NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 1 – About 140 civil society groups in the education sector on Thursday threw their weight behind Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i’s position that schools should not close prematurely because arson incidents in about 130 schools.
Under the umbrella of Elimu Yetu Coalition, representatives of the organisations said closing the schools will set the wrong precedent and also destabilise the education system.
“We have also evidence that by closing schools, the sector will collapse or will be precipitating and falling into the same trap such that where there flimsy reasons schools will close,” Elimu Yetu Coalition Chair Daniel Wesonga explained.
Based on preliminary findings following the fire outbreaks, the coalition deemed that risks to children in affected schools was not high and that it was possible to control or stop such incidents from taking place.
They further felt that closing all schools in the country because of the 130 schools will not be addressing the reasons that led to the action taken by students.
The Coalition’s National Coordinator Janet Muthoni explained that allowing all students to go home would be an unfair decision because 99 percent of students had not burnt their schools.
“There is evidence that there are 9,200 schools that have not been burnt, so I don’t think we should be panicking because about 1 percent of the schools are a little bit unstable,” she explained.
Furthermore, she explained children were meant to be in school and forcing them to go home will not address their education needs and address challenges they have been venting about.
“I don’t think you close your work where there is a fire. You address the fire and then continue working. We don’t think it is right for the children to be at home, if the school closes now it will disorganise the whole programme,” she explained.
Apart from turning down calls to close schools, Monday’s meeting agreed that a National Parents Association (NPA) should be established to promote communication between parents, students, schools and policy makers.
“In the next two weeks we will be represented in refining the framework that will see identification and constitution of a NPA from the school level, then sub-county to the county level until we have a properly constituted parents association at the national level,” Wesonga explained.
During the consultative meetings that will be held in the coming days with the education stakeholders, Elimu Yetu Coalition said addressing the root causes of school unrests will be investigated.
The process will also involve consultations with parents and students who according to the coalition have are usually left out of decisions that concern them.
Though some of the reasons attributed to the burning of schools include exam fever and general indiscipline, the coalition felt that some school managers were exposing students to pressure by extending study time beyond school hours and setting many unnecessary examinations contrary to the new regulations.