Unease as strikes hit schools again

Daniel Ogendo and  Mathew Ndungu   

The perennial bug that bites secondary schools in Kenya during the second term has struck once again. Wildcat strikes have so far erupted in learning institutions in Machakos, Kiambu, Kilifi,Marsbit and Kisumu counties. Property worth millions of shillings has been destroyed after fires burnt down dormitories, staffrooms and classrooms.

The latest incident occurred at Kamutua Secondary School in Gatundu South in Kiambu county last week, where buildings were reduced to ashes after a fire razed down a dormitory. The boys’ mixed day and boarding institution has 80 boarders.

The fire tragedy is suspected to have started as students undertook their evening studies in classrooms and spread quickly. Residents of Gitwe and Kamutua villages helped to put out the fierce fire but the boys had to spend the night in cold classrooms.

Gatundu Sub county director of education Joseph Karanja, who visited the school, said the boarders were sent home to report back this week with their parents even as the school’s Board of Management comes up with a way forward. The cause of the fire is yet to be established and no injuries were reported.

In Kyanguli School in Machakos county, more than 210 students went on the rampage, smashing windows of all the classrooms and offices. They accused the school administration of confiscating 20 mobile phones, a bottle of paraffin, alcohol and condoms from the dormitories.

Kibwezi sub-county Education Officer Kennedy Machora said the rowdy students also vandalised the school’s electrical system. “The students were demanding back their mobile phones but the school administration declined, causing the riot,” he said. Teachers had conducted the search after a section of the students became restless and started stealing laboratory equipment. The school was closed indefinitely.

A week ago, six non-local teachers at Chalbi Boys High School in Marsabit were beaten severely by unruly students and have been nursing injuries, with one in critical condition. Maikona Deputy County Commissioner Stephen Kavulu was reported saying the students attacked the teachers as they prepared for morning classes. The school has been closed indefinitely.

In Nyanza region, three schools— Kisumu Girls, Ng’iya Girls and Maranda Boys were closed indefinitely within a span of three days as a result of students’ unruly behaviour. Kisumu Girls was shut down after students boycotted classes and damaged property, accusing the management of high-handedness and running down the institution.

Tension was also reported at Nyakach Girls High school, but according to education officials, the student’s grievances were promptly addressed. Nyanza Regional Education Coordinator Richard Chepkwai said they decided to send Maranda High School students home to prevent any damage due to rising tension among them.

The schools closure came hours after Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang in Nairobi warned the students against causing unrest in schools, saying those found culpable will be treated as criminals. “Preliminary investigations indicate that these cases of unrest are due to panic over exams set to start in a few months,” said the PS.

Kipsang’ cited the tight examination regulations as one of the factors that is frightening some of the unprepared students in the affected schools. “No amount of threat from students will make us back from fighting exams irregularities in schools,” he said.

Leaders from Nyanza led by Kisumu county Commissioner Pauline Dola, Kisumu County Director Sabina Aroni and County Women Representative Rosa Buyu asked students in the region to stop sideshows and instead focus on their studies. The leaders cautioned students against engaging in violent riot at school when they feel aggrieved, saying it is their parents who will have to pay for damages.

Further, Aroni directed school heads to report to the concerned authorities early enough when they detect any discontent from the students to avoid destruction of property. “I appeal to students to look into better ways of airing their grievances instead of engaging into violent protests and damaging of property. The students should report their grievance to theirprincipals or other school management,” she added.

Kisumu County Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers (Kuppet) branch Executive Secretary Zablon Awange urged the Ministry of Education to speed up investigations into the cases of students’ unrest. “We have barely three months remaining to KCSE exams and candidates should be tuned and fully be prepared for an examination,” he said. 

Thika region Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) secretary general Joe Mungai blames second term pressure on students by their teachers for the wave of unrest. Mungai said many schools want their learners to have completed the syllabus by the end of June so that teachers can commence revision classes.”Unfortunately, this wears down students and could lead to fatigue,” he said.

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