Here in America, many schools are out for the summer break. Many more schools will finish up in the next few weeks. The children are all excited for their summer break to begin so they can relax and play. It is a time to sleep in and a time of no homework for the students. The teachers are also excited for the school year to be done so they can have some quality time with their families and relax a little before they start preparing for the next school year. But what would it be like to attend school in a poor country?
School years vary from country to country. The children in our orphanages in Nepal and Myanmar are just now starting a new semester at their schools. The children in our orphanage in Sierra Leone started their new school year a few weeks ago. Nepal and Sierra Leone schools had delayed openings this year. Nepal schools were closed for 30 unplanned days across the country because of the earthquakes. Sierra Leone schools were closed for months of unplanned days across the whole country because of the Ebola outbreak. Praise the Lord that so far, Myanmar schools, have not had any prolonged closures this year. Let’s look at two countries education systems more in depth.
The first country we will look at is Kenya. Even though we currently do not have an orphanage in Kenya, we did work there for almost 10 years. The orphanage that we did operate in Kenya a few years back was in a very rural area of the country. Even though Kenya made public education free several years back, there are mandatory fees for attending plus the cost of uniforms and books.These fees keep many children out of school. The rural school are very poorly constructed and overcrowded as you can see from the photo below. The class might have one or two books to share among all the students. The desks are built to hold two students but usually will have three or four students sitting at them. The schools do not have any kind of meal programs. Most children come to school hungry, eat nothing at lunch time and then go home to a very small meal. Hunger is a very real problem for these children everyday. No bathroom facilities are available on the grounds or they might have a few pit latrines that are in very nasty condition. In Kenya, age does not determine grade because so many children can not start school because of the financial burden. If a nine year old child finally goes to school, he will start at the very beginning in First grade. There have been stories in the local papers of 70 year old adults attending first grade to finally start their education. Yet these children are still expected to learn enough to have a future and compete in the world for jobs and careers.
Nepal schools also have many issues. Their buildings may look a little nicer but are still not well built as the recent earthquake demonstrated. The rural school are very poorly built and have no bathroom facilities. There is no lunch programs for the children so many go hungry during the day. The biggest issues with Nepal schools are the way they are run. Anybody can start a school, no licensing is required. In fact, many people start new schools for the sole purpose of making money. They do not really have an interest in the child’s education. The fees to attend a school are very high for such a poor community. On top of the fees, the students are required to buy all their books from the school directly. Our first grade children are required to have 15 different books. Each book has homework assignments. For our 20 children in Nepal, the books cost us almost $600 per semester. Imagine trying to pay such fees when you only earn $2 per day. The schools also require 3 different uniforms for each child and if the child does not have the right one, they are sent home. Our older children go to school from 6 AM to 6 PM six days per week. Saturday is the only day with no school. These same older children will have homework that takes to midnight to complete each day. They are up early the next day to start all over again. The teachers in Nepal will hit the children if they do not listen. A few years back, a teacher hit one of our girls so hard we thought her arm had been broken. It was not broken but it was sprained and put in a sling for a few weeks. No punishment was done to this teacher. The school were closed after the earthquake for almost 30 days because of all the aftershocks but the schools fees were all still required to be paid during that time. These children are also expected to learn enough to compete in the worldwide economy.
Education is so important in any country. It is a major factor to help someone lift themselves out of poverty. Unfortunately, the governments of such countries are not concerned about the quality of education for these poor children. Although God has called us to work with the orphans, we have learned that helping the whole community can make a difference. When we worked in Kenya, we learned that a classroom could be built for about $1000. If we had extra team money at the end of a trip, we would donate it to a school to help them build. If we did not have enough for a classroom, we would donate to help build a new, clean pit latrine to help the students. In Nepal, we have donated sports equipment to the local schools. We have been asked by some of the rural schools if we could help them build some latrine at their schools and we hope to do that someday in the future, when funds are available. Education is so important for these children to have a future and we are trying to improve the current situations as we can. Please pray for these children and their education.
Matthew 28:19 “Therefore, GO and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”