In Baringo’s submerged schools, even tree shade is not available for learners

Loruk Primary School

Pupils arrive at Loruk Primary School in Baringo North on January 4, 2021.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Most learners failed to report to school due to confusion as parents were not aware where their children were supposed to report.
  • Among the affected institutions are Salabani Secondary School, Ng’ambo Girls’ Secondary, Lake Baringo Mixed Secondary School, Ng’ambo Primary, Sintaan, Leswa, Lorok, Loruk, Loropil, Noosukro, Kiserian, Ilng’arua, Ng’enyin, Sokotei and Salabani primary schools.

As learners countrywide resumed learning on Monday, it was a grim picture for their counterparts in Baringo South whose schools were swallowed early this year by rising water levels.

More than 15 submerged schools were relocated to safer areas while other learners were expected to be integrated into neighbouring schools.

The learning institutions bordering the lake, which were submerged completely, needed to be relocated and rebuilt in safer areas.

Lake Baringo water levels increased exponentially since March this year, submerging adjacent structures including schools, health facilities, churches and homesteads, which led to the displacement of more than 10,000 people.

Among the affected institutions are Salabani Secondary School, Ng’ambo Girls’ Secondary, Lake Baringo Mixed Secondary School, Ng’ambo Primary, Sintaan, Leswa, Lorok, Loruk, Loropil, Noosukro, Kiserian, Ilng’arua, Ng’enyin, Sokotei and Salabani primary schools.

Class 8 and PP1 pupils share a classroom at Seriani Primary School

A spot check of some of the affected schools revealed that most learners failed to report to school due to confusion as parents were not aware where their children were supposed to report.

Scorching sun

Some of the centres where the institutions were moved had no structures and learners were forced to learn under trees while, in some schools, teachers merged two classes into one structure.

At Ng’ambo Primary School, for instance, the institution was fully submerged and the school was relocated to a new site, Seriani ECDE centre, more than 10km away, which had just one structure.

Grade Four pupils were being taken through lessons under the scorching afternoon sun, even as dust swirled relentlessly around them.

Despite the challenges, they listened to their teachers with enthusiasm and thirst.

In one case, pupils could not concentrate because as the teacher was teaching, a herd of goats passed through the makeshift '‘classroom'’.

PP1 pupils and Class Eight learners had been put together in the single structure, which initially served as the ECDE class.

The school headteacher, Shariff  Parkolwa, said that out of 312 pupils, only 15 had turned up on Monday. In Class Eight, for instance, out of 25, only two candidates reported.

Loruk Primary School

Pupils arrive at Loruk Primary School in Baringo North on January 4, 2021.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

According to the headteacher, most who were also displaced by floods were not aware where their children were supposed to report.

“It is very difficult for us to teach because there are limited classes. Sometimes we are forced to combine more than three classes. There are two tents which were donated to the institution by the Kenya Red Cross which will accommodate two classes. Others will be forced to learn under trees despite the whirlwinds, scorching sun and the dust,” lamented Mr Parkolwa.

The situation was not different at Loruk Primary School where out of 318 pupils, only 32 had reported.

The institution was partially submerged, with the latrines and boys’ dormitories swallowed by the water.

Major highways in the area have also been submerged, locking out pupils from other villages from accessing the institution by foot.

The Nation learnt that what was initially a playing field, 10 meters away from the school compound, was now infested with crocodiles and hippos, putting the learners at risk of being attacked.

Loruk school headteacher said those who reported to school are pupils from the adjacent Chesiran village while others from across the submerged road, including Kiplelchon and Chelelelyo villages, could not walk more than seven kilometres through an alternative route.

Ng’ambo Primary School

Grade Four pupils of Ng’ambo Primary School study under a tree at Seriani in Baringo South on January 4, 2021.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

“The school initially was a walking distance of fewer than 500 meters but it is now more than seven kilometers away through the alternative route. A motorboat operating in the submerged area was charging Sh60 which many parents could not afford,” said Mr Kandie.

