Sole Searching: For the children who have never worn shoes

Anita plants a tree with Kipepeo Green Heritage founder Wanjiku Kimani. Photo: Kipepeo Green Heritage/ Jayne Mache.
Anita plants a tree with Kipepeo Green Heritage founder Wanjiku Kimani. Photo: Kipepeo Green Heritage/ Jayne Mache.

Story by Jayne Mache

Teacher Jane stood in the lush, grassed school compound admiring the group of students running towards the car filled with tree seedlings. They all had smiles plastered across their faces and bright eyed with anticipation for the tree planting activity they were about to take part in. Kipepeo Green Heritage, an environmental non-governmental organization was visiting Olkaria Primary School as part of their weekly tree planting project. 

Wanjiku Kimani, founder of Kipepeo stood beside her, exchanging stories about her passion for the environment while teacher Jane shared stories about the bright futures she taught. As they both stood there admiring the student’s vigor for tree planting a sad cloud crossed Teacher Janes face.

Wanjiku, you see that girl running over there” she said pointing at a girl clad in a torn uniform and an unthreading cardigan, “she is barefoot…. she has never worn shoes in her life.

Taken aback by the teacher’s words, she watched the child run across the field with two tree seedlings in her hands, as she scrambled to find holes to plant them in.

Anita plants a tree with Kipepeo Green Heritage founder Wanjiku Kimani. Photo: Kipepeo Green Heritage/ Jayne Mache.
Anita plants a tree with Kipepeo Green Heritage founder Wanjiku Kimani. Photo: Kipepeo Green Heritage/ Jayne Mache.

That was the story and reality of Anita*, a 12-year-old girl in Class 8 at Olkaria Primary School in a far-flung region of Naivasha in Nakuru County. Born into abject poverty, she has never had the luxury of owning a pair of shoes. Her toes and heels have never been sheltered from the scalding surface heat of the ground, the cold morning frost, the jagged rocks of Olkaria’s terrain or the slippery mud during the rainy season. All her steps have been taken with bare feet. 

“She is one of the brightest students in this school” the teacher said and then sighed. “It’s a pity she has to live this way, without any access to proper support.” 

Anita is a highly intelligent young girl and excels at subjects like Maths, English and Science. After Class 8, she plans to continue her studies into high school and eventually university where she plans to study towards becoming a lawyer. 

It seems like a straightforward plan until one realizes the hurdles that lie before her path. Anita like many students from this area in Kenya face challenges to secure basic needs such as food, books, shoes, and funding to continue their studies. This has resulted in many dropping out of school and missing the chance of getting an education. According to studies by the UNICEF, 1 in 10 children in Kenya does not have access to basic education. This is chiefly due to lack of finances and the availability of the much needed resources to make education a palpable dream.

Kipepeo Green Heritage leader gives a mentorship talk with Olkaria Primary School students. Photo: Kipepeo Green Heritage/ Grace Ngugi
Kipepeo Green Heritage leader gives a mentorship talk with Olkaria Primary School students. Photo: Kipepeo Green Heritage/ Grace Ngugi

“If you walk behind this school, you will see young boys herding cattle. Those are young boys who could not afford to continue in school, so they had to return to herding their family’s livestock.” Jane added, “so many young dreams shattered because of financial hardships.”

The two continued to share stories on the adversity faced by students in rural areas of Kenya and how the government must do more to ensure that every child has access to education, as Wanjiku stepped way to join Anita and others in planting their trees.

Since the day she was born Anita’s fate was left up to chance, but we can change that. We can ensure she never goes to school barefoot again. We should work together to make sure that Anita and many other like her are able to achieve their dream.

Olkaria Primary School students with their tree seedlings before the tree planting project. Photo: Kipepeo Green Heritage/ Jayne Mache.
Olkaria Primary School students with their tree seedlings before the tree planting project. Photo: Kipepeo Green Heritage/ Jayne Mache.

Do you want to join us Go Green, and in changing a life, one at a time ? Reach out to us Kipepeo Green Heritage if you want to help Anita and children like her across kenya. Your charitable donations of cash or kind will provide much needed assistance to children like Anita. Let us come together to change the future of children in Kenya for the better. Your support will go a long way to inspire their lives and change their tide. 

*Name of the young girl was changed to protect her identity.

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