Kenyan authorities say the ongoing drought, which is leaving millions of people in need of food aid, is also forcing tens of thousands of children in overcrowded communities to drop out of school. Kenya declared a national drought disaster in September last year, but it could also be viewed as an educational disaster.
Piles of torn animal carcasses can be found everywhere in the wake of the devastating drought that has left nearly 4.5 million people in need of aid.
In Quley village, in northern Kenya’s Wajir county, 11-year-old Nadir Mohamed and two of his seven siblings were pulled out of Augustus’ school to care for the family’s flock.
Their mother, Hindiya Abdi said the family was forced to move to greener pastures or the animals would die and they would starve.
“I would like the children to stay in school,” he said in Somali. “But we need them to survive.”
In the village of Karu, 17-year-old Sadik Dakane arrived at one of the few working boreholes in the area after trekking for two hours under the hot sun to fetch much-needed water.
“I was struck by drought,” he said in Somali. “My father moved to Somalia with his cattle, leaving my mother and me behind.”
Children’s Fund UNICEF (UNICEF) said in a report last month that more than 400,000 Kenyan students have been affected by the drought and an estimated 66,000 have dropped out of school nationally.
But the situation for children’s education could be worse.
Sources told VOA that official estimates not yet released show that 100,000 children have dropped out of school in just three counties in northern Kenya – Garissa, Mandera and Wajir.
Hashim Elmoge, a local government good activist, is concerned about the long-term impact on the future of children.
“If this trend continues, how many students drop out of schools, then we risk witnessing the biggest drops, the life of an entire generation is in danger and you know what that means; producing a generation that lacks quality education, Elmoge said. “Then they will be charged – you know, drug abuse, suspicions, terror networks, radicalization and the whole nation is at risk.”
To mitigate the impact of the drought, the government and aid groups have sunk several boreholes and brought emergency food to shepherds and herdsmen.
However, Jilo Roba, the coordinator for children in the Wajir County department, said the needs are overwhelming, and efforts to increase school attendance among the communities are hitting the vagrants.
“The issues that have occurred in the past are being dealt with today’s severe La Nina drought,” Roba said.
Officials and activists worry that if the rains don’t come soon, more pastoral families will take their children out of school, and it could be months or even years back in school.