The School Run: a comparison of educational geographies between London and Kenya

by Fiona Ferbrache

This morning, as I walked to University, I was passed by runners, cyclists, buses, taxis and cars. What a choice we have available for reaching our work places or making the school run.  A report by the BBC (Crompton, 2011) last month, drew attention to the school run in Kamuneru, Kenya (a highland area in the north-west of the country) as literally that: a walk or jog to reach class each day.

Travel by foot is the only means of transport for many families in this Kenyan area, and long distances (the report commented on one child travelling 20km from their home to school each day) are undertaken in bare feet and on poor unsurfaced roads.  Geography matters! For one child, these distances offers the opportunity to train athletically everyday, by running to school, but for another pupil, the journey held little for her to be positive about.

Hamnett and Butler (2011) tell us that “Geography matters” for children and education in the UK too.  Here, the distance that one lives from school has become an important criterion for allocating places to pupils.  Through a critical analysis of distance-based policies in East London, Hamnett and Butler argue that this system reproduces unequal access to educational resources, and can be amplified inter-generationally.  They also indicate that hierarchies of school popularity/unpopularity have developed, partially as a result of the value placed on distance.

These two examples reveal how geography matters in London and Kamuneru, in terms of distance to schools, but in very different ways.

  Crompton, V. (2011) The school run in Kenya’s highlands. BBC News: Education and Family. 10 October, 2011.

  Hamnett, C. & Butler, T. (2011) ‘Geography matters’: the role distance plays in reproducing educational inequality in East London. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. Vol.36,4.  pp.479-500

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