Members of the Boni community in Lamu have criticised the county government for failing to distribute funds to send their children to school.
Secondary schools sent children back home for lack of first-term fees amounting to more than Sh8 million. But elders, led by their MCA Barissa Deko, asked why sponsorship funds have not been released. They said the problem has persisted for years.
“Being a minority community means even our students are just a handful. That’s why we’re shocked that their fee arrears have amounted to millions. All our students are at home as we speak and we want to know why money has not been been allocated for their education,” Deko said.
County Education chief officer Shee Sagara dismissed claims the county had failed to pay fees for the Boni students. He said their identification has been infiltrated by non-Bonis who seek to have their children benefit at the expense of genuine Bonis. Sagara said he will meet school heads this week to fix the problem.
“We recently paid Sh15,000 for each of the 165 Boni children in the secondary schools, including Mokowe, Witu, Hindi, Kiunga and Lamu Boys. We are just discovering that the number of listed Boni students keeps fluctuating. Parents who are not Bonis are listing themselves as Boni in a bid to get free fees. It’s selfish,” he said.
This year, the county government doubled the annual bursary allocation from Sh60 million to Sh120 million. The funds were to be distributed equally to its 10 wards. The county committed to offering full scholarships for students from the Boni community because many parents are poor.
The Bonis are traditionally hunters and gatherers. For decades, they have relied on Boni Forest for their survival. It was declared a no-go zone by the government after al Shabaab invaded it. A security operation has been underway since 2015 to flush out the militants. The community was urged to adopt other livelihoods.
Meanwhile, all primary schools in the terror-prone Basuba ward have remained closed even as other schools across Kenya opened for the first term on January 3.
Pupils and teachers of Basuba, Mararani, Mangai, Kiangwe and Milimani primary schools have stayed away since 2015 because of frequent al Shabaab attacks.