NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 23 – “It’s no longer about my job, it’s about my life. That is all I have to fight for,” 28-year-old teacher Ancellah Cherotich Kessio told this Capital FM reporter when they met for the first time about three weeks ago.
As she recalled the incident, she explained that she found it prudent to give her employer time to handle the matter since she had reported it to the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).
Kessio joined Uhuru Secondary School, Nairobi as a History and CRE teacher in 2015.
But little did she know that she had landed herself into a worrying step in her teaching career as a member of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).
After the initial encounter, Kessio came back to us because her life was in her words, “in danger.”
She was in tears and she had a headache.
Before the interview we had to give her painkillers and allow her time to calm down.
She gave us a note that was delivered to her by the school messenger last Tuesday.
“DEAR ANCELLAH CHEROTICH KESSIO. ATTENTION: DROP ALL CASES WITHIN ONE WEEK OR ELSE ……………. (). Yours faithfully 0000000,” the short note reads.
Tuesday’s incident was continuation of escalating intimidation that began in 2015.
It all began when the then Deputy Principal Juma Duncan asked her for a coffee date, an offer she kindly turned down on countless occasions.
In August 2015 she warned him that if he continued, she would let his wife know.
But the response she got left her terrified.
Capital FM News saw a text message sent from Juma to Kessio on August 22, 2015.
“I SWEAR IN THE MIGHTY NAME OF GOD I WILL KILL YOU. YOU CNT ESCAPE, TRUST YOU ME.”
The Principal later called explaining that he could not remember and did not understand how the message left his phone to her phone.
Since it was during the holidays, she kept cool and hoped the threats would subside by the time schools re-opened.
In September 2015, Juma became the Principal.
“He didn’t stop calling me to his office.”
He even promised to promote her to head the Humanities Department if she accepted to become his girlfriend.
But she refused.
Kessio also refused to take Sh2,000 he offered and requested her to accompany him to Mombasa.
The Principal, Kessio recalled kept on telling her; “you look tempting, you look sexy” on the many occasions he ran into her within the school compound.
After he realised Kessio would not give in, he resorted to using students in her class to malign and disparage her.
“He told them that the notes I used to teach them were college notes and they were not authentic and that he had slapped me with them. How I got to know – some of the students came to me and asked me; ‘Mwalimu, how can you be slapped in this compound and we don’t know, how can you condone to be beaten up’,” she recalled as she fought back her tears.
She confronted him during a meeting attended by the Dean of Studies after Juma alleged that she had not taught well.
“I finally got the opportunity to ask him, ‘what is it do you want from me?”
But that did not stop the intimidation.
On September 19, 2016 she wrote to TSC requesting for a transfer but for fear that the principal would revenge, she stated that her reason for the transfer was over distance to the school.
“The transfer did not go through. I was told I am under the five-year rule. The principal brought the letter to me and sarcastically told me ‘you are not going anywhere’.”
“Imagining more years with him, I didn’t think I would survive, I started looking for other avenues like going for study leave,” she recalled she couldn’t qualify again because of the five-year rule.
“My life at Uhuru has been so difficult such that if you are not threatened you are intimidated, if you are not intimidated, children are laughing at you because the principal has this habit of discussing teachers with students.”
On scrutinising the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination results 2016, we realised performance of students in the subjects she teaches, History was third and CRE was fourth in the school rank.
After all the drama, she hoped 2017 would be a better year.
But it was until he ran into her at the assembly ground that Kessio knew the war was far from over.
He told her she looked sexy and asked; “Have you ever tasted a Luo?”
Capital FM News is in possession of a letter sent by Kessio to TSC dated March 1, 2017.
Referenced as, ‘Sexual harassment, threats and a difficult working environment’ Kessio wrote “I wish to lodge a complaint of sexual harassment by the Principal, Uhuru Secondary School, Mr Juma Duncan. I have been intimidated and harassed and I no longer have an ounce of energy to fight back.”
Throughout the letter, she narrated a trail of incidents in which Juma made sexual advances and upon refusal he resorted to intimidation, death threats and embarrassment.
Capital FM News is in possession of minutes of several meetings held at the school – some to discuss issues raised with the Education County Office and TSC over the sexual harassment complaints and others to accuse Kessio of sullying the name of the school.
“I know what will happen if I move out of here. If my life is to end but I will want to say something, if saying no to someone, keeping your dignity as a woman is wrong, then I am ready for that death, at least go down that I protected my dignity,” she said as she broke down into tears.
“I cannot even speak about my fear, I even fear my own shadow, I walk looking back if someone is following me, I have nightmares, I have one that is recurring that someone is trying to suffocate me. I have been going to sessions of therapy.”
Kessio, a mother of one has been a frequent hospital client.
Her weight dropped from 50 kilos to 40 kilos.
Capital FM News has a medical report from a doctor recommending counselling sessions.
Provisional diagnosis showed that she has ‘clinical depression’.
According to records from a counselling centre in Nairobi, she has so far attended four sessions.
Kessio’s sexual harassment case at Uhuru Secondary School is not the only one filed at the TSC.
The second case concerns Biology and Agriculture teacher Mary Karimi Muhia who still has marks of assault on her thigh and head.
