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Copenhagen Consensus Center

George Kuria's Story

Lowering the Price of Schooling and Improving Girls’ Schooling George Kuria

George Kuria – or Kuria as everyone calls him - dreams of becoming a lawyer. “I want to defend people”, the boy from the town of Dagoretti, north of Nairobi, says. Today, however, the dream seems far away: the thirteen year-old dropped out of school one year ago.

“The deputy of the school chased me away because my mother had not paid [the 200 Kenyan Shilling (US$2.50 or €1.75) fee for every three-month term]. That happened so many times, I decided to leave.”

In Kenya primary education is free, but the government does not cover expenses such as uniform, books and food. The extra expenses can be a large fraction of a poor household’s income. Kuria’s mother Ester has no regular job, while her boyfriend earns about 3,000 Kenyan shillings (US$37 or €26) each month. Kuria and his younger sister often go hungry at home.

When Kuria ran away, he found work as a dishwasher at a restaurant. “We were allowed to sleep in a dark room attached to the restaurant. We were not paid for the job. It was just the food, but I was very happy that way.”

When Kuria contracted scabies, he was chased away from the restaurant. Now he collects scrap metal. He believes he must do it to bring money home for his family, which his mother uses to buy flour.

Kuria hopes to return to school, although he doesn’t have a school uniform. His mother says that “he has seen that life out there is not easy and now he wants to go back to school”. She says that if she earned more, she would send him back to classes.

“Going to school will change his life,” she says. “But right now we don’t have money.”

Based on an interview by Joana Socias. Photographs by Joana Socias.