All Agnes wanted was to get good grades, finish secondary school and become an Agricultural officer. When she finished primary school, she was among the best students. Everything was going well with her education until it wasn't.
16 years old Agnes and her family (seven siblings and parents) live in Kwale County, Kenya. Her father is the breadwinner and relies on casual labour; weeding and harvesting coconuts. On a good day, he earns around EURO 59.82 and EURO 25.64 during the unfavorable coconut season. Her mother on the other hand, farms vegetables mostly during the rainy season to supplement her husband´s earnings. With the little earnings, Agnes and her siblings cannot access even the most basic needs.
After her primary education in 2018, she lost hope of joining high school. Instead, she stayed home to help her mother take care of their younger siblings. Her mother, however, couldn't live with the fact that her daughter was idle at home. In 2019, she enrolled Agnes at a nearby secondary school without paying school fees.
With the family´s dire economic situation, she couldn't continue with her studies as she was sent away for a large amount of school fees that had accumulated. “ I lost hope of returning to school and continuing with my studies as my parents could not afford to pay for my fees,¨Agnes recounted painfully. Her dream of continuing with her studies further reached a dead end after the government gave a directive of school closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, she stayed out of school for almost a year and a half.
Life became tougher and tougher for Agnes and her family. At 14 years old, she was out of school and everything was crumbling. With no constructive activity to engage in, Agnes joined a bad group of friends who were participating in sexual activities. Due to the tough situation at home, she devised alternative ways to access basic needs including clothes, perfumes, sanitary towels among others. As a result, she was sexually exploited majorly by Boda Boda operators. Sadly, her mother was unaware of what was unfolding.
Fortunately for Agnes, a Child Protection Volunteer from Kesho Kenya was conducting a beneficiary identification drive on 29 January 2021. Agnes was identified and referred to the project social workers who visited her home for assessments. After the assessment, it was concluded that Agnes needed guidance and counselling to help mould her behaviour and provide academic support to enable her to go to school.
‘’I had lost hope in life due to the family financial struggles and were it not for the project, I would not have returned to school. I am happy I can now continue with my studies and be resourceful through the attainment of education and guidance in my behaviour.¨ She said happily.
In April 2021, Agnes was supported to return to school through the provision of school fees, dignity items, uniforms and scholastic materials. Additionally, frequent follow-ups in school and home visits are done by the Social Workers to identify any emerging issues. During the school visits, her teachers noted that she is now well-disciplined and hardworking. ‘’I have a future after accomplishing my secondary school studies since I am now in form 4, I hope to progress to the university, study and have a good job which will enable me to live in a well-furnished house, have a car and build my family a better house,’’ Agnes said.
Her parents on the other hand have also been sensitised on child protection approaches to better protect their children from exploitation. Currently, Agnes is very happy and her school attendance is regular and can now spend her time wisely in school and at home.
She not only hopes for a better future but dreams of becoming a role model to other children in the future. “I would like to be an Agricultural officer or a teacher to empower the farmers on productive farming or teach the children and guide them on right morals.¨