Having spent the last few days in the coastal town of Mombassa in Kenya, I have borne witness (once again) to the reality of third-world poverty. In speaking with teachers here, whose students receive nourishment twice a day in the form of a wheat based porridge, it is clear the poverty here is far different from that in the United States.
Jane Omondi teaches fifth grade at the Kelegeni Primary School, a place where over 1,000 students are taught by just under a dozen teachers. Most of the students are orphans, and what little food they receive comes from an outside assistance program.
“Kenya is not a poor country, it is a mismanaged country,” Omondi said.
This is evident by the fact that government leaders rake in an annual salary of 800k shillings, while children starve in overcrowded school rooms.
To make matters worse, a teacher’s strike looms. Primary school teachers here are underpaid, and unwilling to take the government’s raise offer of 250 shillings. To give you an idea of how pathetic the gesture is, Maize-flour (a staple here in Kenya) is 120 shillings a pound (about$1.50).
The idea that these folks could do anything to overcome the situation is more than far-fetched. The city is crowded, school fees for secondary education are high, and jobs are few. This situation leads to higher levels of crime, and is an obstacle to overall safety and security.
For those with money, Mombassa offers resorts and golf courses, movie theaters and large grocery stores. For those without, there is burning trash, and bare feet.
While our economy is hurting, being here puts things in perspective.