The mass exodus of teachers from North Eastern Kenya left untold suffering to children in the area. Nadir primary school, Fifa constituency in Garissa County is one of the worst hit. Currently they have only 197 students left in the school with only one teacher. To the pupils Mwangi Macharia is a hero. Macharia has taken up the role of the headmaster and teacher. He teaches all the subjects from class one to four. The school had enrolled 243 students by the beginning of the year but after the attack, the number has reduced to 197 students.
His colleagues, four of who are employed by TSC failed to return to the county early this year, following the killings of teachers in December 2014. The situation was worsened by the killing of 147 students, by al-Shabaab militants, at the Garissa University in April.
“I bring the students in one class and teach all of them together. I teach nursery classes in the morning and the rest in the afternoon. The best I can do on a day is two lessons per class,” says Macharia.
He says Nadir is the only school in the location and some students have to trek for close to six kilometers to reach the school. “It is not that I don’t care about my security but my main concern is the children who have a quench for education. My role as a teacher is to build some foundation for these children,” he says.
The school has no feeding programme and relies on parents and well-wishers to feed the children. He said the school last received food from the government in January and it only lasted for one month. And when the food is available, the pupils have to share it with the villagers.
Macharia also has to cater for two of the students who have special needs. One has a hearing impairment while the other is partially blind. “ Communication is very difficult but since the parents are not willing to take them to Garissa Special School, I do what I can to make sure they learn something,” says Macharia.
The situation is not any better at Hara boarding and primary school in Ijara sub county. Standard eight student Mohammed Abdi is busy teaching his classmates social studies. Never mind that the students might not understand the lesson. For them this is better than not learning anything at all.
“Since May, I have been volunteering to teach my colleagues. I am not happy about the teachers being away especially for us candidates. I hope they can come back,” begs Mohammed. Purity Kaimori, an early childhood development teacher from Meru Central is staying put and carrying on her duty of teaching nursery students in the school.
Kaimori comes to school every morning with her five-month-old baby since her house help left after the attacks.
Ali Ahmed Hassan, the headmaster, says only one teacher out of 12 reported to school and the school has 620 students. “The absence of makes maintaining discipline among the children very difficult. The school is currently best county school in KCPE exams. It has been for many years but this could be different for this year,” the head teacher says.
Garissa county director of education Adan Abdullahi said about 377 teachers in Garissa have deserted duties and this has resulted to 27 schools being closed.
“Those who are able have taken their children to private schools while others are crossing over to Tana River county,” he said.
Abdullahi however said the majority of the teachers were not sincere and their exit had nothing to do with insecurity.
“Some teachers are still in Garissa County yet they are not going to school. Some are running bodaboda and shop businesses but use insecurity to justify not going to class, yet they are still within the county,” he said.