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Addressing the Plight of Children

An advertisement in the press last week given by philanthropic bodies associated with the well being of children such as the Kenya Paediatric Association, Kenya Medical Association, Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation and others brought to the attention of Kenyans the publication of the Traffic(Amendment) Bill 2014.

The Bill sponsored by Laisamis Member of Parliament Joseph Lekuton seeks to provide for road safety measures for protecting school children and to provide for enforcement mechanisms for speed limits and for connected purposes.

 Motorist will be fined a maximum of Ksh 25,000 if they exceed thirty kilometers per hour on any roads within the boundaries of school if the Bill is passed by parliament.

 The school roads listed are those leading to nursery schools, primary and secondary schools. Other proposed measures deal with wide pavements, footpaths, cycle-tracks, roadside barriers, pedestrian crossings, underpasses and footbridges with appropriate signs and markings.

 The Bill also makes it a criminal offense for any person who is associated with a motor vehicle used for transporting children if they are negligent to prevent contravention of the regulations.

 The timely advertisement interestingly gives an opportunity to Kenyans to discuss the proposed law well before it is enacted and it behoves all of us to discuss the well being of the children with greater thought.

 The Constitution, the Children Act, United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC), African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children (ACRWC), Employment Act and Sexual Offences Act are existing set of laws which provide for the welfare of children.

 But despite the existence of these elaborate laws, the statistical reality relating to children makes for a very sad reading.

 Kenya’s child population is estimated to be about 19 million with an annual growth rate of 2.2%. This amounts to about 53% of the national population of the Country.

 In 2002 the government introduced of the Free Primary Education (FPE). It brought in compulsory primary education for children between the ages of 6 to 13 years. This was in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) one being Universal Primary Education.

 The enrolment of children as a result of the FPE in 2002 was an estimated at 5.9 million and increased to 8 million in 2007.

 Cultural practices such as FGM and early child marriage in arid and semi-arid areas in Northern parts of Kenya and the Coastal provinces have resulted in low enrolment for girls. The gender disparity among the school going children was highest among the poor and in the rural areas.

 Shockingly as of 2012 about 1 million children were out of school this being the 9th highest rate worldwide.

 Good nutrition is crucial to the physical and mental development of a child. Malnutrition in children can lead to severe and life threatening conditions.

 In Kenya 1 in 12 children dies before their 5th birthday. Half of these deaths are related to hunger – the affected people mainly from the nomadic communities living in north-eastern parts of Kenya. In 2013 about 16% of children suffered from acute malnutrition.

 The government introduced feeding programs in the 1980s. Recently, in 2009 it introduced the Home-grown School Feeding Program (HGSFP). The programs are targeted at about 1.2 million children in 3,600 schools throughout Kenya.

 It has been estimated in 2010 there were about 2.5 million orphans in Kenya. And that about 25% of children under the age of 18 had lost one or both of their parents. However, the number of orphans in Kenya is rising. In 1998, 15.3% of households reported foster children.

 In 2007 the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) reported that 13.5% of children between the ages of 0-18 were orphaned and about 1.4 million of orphans were as a result of the disease.

 The annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report by the US ranks Kenya on the Tier 2 watch list. This is as a result of the Government not increasing efforts to combat human trafficking.

 Kenya has the highest rate of human trafficking in both Central and East Africa. As a source, transit, and destination country, Kenyan urban centres such as Nairobi and Mombasa provide both the supply and demand for this industry. Forced labour is the main form of human trafficking, with 41.3% of Kenyan children ages 10-14 years of age being exploited for cheap labour within the country.

 Kenya’s Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act went into effect in October 2012. The government’s efforts remained uncoordinated and lacked strong oversight, creating an environment conducive to trafficking.

 Out of about 200 child trafficking cases reported to The Cradle, the Children Foundation, only 43 were taken to court.

 Until we get electricity to all schools and also laptops, there are other mundane issues which national and county governments must address.

 In the rural areas you see hundreds of school children going to and from school bare-footed – indicating the dire poverty prevailing in the country. In the schools basic facilities in the form of paper, exercise book, pens and pencils are in this age and day still not being availed.

 The parliamentarians and the nation as a whole when discussing the new Traffic (Amendment) Bill must address their minds on other plights of children and come up with solutions mainly associated with the abject poverty of the parents.


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