- About IHEU
- Human rights
- Upcoming Conferences
- World Humanist Congress 2011
- World Humanist Congress 2008
- World Humanist Congress 2005
- World Humanist Congress 2002
- World Humanist Congress 1999
- Other Conferences
- Australasia & South East Asia
- Former Soviet States
- Indian States
- Islamic States
- Latin America
- North America
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- Contact us
You are here
Rights of a child in Kenya
Submitted by admin on 10 March, 2010 - 09:47
Kenya has a population of 15 million children, constituting 54 percent of the total of 28 million. Over 12.6 million Kenyans, majority of who are children, live in absolute poverty.
Kenya ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on July 31, 1990. The enactment of the Children's Act of 2001 gives effect to the obligations of Kenya under the CRC and the African Children's Charter. Since its ratification, Kenya has been working to implement its ideals in domestic legislation concerning childcare and protection.
Kenya's formal child protective system has been developing since the country’s independence in the early 1960s. Legislation addressing children's issues is in place since then and includes the Children's and Young Person's Act, the Guardianship of Infants Act, and the Adoption Act. These statutes remained in legal force up and until March 2002, when the new Children's Act of 2001 was enacted. For these 40 plus years, there has also been a Children's Department, which is a part of the Ministry for Home Affairs and is specifically tasked with dealing with issues of implementation of childcare and protection and juvenile justice. For example, the Department operates childcare and protection institutions, such as rehabilitation centers for children considered as being in need of care and protection. Furthermore, there are children's courts all over the country, with magistrates specifically assigned as children's court magistrates. The Nairobi Children's Court, however, remains the only physically separate, child-friendly court in the country. All children's courts are courts of first instance, which means that they fall under the High Court in the court structure. Finally, the private sector (nongovernmental organisations) runs foster care and reception centers and programs that cater to children without family care. These must be registered with the Children's Department.
Below is a discussion on six thematic issues discussed in a state report to the UN Convention on Rights of the Child in March 2001 with concern to education, juvenile justice, refugee and internally displaced children, children with disabilities, children of pastoralist communities and street children.
Education: The cost-sharing policy, under which parents contribute up to 65 percent of schools’ recurrent costs, has a seriously limiting effect on access to education. Up to 46 percent of school-age children (5-14 years) are out of school. The net enrolment rate is estimated to be 60 percent. Pre-school enrolment has stagnated at 35 percent for the last 10 years, largely because poor families cannot afford to send their children to school. The non-formal education sub-sector is yet to be effectively linked to the formal structure so that its products are absorbed in the mainstream education system.
It is recommended that pre-school and primary education must be made free and compulsory, and expanded to attain universality. The policy on non-formal education should focus on redirecting its recipients to the formal system. NGOs should press for free and compulsory education and supplement State efforts in the development and financing of the sector.
Juvenile Justice: Up to 85 percent of the children who go through the Kenyan juvenile justice system do not deserve to be exposed to the criminal justice process. Consequently, more harm than good is done to them. Also, the system is not child-friendly. Personnel do not possess specialised child-handling skills. Emphasis is laid on institutional care, which is not always appropriate as proved by the frequent wrongful placement of children in Approved Schools. The institutional facilities hold two to three times their capacity, and most are in squalid conditions.
It is recommended that a social catchment policy be put in place to rescue and re-direct children in need of care and protection before they enter the criminal justice system. The Judiciary should urgently train the personnel throughout the juvenile justice system on more child-sensitive practices and procedures. The residential facilities should be refurbished as a matter of priority. Closer Government-NGO collaboration is highly recommended in the provision of legal assistance to children within both the criminal and civil justice systems.
Refugee and Internally Displaced Children: By close of the year 2000, Kenya was host to 46,974 child refugees (23 percent of the total 206 106 people sheltered in the country). There are currently no special child-focused measures in the refugee handling programmes. The 1991/2 and 1997 ethnic clashes in parts of Western, Rift Valley and Coast regions displaced an estimated 300 000 people, over 50 percent of who were children. This exposed the government’s incapacity to protect Kenyans endangered by armed conflict. The government was not only slow in providing protection to non-combatants, but its post-clashes intervention has also been limited. Today, a decade since the clashes first erupted, many families are yet to be permanently resettled, with harrowing effects on their children.
It is recommended that the resettlement programme should be hastened to provide lasting relief to the affected children. The government should develop a rapid-reaction emergency strategy to guard against future crisis, and to facilitate fast intervention in conflicts resulting in disruption of settled community life. The strategy should include mechanisms for community-based peace building, conflict resolution and reconciliation. The donor community should help build the capacities of the government and NGOs to effectively deal with the dual challenges of internal conflict and refugees.
Children with Disabilities:There are an estimated 1.5 million children with disabilities in Kenya. These children are most neglected in terms of policy efforts and direct programming. The 1998 report by a commission appointed to look into laws on persons with disabilities offers nothing to children. The draft Bill the commission recommended is silent on critical issues like provision of basic education and health, and the problem of child concealment.
It is recommended that a multi-sectoral intervention approach be adopted focusing on preventive care, increased resource allocation to special education, integration into ordinary schools and special programmes for those with multiple disabilities. The draft Bill on Persons with Disabilities should be reviewed, enacted and implemented expeditiously. The population of persons with disabilities should be computed precisely to facilitate effective planning. NGOs must continuously lobby for the required policy and legislative action, and supplement the government’s efforts in provision of basic services.
Children from Pastoralist CommunitiesInsecurity and the poor state of infrastructure have seriously limited access to basic social services in the pastoralist regions. School gross enrolment rate (GER) averages at 30.5 percent, compared to the national average of 88.8 percent. Only 70 percent of infants are completely immunized by the age of two years and 20 percent of children are malnourished. Less than 50 percent of families have access to safe drinking water.
It is recommended that more resources be allocated for children of pastoralists and innovative efforts made to increase their access to education, health services and supplementary nutrition, with special attention to the girl-child. Economic empowerment for the communities is essential. NGOs should supplement government efforts by supporting education, health, feeding and security programmes.
Street Children: Conservative estimates indicate that 300 000 children live and work on the streets in Kenya, with over 50 percent of them concentrated in and around the capital Nairobi. Though there is still no exact data on their population and distribution, it is clear that their numbers are increasing rapidly owing to poverty, HIV/AIDS and the collapsing family structure. The ethnic clashes sharply pushed up the numbers. Not only are street children locked out of the social services mainstream, but also their very basic right to life is at risk with each passing day. Police harassment, sexual molestation, economic exploitation and the serious risk of disease stalk them daily. The street children problem remains a serious national challenge.
It is recommended that the government should immediately declare the street children problem a national challenge and institute special policy and legislative action as a matter of priority. The government in collaboration with NGOs must come up with community and family re-integration programs to divert the children from streets. The long-term target in all these efforts must be the primary causal factors of poverty, HIV/AIDS, unemployment, the high cost of education and the disintegration of the family-care systems.
Boaz Adhengo is chairman of the Project Nabuur Initiative