NAIROBI, July 25 – The government said Friday that efforts to ensure a return to normalcy in the schools affected by the wave of students’ unrest over the last two months in the country were top on its agenda.
In a statement, Education Permanent Secretary Karega Mutahi said that only 254 schools had been affected dismissing earlier reports that over 300 institutions had been caught up in the fracas. This, he added, represented 4.5 percent of secondary schools in the country.
The statement further indicated that 66 schools had already reopened while 25 others had partially resumed operations. The remaining 163 schools were still closed.
“For those that have experienced violence, opening will depend on the programmes drawn by their respective Boards of Governors. In such cases, screening of students will take place before the opening days set,” Karega informed.
In a bid to water down the reported extent of the crisis, the PS indicated that many of the schools had closed in order to reduce tension arising from strikes from neighboring schools. The reopening of these schools, he ordered, should be unconditional.
“The number remains low because students themselves have become vigilant in detecting those who want to disrupt learning,” he said.
According to statistics released by the Education Ministry, Central Province recorded the highest number of unrests at 68 schools, followed by Rift Valley with 55 schools and Eastern at 53. Nyanza recorded 27 incidents while Coast and Nairobi experienced 24 and 19 school strikes respectively. No disturbances were recorded in North Eastern Province.
The PS said that security forces would continue to apprehend those who participated in the destruction of property and present them for trial. He added that more students who are in police custody would be taken to court soon. Nearly one hundred students have been arraigned in court in the last one week to answer to charges of either arson or planning to commit a felony.
The move has attracted diverse opinions.
Maendeleo ya Wanawake (MYWO) dismissed the government’s decision to suspend, expel or take students who participated in the unrests to court. Chairperson, Rukia Subow said the government should first have investigated the causes of the unrests and given solutions before pointing fingers at the students.
She further called on parents, teachers, and the government to bear collective responsibility for the strikes and stop shifting blame to one another.
“Some of our legislators who are now seriously debating the school unrests, are the same ones who rebelled police orders and went matching on the streets just the other day, why make laws that you yourselves cannot follow?” she asked.
Subow also said effects of post election violence should not be ruled out since children watched images of antagonism, inhumanity and the carelessness that took place where even some politicians were involved.
Rukia also appealed to the students to stop making unrealistic demands and stop focusing on comfort in school instead concentrate on getting education.
Despite the government measures, cases of unrest continue. On Friday, students at Timbila Boys High School in Taita Taveta set ablaze a Sh2 million laboratory. According to a witness who spoke to Capital News the fire started at around 2am and destroyed everything in the facility.
Youth Affairs Minister Hellen Sambili on Friday added her voice to the reintroduction of the cane as a way of enhancing discipline in the schools.
“Kenyans from all walks of life are keen to get a solution to this problem because the youth of Kenya are our resource,” she said.
The educationist said she would give her recommendations to the Parliamentary Committee on Education which she hinted would include a review of the curriculum. She appealed to students to embrace dialogue in addressing their grievances.
Already a member of the Education committee, Voi MP Dan Mwazo, has supported the introduction of caning.
"Children must be disciplined and there is no way other than caning them," he said.