Getting to Know Your International Connections – Part 1

I connected with Ms. Jane Natabona, a lecturer at the Kenya Kindergarten Headmistresses Association This Association trains teachers for the high-quality preschools (mostly referred to as Kindergarten for the 3-5 year olds, and the 0-3year olds attend nursery schools).  In Kenya, Kindergarten is the equivalent of a Pre-K after which they attend the Elementary schools. This is the premier early childhood specialized teacher training Institution.  Although most of the students who are trained at this Institute are employed by the high-quality preschools because of the high standards, some of them end up in the lower income schools.  There are no state funded kindergartens so many children go straight to elementary school and lag behind because they lack the early childhood education foundation.

Poverty in Kenya is a very big issue. Kenya has a population of 40 million out of which 19.5 million are children.  According the UNICEF report (GOK- UNICEF Kenya Country Program) of the people living below the poverty line is 46%, which is quite a large number.  According to Jane there are very many reasons for the increasing rates of poverty which ultimately affects the children. There is a high unemployment rate, which means a lot of families cannot afford to send their children to school. Although elementary education is free, school uniforms are not provided and many families cannot afford to buy the uniforms. In Kenya like most African countries you cannot attend school without a uniform. I remember an occasion where Oprah Winfrey went to visit children in South Africa and she bought them all black dolls thinking that they would be excited to have dolls that looked like them. The children were very polite and told her that all they wanted were uniforms so that they could attend school. She did buy them the uniforms.

Other reasons for poverty are the lack of enough government backed health facilities that would take care of the health of the poor. Health issues make it impossible to keep jobs. Another issue is the Aid epidemic which is now under control but left a lot of orphans and households without bread earners. This is a problem as there are no social programs run by the government.  Most of the food programs are run by private charities and do not reach many people. A lot of rural dwellers go to the larger towns and cities to find jobs and leave their families behind. This was one of the main causes of aids being spread.  Children in the urban informal settlements and those living in the arid areas where there are constant drought conditions experience deprivations of their rights, limited access to clean water , sanitation, health and nutrition and education. Kenya has over 1 million children who do not attend school because of poverty, 700,000 live with a disability and over 2million are orphaned.


Jane Natabona.  Lecturer, Kindergarten Headmistresses Association, Kenya.

Kenya county program 2014-2018, UNICEF. Retrieved from

My second International contact was from Germany. I got lucky and met one of the au- pairs in my school who is a German early childhood teacher. Lisa Wilbers informed me that although Germany does not have high poverty rates, they are increasing because of the increasing one parent families. She also noted that the immigrant and refugee populations from the neighboring countries also contributed to the increasing statistics of poverty because most of them could not get decent work because of language barriers and ended up with menial jobs that could not sustain their families. Early childhood education in Germany is not free and that means that the children from poor families cannot attend the Kinderkrippen (Crèches). These cater for children under the age of three. There are also child – minders who take care of the children privately. The children from age 3 to 5 attend Kindergarten which is not connected to the public schools and therefore not free.

According to an article on the In Inequality Watch website,  single parents with under aged children had the highest poverty risk of more than 50% and also two parent families with more than three children had a higher risk of poverty.  Germany has a population of 80.6 million people, according to a Newsweek article of February 20, 2015, since the reunification of the country in 1990; 12.5 million people are classified as poor.

Lisa feels that although there are pockets of poverty, Germany is still a relatively wealthy country and a lot of people who may be poor are sometimes embarrassed to show the world that they need help. The government provides safety nets to help the poor and so it is not as dire as poverty in developing countries.


Lisa Wilbers – Early childhood educator from Frankfurt, Germany

Richardson, H. (2015, February 20). Poverty in Germany at Record High. Retrieved from

Grabka, M. & Frick, J. (2010). Increasing poverty in Germany: differences according to region, household and age. Retrieved from


5 thoughts on “Getting to Know Your International Connections – Part 1

  1. What an informative post! Thank you for sharing. It was very touching to read that the priority for Kenya’s students was their education and that they wanted to have access to their school above all else. It is heartbreaking to read all of the hurdles Kenya’s children have to face in order to survive. It was interesting to read about families in Germany and how there is a growing rate of single parent households. We would hope that those who need help have society’s support to ask for it, but the issue of poverty is often interconnected so it might be challenging to figure out what issues to address first.


  2. Marla Hatrak says:

    My son was an International Affairs major, and I have learned quite a lot from him. Oprah Winfrey obviously had good intentions when she passed out dolls. However, my son said we Americans frequently think they want or need what we think they do. Part of the job of international affairs is to find out from them what they need. The story of dolls and uniforms illuminate his point. It is also important for the outsiders to go into the village and listen to them when offering solutions. One village had their children die around 2 years old. It had become a puzzling pattern. Babies lived till they turned around 2 years old. After some sleuthing from outsiders, they found out that they started using water in their food to feed their children after weaning them from breastfeeding. Solution? Give them goats for milk. Eventually they raised enough goats to sell them to other villages. He told me that we need to be mindful of their life styles and allow them to maintain their way of life and culture. This posting reminds me of the conversation I had with my son. Thank you.


  3. I am curious as to why the uniforms were more important than the dolls? Is it a symbol of importance or standing? Is there such a stigma to attending school in a uniform that learning can only be done in a uniform. Girls need to change that!!!!
    Very informative post.


  4. Fidelis,
    Amazing that almost half of Kenya’s population is children. The AID’s epidemic created such devastation I can’t fathom how a community rallies to help when there are so many orphans, and children with disabilities.


  5. Jill,
    The uniforms are more important than dolls because you cannot attend school without a uniform. Education is free but you must wear a uniform to school. Most children cannot afford uniforms or they just have one which is washed after school and hang to dry and then is worn again the next day,


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