The Effect of the Khat Economy on Attainment of Primary Education in Embu County, Kenya
Njeru, Ann Sheila Karimi
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Khat farming in Embu County was introduced to replace the dwindling income from the coffee sector and cotton farming. Small scale farmers have increasingly cut down coffee stems and replaced them with Khat. The influence by the Meru khat farmers who grow the crop in large scale has greatly contributed to this. Khat growing in Embu County is associated with easy and quick economic value compared to coffee and other crops whose payment comes after a prolonged period. In Embu County Khat is currently grown in Runyenjes and Kagaari Zones in areas such as Gikuuri, Nthagaiya, Kawanjara, Rukira and other areas in small scale holdings. A working day in a Khat area begins as early as 3:00a.m when the children pluck and transport to the buying centers before going to school. School going children have been used as a cheap source of labour in cultivation of khat in Embu County, this has had far and wide reaching effects on the pupils’ education. The teachers complain that if these children do make it to class, they hardly concentrate due to the lack of sleep. The pupils fail to do their assignments and the net result of this is dismal academic performance coupled with poor a transition rate since many leave primary schools before or at class eight. The study aimed to establish the impact of the Khat economy on attainment of primary education in Embu County. Hypothesis for each regressor variable were developed and empirically tested. The study was guided by theory of exploitative child labour, developmental psychology theory and learning theory. The research adopted a descriptive research design. Data was collected using self-administered closed-ended questionnaires that were distributed to each respondent. A sample size of 260 respondents of a targeted population of 866 was selected. To test study hypothesis, Model R2, ANOVA Statistics and Regression coefficients were generated and interpreted. Results were presented using interactive Tables, and figures. The research findings showed that there was a significant relationship between khat and attainment of primary school education. 52% of the respondents were male while 48 % were female. The findings indicate that 50% agreed that they skipped school to cultivate khat, 37.7% agreed that their parents have asked them to skip school and join them in tilling land for khat growing, 34.6% agreed that they only go to school on days that they are involved in khat growing and 25.8% agreed that khat growing is more beneficial than going to school. 52.3% of the respondents agreed that there is readily available information on the impact of khat on attainment of education, 78.8% agreed that teachers and parents organize discussions to enlighten them on the effects of khat. From the findings 61.9% agreed that khat is grown in a large piece of their family land, 38.8% agreed that the more land their family apportions to khat the more time they spend in the farm instead of school, 40.0% agreed that the more time they spend cultivating khat the less they concentrate in school, 36.9% agreed that their friends miss school because the family has a large khat farm to cultivate, 58.5% agreed that their family grows khat in majority of their family land and 37.3% agreed that they spend more time planting and nurturing new khat plants than going to school. From the finding the study recommends that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in conjunction with the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government should recognize and enforce the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation at the family level and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education. The government should institute mechanisms that control the Khat trade e.g. through the establishment of Khat Cooperative Societies.