay for school fees, uniform and equipment and some living expenses for the children who board out. And yet the costs are a pittance compared to prices in the UK. Forget thousands of pounds: the annual charge for schooling for a secondary child is around 20, 250 shillings, or in our money, £150. KOST also supply the money for uniforms, at about £59 per child; academic supplies, at around £120 (including text books, photocopy paper, kitchen catering equipment and, engagingly, the cost of a plastic chair at £6.67)

Little wonder these children value their education: it is clear that everything has a price, and as they’ve no doting parents or a welfare state to supply the goods, they must feel the responsibility of doing well every day. The children are expected to perform and comply.

A copy of the school admittance rules for secondary children makes illuminating reading: children are instructed to, ‘obey and follow instructions without argument’. Hmm, I would have been in trouble then…furthermore, manual work is ‘compulsory’ as is being on the general cleaning roster. Nothing is taken for granted, nothing comes easily. It may surprise you to hear that there is also a rule covering mobile phones in school-they’re banned. Some things are universal!

Gill Waterhouse, KOSTs managing trustee, tells of a success story for one of KOSTs children: ‘Brian was a former street child after losing his parents. His grandmother did not have the means to support him so he came into KOST’s care. KOST provided for his education through primary and secondary school. He was extremely determined to do well and came out of secondary school with flying colours. In his last year there he was able to apply for a student loan. He is now an undergraduate at Muliro Masinde University.’

For children who are not academically able, KOST also offer a training programme. Here children can make a success of their life, whatever their circumstances. Again, Gill tells us of Charles: ‘Charles was born disabled and never walked. His chosen training surprised us as he wanted to learn how to make shoes. KOST paid for him to do this with a local artisan and provided leatherworking tools. Charles runs a business making and selling shoes and doing leatherwork repairs. He supports a wife and family.’

Soon, KOST will take five new babies into its care. Little as they are, they will soon be able to take advantage of KOSTs educational support and we can hope for an educated future for them, in the minority as they are.

So if you are already supporting KOST, thankyou for your help in taking the children out of those 115 million. If you are thinking of supporting KOST, I hope what you’ve read here today has helped to convince you of the benefits of doing so. For in the words of Pink Floyd, ‘All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.’ And that brick will build the future for these children.

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