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January 21, 2019

St Paul's Gekano a pale shadow of former self

Form one students in one of the classrooms with a damaged floor.
Form one students in one of the classrooms with a damaged floor.

ST Paul’s Gekano High School was once an academic giant in Nyamira county but not anymore.

Tattered floors, broken windowpanes, dilapidated buildings and cows grazing in the fields welcome you to the once glamorous school. The only storey building at the school is condemned but still in use.

St Paul's Gekano, according to Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire, an alumni of the school, has gone to the dogs and is in intensive care unit.

“I’m ashamed at the state of the onetime education giant. The school is in a pathetic state which needs urgent intervention,” Bosire says.

The school, founded in 1964, was among the best performing schools in the 1980s and early 1990s but is currently nowhere to be seen.

The school’s population has reduced from more than 800 to 182, according to the principal Phillip Ochoi.

Interference from the Catholic Church which sponsors the school, wrangles among the board of governors and poor administration has been blamed for the school’s decline.

The Catholic Church and other faith-based sponsors are always at loggerheads with ministry of education officials and politicians over the posting of headteachers.

Other Catholic-sponsored schools whose performance have declined include St John’s Nyamagwa, Cardinal Otunga High School, Mosocho and St Kizito, Nyansiongo.

However, Kisii diocese education secretary Christopher Osinde says declining performance does not affect all Catholic-sponsored schools.

“Not all Catholic schools are performing badly in national examinations so it is wrong for anybody to use a few to demonstrate that all are not performing well,” he told the Star on phone.

He however admitted that Nyamwagwa and Cardinal Otunga have problems which the ministry of education has been told to solve.

Gekano’s facilities are dilapidated and the school looks like a cattle grazing field.

Bosire, an ODM MP and former senior economist in the ministry of planning, recently visited Gekano which is situated in Manga district.

“I am shocked that my former school which used to produce top performers is no longer the institution I knew. I can only conclude that it is in ICU,” Bosire said.

“It is more disturbing that the institution which used to admit more than 800 students has about 182 students. The population indicates that the school has completely lost its image,” said the MP.

During the tour, Bosire said the former giant school looks like a village polytechnic.

Bosire said the school’s environment alone is a clear signal that it requires serious attention because its filthiness is a health hazard not only to the students but the entire community.

“The school needs radical surgery to be back to where it was,” he added.

He said junior schools like the neighbouring  Nyambaria Boys have outshined the former academic giant.

Nyambaria Boys has since been upgraded to a national school. The MP was angered after he established that some teachers were raring animals in the school compound.

He directed that the cows be removed from the school compound. As a measure to improve the school's academic standards, Bosire directed the principal to ensure that no teacher keeps animals in the school compound and that all the nappier grass be uprooted and grass planted.

“We cannot have teachers compounds look like they are in the middle of the bush. All the nappier grass should be uprooted and grass planted.  No teacher should be allowed to keep animals in the school compound,” Bosire said.

“It is like the teachers have turned to private businesses because they give attention to the animals instead of concentrating in their work. You can see every teacher’s compound is full of nappier grass,” Bosire added.

He said last year’s KCSE mean grade of 6.4 demonstrated that the institution was in the intensive care unit. He called for concerted efforts from all stakeholders to change the school's fortunes.

Among the top personalities the school has produced include Dr John Omiti who is the principal policy analyst (head of division) at Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research, Prof  Nyabuti Keraro (lecturer Egerton University), and Dr Monda Swara, a lecturer Moi University.

The school has also produced top notch lawyers, journalists and other professionals.

“The school has produced many people who occupy senior positions in the republic of Kenya so it should not be forgotten,” Bosire said.

Nyamira county director of education Alex Cheruiyot said the institution needs a total revamp, saying the buck stops with the teachers and stakeholders.

“Business will not be as usual so it is upon you teachers to look where the rain started beating you. We cannot tolerate such kind of performance and enrollment,” Cheruiyot said.

On the request by Ochoi to have more teachers, Cheruiyot told him that the institution does not require more teachers because the population is too low.

“The school requires an enrollment of more students because it is the number which can speak but for now it cannot happen considering the low population. You need to strive to increase the enrollment,” Cheruiyot said.

A teacher, who sought anonymity, claimed that the principal has been making decisions without involving them.

He also claimed that two of the cows in the compound belong to the principal’s friend who is a teacher in a neighbouring school in Kisii county.

He further claimed that the school charged students Sh8,000 for remedial lessons which he said is illegal.

On teachers' meals, the teacher said they eat common meals with students because the principal does not care about their welfare.

“The school has 15 TSC teachers who the principal does not involve in decision-making thus affecting the effective running of the institution,” he said.

Following the myriad challenges facing the school, Bosire said he has set aside funds to be in used in revamping it.

An old boy, David Gichana, says former deputy principal Maurice Otunga — now principal at Ringa Boys in Homa Bay County — should be recalled to revive the school.

“To remove this school from the current situation, we need Otunga. He was a strict administrator and born leader who was respected and feared by students at the same time,” said Gichana.

Makini Makini, another old boy, said the school’s old boys should come together to support the school. “I’m ready to co-ordinate old boys in reviving the school. The situation we are in now is totally unacceptable,” he told the Star.

However, the St Paul’s Gekano Old Boys Association has remained dormant since it was formed.

Makini emphasizes the need for a strong association of old boys. “I have seen old boys do wonders in their former schools and we should do it as a way of giving back to society,” Makini said.

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