When was the last time you walked to school? When was the last time you walked to work? Today we live in a society where access to transportation is better and easier taking us wherever we dream of going. We can travel to distant lands and explore the world but we must not forget what it was like to walk for long distances before cars, trains or any other means of transportation was invented.
Travelling the world or driving to a store, was non- existent in my mother’s school days. She attended school in Githumu, Kenya (a rural village) where she grew up, and had to walk 6km every day to and from school. This was not easy because she had to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to do chores and be in school by 7am, or else be punished with 11 strokes to the hand. From making breakfast to fetching water from a nearby stream, she had chores to do in the morning and most of the time she had no one to help her. Her morning commute was walking down valleys, through bushes and going under barbed wire fences, as she braved the cold morning weather. The rainy season made her walk to school more difficult because the paths would either get muddy or flood, which would force her to walk barefoot so as to prevent her shoes from getting damaged. “In those days it was not scary walking by yourself because the village did not have any crime,” she said. The only fear was walking in the dark early in the morning or encountering wild animals, which was rare.
When she came home from school, there were still more chores to do and homework to study. It was the typical chores needed to be done before doing homework. By the time she got down to study, she was hungry and tired, and could barely read the assignment using a kerosene lamp. “There was no electricity but you still had to do your homework,” she said. Unless the school had the facilities for study rooms, students like my mother did their homework at home with little to no light.
Attending school in my mother’s days was very hard and still is for many students today. The average walking distance for students is 5-6km but it depends on where you live because the schools that provide better quality education might be very far, even if there is a school closer to home. Like the girl in the photo walking to school, my mother’s story portrays the challenges that many children living in rural villages continue to face today just to get an education. If you were one of them, how far would you walk to have access to quality education?