Boni schools fail to reopen as teachers fear al Shabaab

Government officials make plans to airlift teachers who have declined to travel by road for fear of attacks.

In Summary
  • Bodhai, Kiangwe, Milimani, Mararani, Basuba and Mangai primary schools are located inside Boni forest.
  • At least 10 teachers posted to the schools by the Teachers Service Commission have not also reported to their duty stations.

All the six schools in terror-prone areas in Lamu county have remained shut as learning resumed nationwide on Monday.

Learners had been at home 10 months after the government shut down schools in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bodhai, Kiangwe, Milimani, Mararani, Basuba and Mangai primary schools are located inside the Boni forest. All their learners are from the minority Boni community.

At least 10 teachers posted to the schools by the Teachers Service Commission have not reported to duty. It remains unknown when the schools will be able to reopen even as the future of over 500 Boni learners hang in the balance.

County Education director Joshua Kaaga confirmed that the schools had not reopened like the rest. He said the major obstacle faced by teachers was travel challenges.

Kaaga, however, indicated that a meeting had been convened between the teachers, the TSC and the county security to look into how the staff will be transported to the schools.

He said there is a high chance that the teachers will be airlifted by police helicopters before the end of the week.

“The issue is travel. They can’t move by road for fear of being attacked by al Shabaab. We are looking at how best to facilitate that,” Kaaga said.

Lamu county commissioner Irungu Macharia echoed similar sentiments, saying plans were underway to transport the teachers.

“Normally, we rely on military choppers here to ferry teachers, but this time round there were some delays, which are being sorted out. Learning will start before close of this week,” he said.

In 2015, the government launched Operation Linda Boni to flush out the militants believed to be holed up inside the forest. The militants were blamed for frequent terror attacks.

During the attacks, some of the schools' basic amenities were torched. The militants also scared away teachers, leaving the community with a struggling education sector.

Over six years on, the government has recorded tremendous gains against the militants and assured that the areas are safe for learners and teachers.

While the other Kenyan learners have been home for 10 months, the Boni learner has missed out on school for close to eight years and the failure to reopen only serves to dampen their hopes of achieving their academic dreams.

All the schools had just been reopened in January last year when the coronavirus struck, prompting the government to order closure of all schools countrywide. 

Sanura Ali, a Standard 5 pupil at Mangai Primary School, says she has not given up on her dream of becoming a nurse despite the challenges she encounters in her journey towards her goal.

“I will be a nurse. I know and I will wait no matter what. I believe things will not always be like this and that one day our schools will open and I will complete my primary studies and proceed,” she said.

Parents from the Boni community have appealed to the government to train and deploy local teachers to the areas, instead of relying on teachers from outside who are still scared to work there.

“We understand the fears the teachers have and that’s why we want our own youth trained to teach here. Our children have missed out on so much and it saddens us to think that we might never really achieve what we wanted for them,” said Abdalla Guyo,a parent at Basuba Primary School.

Fauz Muhsin said his 12-year-old daughter has been in Grade 4 since 2014 and worries that she might just get tired of waiting and do something bad.

“She was 12 and in Class Four in 2014. Now she is 18 years old and still in Class Four. I have spoken with her and she feels she is too old for that class now. She says it will be embarrassing for her to go back to that class and I can't blame her. Time went on and our kids changed and still, the worst doesn’t seem to have left us,”  Muhsin said.

Edited by Henry Makori