Dinah Ondari and Winstone Chiseremi
Up to 42 secondary schools across the country had by yesterday been sucked into the raging wave of students unrest with stakeholders either groping for explanation, deflecting blame or blaming other parties for the mayhem even as they called for calm.
The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) is being fingered by teachers unions for the delocalisation of teachers programme while the Senate Committee on Education charged that the teachers employer is to blame for alleged poor policy implementation.
Schools administrators on the other hand railed at unruly students all too easily predisposed to acts of lawlessness but their charges are in turn accusing them of high handedness and narrowed space when it comes to expression and engagement.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), through Secretary General Wilson Sossion, and his Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) counterpart Akello Misori, claim the policy (delocalisation) should be revoked, claiming it was implemented without consultations.
Sossion said the mass transfer of principals from last December had destabilised schools and that the current strikes wave is a result of simmering tensions in schools and could, according to Knut, destroy the education sector.
Misori, while speaking to People Daily by telephone, urged the government to reconsider the policy, blaming it for the unrest even as he took a swipe at what he termed too much freedom given to students by the Education Act 2010, adding that it was the genesis of numerous strikes, fires and lies by students.
He disclosed that Kuppet was carrying out a study to determine the impact of national examinations on the socio-economic activities to determine whether the unrests were linked to fear of exams and warned that it is not the responsibility of students to identify who to teach them.
“It is the responsibility of the ministry and TSC to identify the leadership of schools and not students or parents. Where students are selecting who to teach them, I think this is a subject for investigation,” Misori said.
Sossion and Misori spoke hours after the Senate committee on education chaired by Christopher Lang’at (Bomet) blamed TSC for poor implementation strategy. He said before transferring head teachers, TSC should ensure it counsels students to prepare them for transfer of their principals.
“We urge the government to stop the delocalisation exercise for now as the students prepare for examinations,” said Langat.
The Senate committee also called for the formation of a national task force to take stock of the current unrest in public schools and prescribe a solution.
“We need to take stock at the national level where all stakeholders are present so that as a country, we can get to the bottom of the problem,” said Prof Sam Ongeri (Kisii).
And according to Sossion, the government ignored the opinion of stakeholders, including boards of management, the community, sponsors of school and religious leaders.
“The buck stops with the Ministry of Education and TSC which are the bodies concerned with formulation and implementation of policies. By the time students are demonstrating , there must be issues that have been simmering over time,” he said.
Sossion added that they had conducted a survey of 29 affected schools that in all the cases, students allegedly cited transfer of their principals which he said had affected 800 heads.
He termed Monday’s remarks by Kenya National Executive Council (Knec) chairman Prof George Magoha that the strikes were related to fear of exams as reckless.
But as both Sossion and the Senate committee urged students to stop the unrest, a section claimed their action was to protest authoritarian style of leadership by the school administration.
A student at Leseru Secondary School said their efforts to have dialogue with the administration failed prompting the unrest.
Seven students of the school linked to arson have since been arraigned at Eldoret law courts and released on a free bond pending the hearing of the case.