“We do not also know the fate of the borders because all the boys’ dormitories were fully submerged in water. The government had promised to give us funds to rebuild them but we have not received any so far,” he added.

Two dormitories

He raised concern that there aren't enough classes to accommodate the pupils if they all report and there are no trees within the school compound for them to learn under.

At the submerged Lake Baringo Secondary, a newly constructed laboratory, two dormitories, four classrooms, kitchen and two toilets had been swallowed by the lake waters including the playing field.

Other schools, which also had the same challenges include Sintaan, Salabani, Leswa, Noosukro and Ilng’arua.

The institutions were supposed to be relocated and rebuilt by the government. When schools partially reopened in October for Grade Four, Standard Eight and Form Four candidates, learners in the affected institutions were merged with their counterparts in the neighbouring schools with a promise by the government to reconstruct the submerged structures before learning resumed this term.

When he toured the region in September to assess the extent of damage in the flooded schools, Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang instructed field officers to first map all the affected schools so that they can be reconstructed in safer areas.

Ngambo Primary School

Class 8 and PP1 pupils of Ngambo Primary School share classroom at Seriani Primary School after their school submerged in Lake Baringo.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

“The locals in the affected areas have identified new sites to rebuild the damaged schools but we want to make sure that the land put aside for the project is indeed public land so that we don’t rush and after we have constructed structures, someone else comes to claim it. We want to assure parents in the affected areas that learners will be put in schools where they are comfortable,” said Mr Kipsang.

However, Baringo South Sub-County education director George Okeyo raised concern that learning in the affected schools would be hampered since all the learners will not be merged in other schools, taking into consideration health guidelines to combat Covid-19.

He noted that the government had promised to rebuild the submerged schools.

However, no money has been channelled by the ministry to the respective schools to support the project despite the effort by the community to give alternative land.

Ng’ambo Primary School

Ng’ambo Primary School Grade Four pipils taken through a lesson at Seriani in Baringo South on January 4, 2021.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

“It was agreed by the government and stakeholders that the community provide alternative land for the reconstruction of the submerged schools which they did but no funds have been released to start the project. The communities have also been affected by the flooding and cannot afford to raise funds for the same,” said Mr Okeyo.

He, however, noted that there are tents which were donated by an organisation and they will distribute them to the affected schools to be erected in safer areas to be used as temporary classes before long-term measures are addressed.

The education official also complained that some teachers in the affected schools had already been transferred elsewhere and this would paralyse learning in the area.

For instance, more than seven teachers at Ng’ambo Girls’ secondary school, which was completely swallowed by the lake waters, have been transferred to other schools.

The Form Four candidates had been accommodated for their second term at Lake Bogoria Girls in the same constituency.

Contacted for comment, Baringo County Commissioner Henry Wafula said that plans are under way and funds for reconstructing the submerged schools would soon be released.

“The government has procedures to follow before carrying out a project and soon the funds for rebuilding institutions swallowed by rising water levels in Lake Baringo will be released. For now, we will integrate the affected learners in neighbouring schools while others will learn in tents to avoid overcrowding,” said Mr Wafula.

A humanitarian crisis is also looming in the area as more than 10,000 people have been forced to seek refuge in temporary camps in safer villages after their houses were swallowed by the lake waters.

Among the worst-hit villages are Loruk, Noosukro, Kokwa island, Kampi Samaki, Sokotei, Lorok, Loropil, Noosukro, Kiserian, Ruggus, Loitip, Mukutani Ndogo, Ng’ambo, Sintaan, Salabani, Ilng’arua, Loboi and Longeiwan.

Lake Baringo has expanded to about 270 sq km from 36km in 2015.

Lake Baringo warden Jackson Komen said the lake has increased by more than 80 per cent since the onset of the long rains, submerging adjacent structures and institutions.

fkoech@ke.nationmedia.com

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