PEACEFUL PROTEST

Moi Girls shut down, striking students want principal out

Accuse principal of arrogance and mistreatment, cite daily power shortages, lack of food or poor food, cutting shade trees

In Summary

• Police on standby but student meetings, protests peaceful. Girls told police,  senior government officials they were responsible nd would not damage property.

• They demand removal of principal for alleged arrogance and harassment. She declined comment. Students cite power outages, little and poor food.  

Students carrying placards during the strike at Moi Girls High School Eldoret on Wednesday, February.
ON STRIKE: Students carrying placards during the strike at Moi Girls High School Eldoret on Wednesday, February.
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI

The government has indefinitely shut down prestigious Moi Girls High School in Eldoret following a peaceful strike by students demanding the removal of the principal.

Uasin Gishu director of education Gitonga Mbaka said some of the students' issues would require time to resolve, hence, the need to shut down the national school. He said the problems could not be solved in a short time.

Mbaka said the students have until Thursday to vacate. He announced the closure on Wednesday amid protests after a crisis meeting.

The school founded in 1928 has about 700 students.

Kenyan schools have been swept by a wave of unrest and arson.

The students are demanding the removal of principal Christine Chumba whom they accused of mismanagement and harassing them and staff.

Chumba declined to comment on accusations against her.

Students also complained about lack of food or no food, frequent electricity blackouts and the cutting down of big 'iconic' shade trees. They said they were not treated with respect.

A student leader addressing her a meeting during the strike at Moi Girls High School Eldoret on February 17.
MOI GIRLS A student leader addressing her a meeting during the strike at Moi Girls High School Eldoret on February 17.
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI

It was the first time in many years that Moi Girls students have gone on strike.

Mbaka said the full school board would meet Thursday to discuss the crisis and possibly announce a date for reopening.

"We have made a unanimous decision and there is no argument about that," Mbaka said, as students protested there was no need to shut down the school.

They had promised police and senior government officials the strike would be peaceful and they would not damage property. They said they were responsible enough to protest maturely.

“We have no problem with school property and we are mature enough to know that violence does not help. In fact, we have been so patient as the principal frustrated us," a student leader told the Star.

Students of Moi Girls carrying placards during the strike at the school on February 17.
GIRLS STRIKE: Students of Moi Girls carrying placards during the strike at the school on February 17.
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI

"All we want is her removal so Moi Girls remains the respected school it is," she said.

The school board called a crisis meeting as the students refused to resume classes until the principal was removed.

The principal is supposed to be our mother. But we have reached a situation where whenever we see her we have to run away.
A student leader 

Police were called to monitor the situation and remained at the school gate where the students camped after they were stopped from protesting in Eldoret town.

Students said the school was being run down by the administration and demanded the return of the former principal.

Uasin Gishu deputy county commissioner Charles Laboso and Mbaka had rushed to the school where they calmed the students and asked them to express their grievances.

Students at Moi Girls carrying placards during the strike at the school on February 17th
MOI 2 Students at Moi Girls carrying placards during the strike at the school on February 17th
Image: BY MATHEWS NDANYI

The students carried placards accusing the principal of being arrogant with them and staff. They said the staff was unhappy and the school was mismanaged to the extent that they sometimes go without food.

They said there had been daily power shortages at night for unknown reasons.

“The principal is supposed to be our mother when we are here. But we have reached a situation where whenever we see her we have to run away. Even our teachers and support staff are harassed and there is no peace to facilitate learning," another student leader told the Star.

The students also accused the principal of destroying the environment in the school by cutting down what they termed as iconic trees that provide coolness and comfort.

“Whenever we have personal issues, many of us go under those trees to relax and reflect on life yet she wants the school to be a desert without trees. We value our environment and we can not allow her to destroy trees planted by students," one girl said.

Laboso said they were surprised by the students' maturity and urged them to maintain same attitude while they are out of school.

“We are amazed at how you as students value the environment and we hope you will do so always throughout your life," he said.

(Edited by V. Graham)