Crackdown on schools lays bare sorry state pupils endure
Harrison Kivisu and Viola Kosome
It is drizzling on a Thursday morning, dark clouds cover the sky as Loise Gathuki arrives at Junda Academy, a private school in Freretown, Mombasa county. She is accompanied by her two children, aged seven and 10, dressed in school uniform.
But as she leads them through the narrow path to the school compound, Gathuki’s worst fears are confirmed. Junda Academy, which opened its doors in 2006, is flooded. They cannot get into the classroom because the entire school is marooned in floodwaters following heavy rains that have hit the area.
All possible routes to the classrooms are blocked and the only option is for the children is to remove shoes and wade through the floodwater.
The floodwater is a mix of rainwater and raw sewage as all septic tanks are now overflowing. But Gathuki just wants her children in the class. “I know the safety of my children should be paramount, but I cannot get them out of school. Sometimes, I fear the outbreak of waterborne diseases. But what do I do?” she asks.
At this point, Gathuki opts to sink her feet into the dirty water carrying her children shoulder high to the classroom in spite of the dangers she might be subjecting them to.
But on reaching the doorstep, the rooms are flooded, too. She returns home. It is a wasted trip because the buildings, including the classrooms, are submerged in water.
“This has been the situation for years; toilets and classrooms become flooded and pupils bear the brunt as they are forced to return home for the day,” says Gathuki.
Caroline Nabwire, the school headteacher, says the institution has neither playground nor fence.
It borders rental houses and learners are forced to contend with loud music playing from neighbouring houses.
The security of the children is questionable, but business here goes on as usual.
“The biggest challenge we have floods, but we have enough infrastructure to sustain our children.
Our fees range between Sh2,000 per term for pre-Primary One pupils and Sh4,000 to Sh5,000 for higher grades,” says Nabwire.
Jedali Academy, another private school, also in Kisimani area, shares similar challenges. It occupies a residential house, which has been turned into classrooms.
When it rains, it pours as the school becomes completely inaccessible and sometimes children have to stay home for up to two weeks for floods to subside.
It has no playground for its 200 pupils. “The biggest challenge we have is that our school is congested.
Space is limited and when it rains, it becomes inaccessible,” says Chadwick Ochwada, the school headteacher.
Here, a Class Eight pupil (a candidate for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam) pays Sh7,000 per term, being while the rest pay between Sh4,000 and Sh5,000.
At Greenfield School, in Changamwe, Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha came face to face with the sorry state of infrastructure at the facility where 445 pupils were learning.
The school, with semi-permanent storey structures is a lurking danger. Sitting on an eighth-of-an-acre plot, its the classrooms are built of iron sheets and timber, with only two toilets for the entire population.
No wonder it was ordered closed and all the pupils transferred to nearby Umoja Primary School.
Down in Kisumu County, various sprawling slums in Kisumu town, makeshift classrooms have been put up to accommodate learners seeking education.
Obunga, Manyatta and Nyalenda slums host a number of private Early Childhood Development Education classes and primary schools that offer education to those who avoid populated local public institutions.
Nearly all of the schools visited are built of iron sheets and timber despite the management charging exorbitant school fees.
A manager at one institution, who sought anonymity, disclosed to People Daily they spent “huge sums of money” on some ministry officials to acquire their licences.
“The process of getting a licence is not easy, but you know in this country, you can use other means to get things done.
I cannot divulge more details,” said one of the managers. The private institutions charge between Sh10,000 and Sh13,000 per term as school fees.
Until last week, more than 10,000 students were out of school following a government directive to close sub-standard schools.
This is after a classroom block collapsed at Nairobi’s Precious Talents Top Academy, killing eight pupils a few weeks ago.
Education officials were directed to audit the safety of school buildings, their registration status and compliance with set guidelines. Over 2,000 schools had been closed by last week.
After closing non-compliant schools, the officials were to relocate learners to nearby public schools.
The exercise was expected to end last Friday as schools close. A report will then be sent to Education PS Belio Kipsang by October 31.