According to a P3 form filed at Buruburu Police station, it was recorded that Karimi was assaulted by the three teachers after she was summoned by the Deputy Principal to his office on February 23, 2017.
The Investigating Officer at Buruburu Police station confirmed the case was under probe; “we are investigating we cannot comment further.”
The moment she entered the office, three teachers attacked her trying to snatch a phone in which she had recorded students confessing that the school Principal had coerced them to lie that she had given them an examination leakage.
It was the phone they also thought she had recorded evidence of sexual harassment by the principal.
“Madam (name withheld) who was standing grabbed my hair plucking my braids which were only two days old. She shouted saying, Karimi, today people will collect you at the morgue, release your phone or else I kill you, I must get all the recordings, video, tapes and photos that you have been taking.”
This happened as a third teacher held her to allow the first madam to injure her.
And as the beating continued, there was suddenly an excruciating pain on her thigh.
The teacher after plucking off her hair pierced her thigh with a sharp object.
“I saw death with my own eyes. I screamed louder calling their names, asking – why are you killing me.”
During that commotion the Principal entered the office and joined the gang that was roughing her up.
“Mr Juma hit me against the office table hurting my ribs. He then stepped backward and closed the door,” she recalled even the insults that accompanied her during the gruelling attack.
The hair that was plucked off was picked up and thrown at her telling her; “you stupid fool, today is your end.”
At that moment she was again hit with a paper punch and a stapler and she was again asked to surrender all the evidence she had against Juma.
They were still searching for her phone which she had hidden in her bra then in her inner wear.
She got help after a different teacher went to the ‘slaughter house’ to respond to the distress call that she begged him to call a female colleague.
“I wanted her to at least come and dress me. I was dirty and bleeding and my panty was down. As I moved out in the presence of students who were taking lunch and workers all over to see what was happening. Many thought I had been raped. There was blood coming from my thigh entering my shoe, I was limping,” she narrated.
Karimi’s attack this year was triggered by an incident that happened two years after she joined the school in 2012.
“Juma started his sex advances in 2014. He used to tell me you are the prettiest woman that I have ever seen. At first I told him thank you.”
“I realised when we are passing on corridors Mr Juma wanted we meet head on collision, I used to run away from him. The sexual advances were several. He would tell me ‘you look yummy’, in 2014, 2015 he didn’t stop telling me ‘you are sexy’.”
On September 20, 2014, Juma threw a science party meant to celebrate her birthday. But she didn’t show up.
“The following Monday he called me to his office and asked me, ‘Karimi, I want you to explain me why you let me down’,” she said she had a family birthday party.
“And so he asked me,” ‘Have you ever tasted a Luo?’
“And I told him, Sir, is a Luo a meal in any of the hotels?”
“Then I told him, even if God eroded the earth, you and me were left, nothing can happen. And from that particular day, he now declared war on me,” she explained as she broke down into tears.
Whenever there were office meetings, he resorted to embarrassing and threatening her.
At some point, the Principal had conspired with the Guidance and Counselling teacher to slap her so that she could fight back.
But because she knew of the witch-hunt she did not fight back.
The threats went as far as hiding her Kenya Revenue Authority forms and her pay slips.
Students in her class, one day told her that Juma had told them to lie that she had given them an exam leakage, a confession she recorded and handed over to TSC.
Students also wrote a letter in Caps protesting Juma’s consistent persuasion that they lie to fix their class teacher.
“BUT THERE IS SOMETHING THAT WE FEEL IT IS NOT RIGHT THE WAY THE PRINCIPAL THREATS YOU TEACHERS AND US. TOO WE ARE AFRAID TO TELL HIM BECAUSE HE WILL VICTIMISE US,” the letter read.
Capital FM News has a letter she wrote to TSC reporting sexual harassment by the Principal and asking for a transfer.
Last Tuesday she received a letter like the one sent to Kessio telling her to drop her classes or else…
“Today I have come here to let the world know that it could be the end of me. If I leave this door and I am killed it is Duncan Juma.”
At that point she broke down and we had to give her time to recover.
“It has affected my family. I feel weak, I feel pain all over, I have acidity that I never had. I feel I am just a shell of my old self. If I am killed, may justice prevail and my younger sisters who will come to that school they will be salvaged,” she cried.
All the two teachers want now is justice because the headmaster has threatened to make their lives hell for embarrassing him with the allegations they make.
They are appealing to TSC to transfer them and also investigate the Principal.
Capital FM News spoke to Juma on Thursday.
“Those things are under investigations by TSC I think TSC has done their part, I don’t want to comment.”
But about five minutes later he called back saying he was innocent. Capital FM News also asked him why he didn’t report the physical attack meted on Karimi at the Deputy Principal’s office.
TSC Principal Administrative Officer – Child Protection, Gender and Disability Zipporah Musengi told Capital FM News; “We have the cases and we are doing the appropriate investigations.”
The Nairobi County Education Office also confirmed it had received the complaints from Kessio and Karimi and that investigations were ongoing.
But as the processes take longer, the two women are scared for their lives as they pay several visits to doctors and counsellors.
Karimi is currently on sick leave.