On 13th October 2015, Imperial Bank of Kenya went into statutory receivership with the Central Bank of Kenya. This has effectively frozen the finances of many businesses, organisations, groups and individuals across the country, Local Ocean Trust included. Over a month on, this situation is having a crippling effect on Watamu and the rest of Kenya. Today we bring you the story of the Watamu Education Movement Association (WEMA) as an example of a dedicated community group who are, like the rest of us, trying to continue their activities as best they can without access to their hard earned funds. WEMA is one of 21 community groups which Local Ocean Trust works closely with to provide advice and support.
WEMA is a group of men and women from Watamu village who came together to seek ways of ensuring that the education of their children was a priority. The group number, of close to 100 members, is a clear indication of how highly they value education and want the children of Watamu to benefit. For some time, children who completed their primary school education ended up on the beach trying to make money from the tourist sector. Some had no choice because their parents could not afford to pay for their next level of education. It was clear that Watamu was sending very few of its children for secondary level or further education.
The members each contribute Ksh. 100 per week. These contributions enable them to conduct their day to day activities such as door to door visits to homes, transport to bursary offices, visiting children in boarding school, supplying uniforms and even providing food for the really poor families. The money the group puts together is banked at the Imperial Bank branch in Watamu. Groups such as WEMA are advised and required to have a bank account number in order to be eligible for proper registration.
Recently WEMA were found in a precarious situation after the bank closed its doors to depositors. A large number of businesses, organisations and individuals were suddenly left without any access to their finances in order to conduct their day to day activities and without any idea when the situation would be resolved. WEMA group has a responsibility to take care of the 30 students whom they received bursaries for this year, to ensure they sit for their third term examinations and visit homes to address any issues. A task for which they had planned and budgeted for before this crisis.
Tough times such as this can be disastrous for groups and staying committed to their cause is the only thing that prevents them from falling apart, but even this cannot sustain them forever. WEMA are demonstrating incredible commitment and are trying their utmost to continue as many of their activities as they can, for as long as possible. Along with many others in Watamu, WEMA are trying to do the best they can in the face of a very uncertain future. Hopefully for them, and for the rest of us in the same position, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, and soon.