NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 25 – The Children’s Court on Monday gave the parents of the eight Sunshine Secondary School students arrested on Friday night, a week to reach an out-of court settlement with the school’s management or have their children charged on August 2.
Cliff Ombeta and Jason Ombioga, acting for the students, had applied to have their plea taking deferred to allow their parents conclude negotiations with the school’s management for the withdrawal of its complaint against the students.
They informed the court that the negotiations commenced on Saturday immediately following the arrest of the students on Friday night for attempting to burn their dorm.
The students drawn from form one to three, were later released into their parents’ custody by Chief Magistrate Lucy Gitari on personal bonds of Sh50,000 each.
Ombeta and Ombioga had implored her to do so as no school property was actually destroyed and to keep the students from being “hardened” by the criminal justice system.
They also argued that it was best practice to encourage alternative dispute resolution.
Meanwhile seven students from Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School were charged with arson on suspicion of setting school property worth thousands of shillings on fire over the weekend.
They denied the charge and were released on a cash bail of Sh20,000 each.
Four dorms at the Lang’ata Boys High School was also set ablaze this past weekend with similar incidents taking place at Ruiga Girls, Liani Secondary, Kijabe High School and Ndanai Girls and at the Kodero Bara High School on Monday morning.
Reporting to the Senate last week on the large number of school fires witnessed in this term alone, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i blamed, in part, the failure by authorities to hold errant students accountable.
“Between 2007 and to date as we sit here, we’ve had over 317 fires in the country; cases of arson in schools. We don’t even have 20 successful prosecutions including in very serious cases such as in Nyeri High School were prefects were burnt. Arson is a crime. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a crime.”
The Kenya National Union of Teachers has called for the early closure of schools this second term but Matiang’i has played down the insinuation that the extension of second term is to blame for the over 70 fires witnessed in the term alone.