On a morning in late November 2003, 70 children cram into a first grade classroom at the Ayany Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya to learn basic math. The students range in age from 7 to 11 and come from the surrounding neighborhood of Kibera, one of Africa's largest and most notorious slums.
Many are orphans. Several lost both parents to AIDS. Instead of desks, the students make do with floor mats. There are few workbooks and fewer pencils. But teachers hope to compensate for the lack of supplies with something of greater value: a free education.
Since January 2003, when the new government of President Mwai Kibaki eliminated mandatory enrollment fees, attendance has surged at schools throughout the nation. It's thought that an additional 1.5 million Kenyan children and teenagers entered classrooms this year, many for the first time. Under the previous government, parents were charged an annual tuition ranging from $20 to $350 per student. In one of the world's poorest countries, the enrollment fees were beyond the means of most families.
While Kenya's education program offers some hope for children affected by the AIDS crisis, the plight of African children continues to worsen. According to the United Nations, AIDS has now orphaned more than 11 million African children, and that number is expected to double to 20 million in another seven years.Close