Principals and Sanitary Pads
While working in Kenya, we’ve seen plenty of examples of absurdity, especially when it comes to anything associated with the government. But this one took the cake.
The principals from our area had all been summoned: some sanitary pads, disposable ones, had been donated by the government for each primary school. Hurray! A large box of pads for schools that had 500-1,000 students each. Since lack of sanitary pads keeps most girls home while having their periods, a load of sanitary pads is a wonderful thing. But before we all get too excited, let’s take a look at this happy announcement.
First, the pads have to be picked up at the Kinango district office. The office is five hours away on a dirt road. And they can only be claimed by principals or their deputies (first assistants). After all, we don’t want any random scoundrel making off with sanitary pads that are not rightfully theirs!
“I don’t know why they didn’t have them dropped at a central location off the tarmac (the main highway),” said Joseph. “We all could have claimed them easily that way.” But it’s the government, after all. If there is a way to make it hard, they will find it. Joseph shook his head and smiled the rueful smile of acceptance, and called his deputy to see if he could go by motorbike to get the pads.
“How will he get all those pads on the back of his motorbike?” I asked. “He will bring what he can, and probably arrange to have the rest brought by lorry (truck).”
And that’s what happened. We met Mr. Elias on his way back from the Kinango headquarters. He was with Fredrick, the principal of a school of 1,110 students. They had been gone from their schools all day to make the trip to get the pads. They were on their motorbikes, pads in tow. And yes, they had made the arrangements to have the other pads brought by lorry, at their school’s expense. “You must be exhausted, after being on your bikes for 10 hours on that horrible road,” I said. “It is fine,” they said with smiles on their faces. “We got the pads.”
“What will become of the used pads?” I ask. It’s always a question worth asking, since there is no such thing as a garbage disposal system. Would the pads be buried? (I picture animals digging them up and dragging them through town). Burned? How would that work? “The girls drop them in the latrines,” Mr. Elias said. “But doesn’t that quickly fill up those latrines?” I asked. “Wouldn’t it be better if the government provided washable, reusable pads? After all that effort for acquisition, aren’t those pads going to be gone in a month?”
They just look at me and smile. There goes Mama Rinda again, asking all those questions. It is what it is. They are grateful. At least for now, a problem has been solved. They don’t want me raining on their parade. They drive off, picturing the pleased look on the faces of their girls.