The Coastal Province of Kenya is situated on the Indian Ocean. The capital city is Mombasa. The coast is dotted with scenic beaches and idyllic beach front hotels. In the past there was a thriving tourism industry which also attracted visitors to the nearby national parks famous for their lions, leopards, elephants and zebras. The tourism business unfortunately also attracted a variety of negative influences like sex tourism, child prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse and HIV/AIDS and STI infections which are especially detrimental to children and youth. These days the tourism industry is greatly diminished and recent acts of terrorism and local tribal clashes have nearly decimated the local economy.
Because of this history, Malindi, where Elimu is based, can be a dangerous environment for poor un-skilled youth. The surrounding rural communities continue to live in traditional tribal settings and practice a variety of detrimental customs including marrying multiple wives, marriage of girls as young as 12 years of age, bride price (where a family benefits from a valuable gift of cows and cash in exchange for a daughter) and witchcraft (which ostracizes and terrorizes the victim.) Some tribal communities also practice female genital mutilation (also known as female circumcision). Most rural villagers live in homes constructed of mud, sticks, and thatch with no plumbing, water, or electricity. It is not uncommon for families to walk several kilometers to the nearest source of drinkable water (which is often transported in plastic jerry cans on women’s heads or rolled along by children). The staple food is “ugali” a sort of hard porridge made from maize flour.
The coast region is rich in fertile land where a variety of cash crops such as coconuts, mangos, and bananas grow. The Indian Ocean provides amazing beaches for swimming and fishing and still attracts a number of local and foreign visitors each year. The coastal people are hardy and friendly and used to persevering through hard times. Unfortunately, there is a greater focus on farming than education and children are often kept home to help with the crops rather than truly encouraged to excel in school. As a result, progress in the area has been slow and stagnant. Many of those involved in development in this region are looking at ways of improving education and completion rates for children.