The safety of students in public schools has once against come under the spotlight after a student was reportedly sexually assaulted at Moi Girls High School Nairobi on Friday night.
Coming only eight months after 10 students died and 50 others injured after a fire tragedy at the institution, the latest incident has left many questions unanswered including whether the school implemented the recommendations of a report by the Education ministry on safety of students in learning institutions.
The report among other things recommended that schools enhance their security installations to ensure students are not exposed to such attacks.
The report, which involved 97 schools in 38 counties, observed that most institutions failed to implement the requirements of the Safety Standards Manual for Schools released in 2008.
This includes safety on school grounds, physical infrastructure, health and hygiene, food, transportation, safety against drug and substance abuse, safety of children with special needs, safety against child abuse, disaster risk reduction and school community relations.
First, the school safety manual recommends the setting up of a School Safety Committee with the full responsibility of identifying safety needs of the school to take the necessary action and mobilise resources required by the school to ensure a safe, secure and caring environment for learners, staff and parents.
Which leads to the question? Did Moi Girls High School, Nairobi implement the recommendations of this report? Could the latest incident have been avoided?
And yesterday, Nairobi Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI)boss Nicholas Kamwende while declining to give further details said it had been confirmed that the student was assaulted.
Education Cabinet secretary Amina Mohamed yesterday closed the school for one week pending investigations. Accompanied by ministry officials, she said the ministry will carry out its own security assessment to ensure safety of the girls.
“There has been an incident at the school and one victim has been affected. We have had meetings with the parents and we agreed to bring forward the half term supposed to have started next week to this week after which we will give accurate findings,” she said. Yesterday a casual observation of the external school environment revealed that one can easily access the school compound with ease by climbing over the perimeter wall which does not have any security deterrents on intruders.
On one side of the perimeter wall is a footpath used by residents of the crime-prone Kibera slums. In between the perimeter wall and Mt Elgon dormitory, where the incident occurred, there is a thicket which can serve as hideout for such criminal elements.
Next to the perimeter wall are several mini-kiosks. The affected girl, a Form Two student, received treatment at the Nairobi Women’s Hospital Saturday morning before being referred to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) for more tests.
We could not immediately confirm allegations that the victim was prevailed upon by the school administration to clean up before heading to the hospital.
Parents questioned how outsiders accessed the dormitories, saying that the school’s security is harsh to parents when they try to access the girls’ hostels on visiting days.
Paul Kihara, a parent who spoke to People Daily said the school management has been ignoring their calls to beef up security around the school especially in the dormitories after the fire incident last year.
The furious parents had camped at the school on Saturday night wanting to leave with their children, as it emerged that the school had asked the students to keep quiet about the rape incident, which was actually kept under wraps until evening when the news broke out.
Narrating the ordeal, students who spoke to the People Daily said the incident which occurred at 2 am was known amongst them at around 4 am when two girls were attacked separately in the washrooms and the last one raped.
Elgon dormitory according to the student accounts is stair cased and has cubicles each with six students has an internal washroom where they normally use in between their stay in the dormitories after their evening preps until 5 am before their morning preps.
Before the rape ordeal, two other girls had gone to the toilet and met three attackers who asked them to strip naked.The first would-be victim is said to have been spared as she was on her menses while the second was roughed up as she negotiated with them that she was fasting and on the holy month of Ramadhan.
“The three girls (names withheld) sleep at Elgon dormitory but in different cubes. It is only when we heard screams and cries at 4 am when one of them signaled that the attackers had ran away, that we all gathered at the dorm,” said the source.
Students said they had been asked to go to class and go on with their normal activities and instructed not to talk about the incident but it led to protests within the school.
A tour around the school showed that apart from demolishing the affected dormitory, no other measure was taken by the school administration to keep the students safe.
The school , is guarded by Lavington Security and has 10 guards with two dogs at any given night but according to students, there is only one watch lady assigned to guard their six dormitories.