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Somali children crossing into Kenya to get education

The Senate Committee on National Security was in Mandera County on a fact-finding tour into last year's bus and quarry attacks. Photo/ CORRESPONDENT

The Senate Committee on National Security was in Mandera County on a fact-finding tour into last year’s bus and quarry attacks. Photo/ CORRESPONDENT

NAIROBI, Kenya Jan 21 – Free Primary Education (FPE) could be contributing to the increased number of illegal immigrants crossing into Kenya from Somalia, a Senate Committee has been told.

The Senate Committee on National Security which is in Mandera County on a fact-finding tour into the bus and quarry attacks that took place late last year, were told that majority of the students who attend schools near the Kenyan border are Somalis.

When the Senators conducted a spot check of the Mandera Border Control Post, they witnessed many students crossing the border – at non designated points – from Somalia and into Kenya to attend classes at Township Primary School.

“Almost 70 percent of students in the schools next to the borders are Somalis. They are more keen on education than the Kenyan Somalis because they know once they are about to sit for their KCPE they will get birth certificates in order to register for the national exams,” said a KDF soldier stationed at the border control point who spoke to the press on condition of anonymity.

“With a Kenyan birth certificate and result slip, they go through the system and when they turn 18, there’s nothing to stop them from getting a Kenyan ID. And with such a person you cannot know where his loyalties lie,” he added.

Led by Security Committee Chairman Yusuf Haji (Garissa) the delegation met with non-local teachers, County Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and KNUT representatives just before concluding their week-long tour.

Other leaders included Senate Deputy Speaker Kembi Gitura (Murang’a), G.G. Kariuki (Laikipia), James Orengo (Siaya), Billow Kerrow (Mandera), Mike Sonko (Nairobi), and Fatuma Dullo (Nominated).

During the meeting, Mandera County Senator Billow Kerrow put them to task to explain why Somali students were being admitted into Kenyan schools without being processed via the Immigration Department.

“Many citizens of Somalia are taking advantage of the Free Primary Education Programme. Owing to the failure of the Immigration Department, the students are registered for KCPE as Kenyan citizens and compete with Kenyan students for placement in schools across the country,” said Mandera DEB Headmaster, Mohamed Farah.

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Farah explained that, ideally, registers of students to be enrolled from Somalia and Ethiopia should be submitted from the schools to the Immigration Department for registration as foreign students.

Once processed through immigration the students would then be required to pay requisite fees before attending Kenyan schools.

FPE was implemented in January 2003 by the government of then-President Mwai Kibaki with the aim of providing more opportunities to the poor children of school-going age, whose parents or guardians could not afford formal education.

Mandera County has 188 primary schools and 41 high schools.

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