Clay Aiken calls for Kenya's kids to return to school

July 22, 2008

UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken recently visited the East African countries of Somalia and Kenya, where UNICEF provides children with health care, education, nutrition, clean water and sanitation. This is the last in a series of blog posts he has written about his experience in the field.

In early July, after visiting Somalia, I traveled to Eldoret, in Kenya's Rift Valley, to visit camps for internally displaced people. This is where some of the worst violence took place following the Kenya elections in early 2008. Thousands of children were made homeless by the unrest.

Everywhere we went, there were the charcoaled remains of homes, schools and shops. We drove for hours and everywhere we went, we saw people trying to get their lives restored.

kenya_burntschool.jpg
© US Fund for UNICEF / 2008 / Nick Ysenburg

Although many schools were re-opened, far fewer children are turning up for class than before. And classes are taking place in schools that have been completely destroyed. I saw children sitting on rocks and bricks"which used to make up the foundations and roofs of their schools"using them now as desks and chairs.

UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken recently visited the East African countries of Somalia and Kenya, where UNICEF provides children with health care, education, nutrition, clean water and sanitation. This is the last in a series of blog posts he has written about his experience in the field.

In early July, after visiting Somalia, I traveled to Eldoret, in Kenya's Rift Valley, to visit camps for internally displaced people. This is where some of the worst violence took place following the Kenya elections in early 2008. Thousands of children were made homeless by the unrest.

Everywhere we went, there were the charcoaled remains of homes, schools and shops. We drove for hours and everywhere we went, we saw people trying to get their lives restored.

kenya_burntschool.jpg
© US Fund for UNICEF / 2008 / Nick Ysenburg

Although many schools were re-opened, far fewer children are turning up for class than before. And classes are taking place in schools that have been completely destroyed. I saw children sitting on rocks and bricks"which used to make up the foundations and roofs of their schools"using them now as desks and chairs.

Fortunately, this was not the situation everywhere. In most IDP camps, UNICEF has provided classroom tents and School-in-a-Box kits, along with teaching and learning materials, and even desks and chairs.

kenya_schooltent.jpg
© US Fund for UNICEF / 2008 / Nick Ysenburg

Getting children back to school is vital for their protection, and helps build a sense of normalcy in their lives. The re-establishment of schools in the most difficult circumstances is a testament to the commitment of UNICEF and to Kenyans. Many displaced parents told UNICEF that getting their children back to school was their top priority.

kenya_clayaiken.jpg
© US Fund for UNICEF / 2008 / Nick Ysenburg

Every child has the right to an education. Education transforms lives and breaks the cycle of poverty that so many children are caught in. And an educated child will make sure his or her own children receive an education too. This is just another one of the many amazing ways UNICEF is helping children today, while also building a safer Kenya tomorrow. Click here to learn more about UNICEF's education programs.