School Journeys: Barefoot

Children on their journey to school in Kenya. Contains an interview with a child whose parent has died. Duration 5,16

Rocky Roads

How do you get to school? Perhaps you travel by bus, bike or boat. Or perhaps you walk to school barefoot.

That's how most children get around in the foothills of Mount Elgon in Kenya.

The roads are made of earth and rocks, andduring the rainy season they turn into giant, muddy slides, which makes getting to school really tricky.



Start Quote

I've never worn shoes in my life”

End Quote Dixon age 13

In Mount Elgon region in Kenya, it's compulsory to wear uniform at Primary School, but that doesn't include shoes.

You don't have to wear shoes until you get to Secondary.

Most children don't have breakfast in the morning.

They walk to school with an empty stomach.

Some schools serve lunch and the pupils eat a school lunch of maize and beans.

For many, it is the only meal they eat all day.


Eleven year old Isabel shows us her muddy feet.

Isabel explains, "one time, I was walking to school and tripped on a stone which injured me."

Thirteen year old Dixon also shows us the scar on his feet which he got after stepping on a sharp rock.

Kenyan pupils Isabelle and Dixon enjoy a snack

The terrible roads have had a massive impact on Isabel's whole family.

Earlier this year Isabel's mother died. She developed complications after giving birth and she couldn't get to hospital in time.

Isabel told us that if the roads had been better, her mother might have been able to get to hospital.

Distance Runners

Many children have to travel up to 15 kilometres to get to school. If you're late you might get punished, so the best way to get there on time is to run!

All this running has led to some children growing up to become star athletes - like Linet Masai and her brother Moses.

Linet won a gold medal at the World Championships in 2009 and Moses got bronze.

School Sports

Linet and Moses went to Bishop Okiring Secondary, a sporty school high up in the foothills of Mount Elgon. They began their training running to and from school!

Linet and Moses aren't the only ones. The area is famous for producing some of the best distance runners in the world.

The high altitude means there's less oxygen in the air making it harder to breathe and run.

These kids are so used to training in these conditions, they become extra resilient. This gives them an advantage when racing against others at lower altitude.

The Running Reverend!

Even the school's priest, Reverend Job, was a marathon runner.

While he was still at secondary school, he ran at national level.

He told us, "anybody born in Mount Elgon is born an athlete and we treasure this."

High Hopes

Start Quote

I'd like to become a pilot as I've always admired aeroplanes. I'd like to fly to other countries without paying. And I'd like to earn a salary as well”

End Quote Dixon age 13

Isabel and Dixon have high hopes for their own future.

Dixon tells us, "I run to school as I want to try my luck in athletics, that's why I run to school."

Isabel is also on a mission: "What I'm hoping for is to become a journalist so I can highlight people's problems and improve the condition of the pathetic roads around here."

For now the situation remains difficult.

But if Isabel and the children of the mountain get their way, they hope the government will improve their road to help make their journeys a little bit easier.

Schools World Service is a BBC British Council co-production

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