UNCERTAINTY

Fate of learners in vandalised schools in the North Rift hangs in the balance

Some of the institutions, which were shut down two years ago after persistent killings and attacks, have remained closed

In Summary
  • Learners and teachers have kept off the schools fearing for their lives
  • This despite promises by the government to reopen and reconstruct the  schools that were vandalised by marauding bandits in the region
Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki clearing bushes during a tour at Cheptulel Boys Secondary School and Sapulmoi Primary School in Sigor Constituency in West Pokot County on December 27, 2023
Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki clearing bushes during a tour at Cheptulel Boys Secondary School and Sapulmoi Primary School in Sigor Constituency in West Pokot County on December 27, 2023
Image: MINA

The fate of learners in more than 50 schools closed as a result of insecurity in the North Rift remains uncertain, as the vice is still rampant. 

This, despite promises by the government to reopen and reconstruct the  schools that were vandalised by marauding bandits in the region.

These include schools in West Pokot, Turkana, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Samburu and Laikipia counties.   

The worst hit are in Baringo and West Pokot, which were shut down two years ago after persistent killings and attacks.

Vandalised property, destroyed empty desks and scattered books on the floors of classrooms characterise the schools, whose compounds are marked by overgrown grass, fallen twigs and anthills. 

Pitpath primary school headteacher Musa Kariwoi said the fate of learners remains unknown, adding that the population of teachers and learners in the region has drastically dropped.

Affected institutions include Chesegon, Cheptulel and Karon primary schools, Cheptulel Boys secondary in West Pokot and Sapulmoi primary and Kissa ECD schools in Central Pokot sub-county.

Others are Lonyangalem, Ptoh, Kases, Takaywa, Lonyanyalem, Pough, Kour and Songok primary schools in Pokot North sub-county. 

Learners and teachers have kept off the schools fearing for their lives. 

This is despite efforts by the Kenya Defence Forces supported by National Youth Service to partially rehabilitate the schools, after the Government set aside Sh100 million for the exercise last year. 

A spot-check by the Star established that learners in schools in Pokot Central sub-county failed to sit for their 2023 KCPE and Kenya Primary School Education Assessment exams due to banditry.

Residents described the closure of schools as unfortunate.

Helen Nichola, a parent, said education has been adversely affected as they have been forced to hide out in the bushes fearing for their lives. 

"High levels of poverty have aggravated the situation as parents have no funds to educate their children, causing many to drop out of school," she said.

The situation was no different in Baringo, where uncertainty hangs over the fate of 14 closed schools.

More than 10 people have been killed in Baringo North and South in the past six months alone.

At least 2,000 people have fled their homes in the two sub-counties, as tensions persists despite heavy deployment of security personnel. 

In Baringo North, the worst hit are Saimo-Soi and Bartabwa wards, where locals have sought refuge in areas such as Moinonin, Loruk and Roormoi.

Kagir, Yatya, Ng'aratuko, Tuluk, Chepkessin and Kibenot schools have remained closed.

It also emerged that two teachers and three learners were among those who have been shot dead by armed bandits.

During his tour of West Pokot in April, President William Ruto assured residents that KDF will rehabilitate the affected schools.

Ruto, who spoke during the launch of a cement manufacturing factory at Sebit area, said the troops and other security agencies would rehabilitate the schools before learners reopened for this term.

But residents and leaders have raised concern over the delay in releasing the funds meant for the rehabilitation exercise, to allow the reopening of  the schools.

Chesegon Technical Institute - that was under construction - stalled due to attacks and now houses security officers.

Yesterday, West Pokot Governor Simon Kachapin called for peaceful coexistence to enable learners to stay in the region and resume school.

"We are collaborating with the national government to make sure the affected schools reopen and are provided with enough security," Kachapin told the Star on phone.

He said leaders will ensure that all the schools that were affected by insecurity are opened. 

Sigor MP Peter Lochakapong said there is need to beef up security in schools.

“The government promised to make sure that the schools will be reopened. We need KDF in the area. We need reconstruction of the schools,” he said.

Following banditry attacks and resultant deaths last year, the government rolled out a security operation to restore calm.   

Police, assisted by the military, conducted the operation.

But some leaders have decried the government’s "lack of commitment to tackling banditry", alleging that some security officers collude with criminals and misuse allocated resources.

They demanded for investigation of the security officers whom they claimed are abetting banditry. 

Tiaty MP William Kamket yesterday said funds meant for operations against criminals were being misappropriated.

"There is need for legislative measures to safeguard the National Police Reservists Unit and redefine their roles, as well as clearer delineation of constituency and county borders to mitigate conflicts arising from uncontrolled grazing," Kamket said. 

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star