Kenya reacted very fast and shut down their schools by mid February. This was due to the fears that if COVID-19 spreads into the inner communities with extremely high densities of people and low earning families it will be unstoppable.
Their initial plans to reopen the schools in September were changed in mid June and the decision to keep schools closed until 1st January 2021 was made. This is across all schools: government, private, day schools, boarding schools, primary, colleges, polytechnics and universities.
In order to really appreciate the impact JBAC’s Library and Learning Centres have on our partner communities it is important to point out some demographics and statistics. These are obtained by JBAC, rather than using governmental data.
JBAC caters for just over 10,000 community members across four partner communities. Their age range is between few months of age to 91.
From the 10,000 individuals:
- 60% of parents are illiterate.
- 50% of parents do not speak English. English is the official language in which school subjects are taught. Swahili is the second official language. Kenya also has 43 tribal languages.
- 90% of the children do not own a textbook or a storybook (other than the one they received at our LLCs’ open day, which for some is five years ago).
- 45% of children live in small, overcrowded homes without the space or furniture to do any home studies
- The government issued home study guides and work sheets. Those are available online only. 100% of our children lack the access to online facilities. 80% of their parents do not use internet enabled phones.
- As most parents left school, if they attended at all, at the age of 13-16 and most are illiterate they lack the ability to assist their children with home studies
Our Libraries and Learning Centres are the only source of education throughout the pandemic.
Although the LLCs are officially closed to children come in and use the facilities and activities as they normally would, the Librarians find ways of making sure the books are continued to be read and the children continue to be educated.
The various ways of ensuring our LLC continue to be useful, accessible and helpful to the local communities include: house-to-house lending scheme; use of local small shops as the distribution centres; and Librarians only access and lending (e.g. children stay outside and request a book).
We are very impressed by their initiative and humbled by how much the communities appreciate the LLCs.
The most important message from the COVID-19 pandemic for us is the reaffirmation of how important our LLCs are to the local communities and that they are the only source of education to the local children.
It is also worthwhile mentioning that the playgrounds, when their use is permitted and controlled by the community volunteers, are also the only source of entertainment for our community children.