I walked into my village market center. At the entrance, I saw some boys and young men sitting around a green basin in a semi-circle. Inside the green basin are green leaves and twigs. Everyone is dipping their hands into the basin and drawing a leaf or a twig and chewing on it. They seem to be discussing something animatedly as they chew. Everyone seems to be in a good mood and without a care.
As I get closer I realize they are also shabbily dressed and their hair is unkempt. Then I notice my neighbour’s son who is fifteen years old is among them. Wait! Didn’t we hold a harambee two years ago for him to join high school? As if that is not enough surprise for a day, I see my twenty something years old friend who is supposed to be in his third year of university study in the furthest right end of the semicircle chewing with an uncivilized gusto on the green leaves. I thought green was the colour of life and beauty! Ironically, in that place where green is everywhere, including in the mouths of the young men around the green basin, there emanates only the bleakness of a destroyed future and an attitude of having resigned to fate.
Just behind me is a low life tavern with two drunks fighting at the entrance and others cheering on them from the inside. Now, this is not a situation exclusive to my home market. It is the situation in a many other parts of this country. The most disturbing thing is that it is almost becoming a new normal in our villages. The education and life purpose of these youth is almost doomed. I am saying almost because I believe it is not too late to salvage the situation. For a long time drug use and addiction has been seen as the reason for dropping out of school and I strongly agree.
Despite the government’s efforts to ensure every child has access to affordable education, there are still so many cases of school drop outs. This is compounded by high levels of poverty and inequalities that is witnessed across the country.
Most of the children of school going age who drop out of school, end up despairing and result in drug use. According to Jennifer M. Reingle Gonzalez et al in her paper, Drug Alcohol Depend, drop outs have a higher long-term rate of drug use disorder than graduates.
Ensuring anyone of school going age is in a learning institution we will considerably reduce the use of drugs among the youth and children.
As Maureen Ndeda of Leadership Team of Nehemiah Kenya says, the ultimate success of our education system will be measured by its ability to give equal access to all candidates.
By Caroline Mutuku