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Saturday, June 24, 2017

[VIDEO] Mr President, end this school madness

Nyahururu High School students with boxes salvaged after their dormitory caught fi re yesterday. / BOB MURIUKI
Nyahururu High School students with boxes salvaged after their dormitory caught fi re yesterday. / BOB MURIUKI

The National Intelligence Service has advised President Uhuru Kenyatta to immediately close all public secondary schools, saying more arson is planned in the next few days.

The Star has learnt the report to Uhuru and Education CS on Tuesday warned that schools should shut before week's end to prevent further destruction.

The hot spots for more fires are Rift Valley, Central, Kisii and Nyamira, the report said.

NIS is helping investigate possible links among principals, teachers, students, residents, politicians, local suppliers and exam leaks cartels in arson areas.

A major announcement is expected soon. Matiang'i told journalists yesterday he will give a comprehensive report on school unrest today.

The TSC yesterday said it will accelerate transfer or "delocalising" staff to reduce conflicts. Much unrest and arson occur in schools where most teachers are local, deeply entrenched and involved in competing community interests. These spill over into schools and affect students.

All principals and deputies will be required to reside in school premises, commission CEO Nancy Macharia announced.

In the last two months, more than 100 school dormitories and other facilities have been destroyed in arson fires. Several students have been injured.

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More than 200 students and teachers, mostly students, have been arrested and arraigned for arson, conspiracy to commit arson or attempted arson.

Property damage is estimated at more than Sh500 million. The government says parents will pay for reconstruction and refurnishing.

Matiang'i has blamed cartels involved in leakage of exam materials. Some students have told police they "lack oxygen" — leaked exams — and so they set fires because they fear they will fail tests.

Today head teachers will hold a crisis meeting at the ministry of education over school strikes and arson. Talks will involve the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association, the Teachers Service Commission and ministry officials.

They will review their findings on causes of the fires — from bad management, bad canteen food and a ban on watching soccer to strict measures put in place to end cheating. These curbs, which include changes to the school calendar and restricted contact with outsiders, have encountered strong opposition.

A report by secondary school heads attributed arson and violence to drug abuse by students, political interference, laws too lenient to minor offenders, parents failing to provide moral guidance and anxiety over exams and fear of failure.

Thirteen students charged with burning dorms at Lang’ata Boys High School are being held at the Kamiti juvenile remand home while police investigate.

On Tuesday night, dorms at six schools went up in smoke — s Nyahururu High, St Stephen Secondary in Narok, Giakaibii High School in Nyeri, Merti Muslim Girls Secondary in Isiolo, Adega Mixed Secondary in Homa Bay, and St Patrick's School Iten in Elgeyo-Marakwet county.

Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion, Kuppet chairman Omboko Milemba an, two parents association support school closure.

However, CS Matiang'i, Kenya Secondary School Heads Association chairman John Awiti and Knut chairman Mudzo Nzili oppose closure.

Schools were to close on August 5, but the term has been extended to August 12, angering students.

On July 20, Matiang’i and Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery named an eight-member team to investigate the arson fires. The Claire Omolo-led team is to submit a report in 30 days.

In mid-May, Matiang'i announced radical measures to end cheating, putting head teachers under contract to take charge of schools as examination centers. School heads will work closely with carefully selected supervisors. T

"School boards alongside heads and supervisors will take full responsibilities for any exam malpractices," Matiang'i said.

Yesterday, the heads chairman Awiti defended head teachers and teachers from accusations they are involved in arson.

“The destruction should not be allowed to go on. There is no need for speculation because student unrest takes place every second term,” Awiti said. No tangible evidence links dormitory arson to cheating, he said.

Awiti said dialogue like one with TSC is the only solution.

Matiang'i is also scheduled to meet with religious groups and secondary school heads today (tomorrow) to discuss the problem and explore long-term solutions.

 


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