Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen in a way that allows us to communicate effectively and make sense of the world.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), has revealed that Kenya’s adult literacy level stood at 81.5 per cent in 2018 up from 78.7 per cent in 2014.
In Kajiado County, only 70 per cent of the adult population is literate with 30 per cent of the population unable to read and write.
Traditions and cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early marriages and moranism remain the biggest setback to polish up the literacy levels among pastoral communities.
Mercy Njiriri who is the Kajiado County Director for Adult and Continuing Education revealed that the cultural practices and traditions are strongly rooted in the society and this poses as a setback in promoting education.
She added that the pastoralism lifestyle of the Maasai community also a major hindrance for them to enroll for adult education classes because of constant movement and relocations in search of water and pastures making learning difficult.
“The illiteracy levels in the county is still high at 30 per cent. This is attributed to many factors among them cultural practices such as FGM, early marriages, moranism, and nomadism among others.” Said Njiriri.
The Director noted that advancing of adult education mainly among the elderly men in the Maasai community remains a hadle in rural areas as men view the adult education program as a preserve for women and idlers.
According to the Maa culture, men and women are not allowed to intermingle and interact freely in public. Some men also forbid their wives from attending classes because they do not want the wives to be ahead of the academically.
“Elderly men consider it as a taboo to sit together with women hence most of them keep off. We have been forced to introduce separate classes for men and women to ensure that no one is left out, although this is becoming a challenge due to lack of sufficient tutors” she said.
The officer urged the locals to stop practicing obsolete cultures and embrace change so as not to be left behind in civilization adding that the only way one could empower themselves economically and socially was through education.
The Director emphasized that illiteracy deprives people access to decent jobs and full participation in their community’s development.
“Another setback faced in the efforts to boost literacy levels, is lack of enough teachers and instructors at the centers adding that in some classes there was only one teacher teaching all the subjects in a class of more than 50 learners.” She said
“The number of instructors in the county is small compared to the areas they are required to cover. I urge all stakeholders to chip in and assist us in training tutors and providing learning materials and desks,” said Njiriri.
Other challenges include inadequate classes, poor infrastructure, lack of transport, insufficient funding, poor learning environment and lack of updated learning and teaching materials.