What you need to know:
- Most locals in the area have yet to return to their homes after moving to areas such as Kabel, Mochongoi, Subukia, Mbechot and other distant villages.
- In order to complete their primary education, students in the area have borne the brunt, while others have been killed, injured or displaced by the bandits.
At 9am on October 24, more than 227 learners of Grade 6 and Standard 8 in the insecurity-prone Baringo South were revising for their national examination when they heard some gunshots not far from their school compound.
This was not the first time that Kapindasum Primary School had been attacked while the learners were in school; it had happened several times over the years.
The students and their teachers scampered for safety and lay still on the classroom floors as the gunfire approached the school compound and the nearby General Service Unit (GSU) camp.
According to police reports, some GSU officers on routine patrol had come into contact with some armed criminals and a fierce exchange of gunfire ensued.
Elijah Kiptoon, the headmaster of the school, claimed that the incident caused panic among the students and that most of them were traumatised after the incident.
The school was one of dozens in the county ordered by the government to reopen this year after being closed since February last year due to insecurity. The school was reopened on January 23.
For security reasons, it only opened its doors to learners in Grade Six, Junior Secondary and Standard Eight, so that in the event of an attack, they will be easier to control and secure than those in the lower grades.
They are all boarders. To ensure their safety, more than eight police officers have been deployed to live in the school, and there is also a General Service Unit (GSU) camp nearby, which is manned at night with the presence of an Armoured Police Carrier (APC).
Most locals in the area have yet to return to their homes after moving to areas such as Kabel, Mochongoi, Subukia, Mbechot and other distant villages.
Since 2012, the school has been opening and closing due to the spate of attacks. Bandits have also destroyed desks and more than four solar panels at the institution.
On October 3, armed assailants fired shots into the school compound while students were having lunch.
According to the head teacher, the criminals staged an attack on the school an hour after they were repelled by security officers while herding their cattle about 300 metres from the school compound.
The bandits are believed to be among a number of illegal herders from the neighbouring community who have invaded the area with their cattle under the guise of searching for water and pasture.
In March this year, a few months after the school reopened, it was reported that as the primary school pupils were taking their morning break, bandits roaming in the bush near the institution fired indiscriminately at them before fleeing. Fortunately, no one was injured in the melee, which sent everyone scurrying for safety.
Insecurity has affected the education sector in the porous regions, with some schools needing to be rebuilt after being destroyed by the armed bandits, who also killed dozens of people, including schoolchildren and teachers.
In order to complete their primary education, students in the area have borne the brunt, while others have been killed, injured or displaced by the bandits.
In the same institution, there are holes in the windows, water tanks and walls of some classrooms – not holes made by pupils, but sad reminders of the impact of bullets fired into the institution by armed criminals who invaded in broad daylight.
The bandits, believed to be from neighbouring Tiaty Sub-county, stormed the school in 2012 while students were in class and began shooting at random. Everyone in the compound fled for their safety.
Sadly, the shooting left three students dead and one seriously injured, causing a mass exodus of people in the area who fled with their children for their lives to safer villages such as Embosos, Mochongoi and Kabel.
The school was also closed for more than five years until 2017, when it was partially reopened.
In 2017, the institution reopened after a General Service Unit (GSU) camp was set up almost a kilometre away as a buffer zone against the bandits. More than 10 security officers were also deployed to guard the institution, which at the time was still a boarding school, around the clock.
In February of the same year, armed criminals staged another attack a few metres from the school as students were returning home after afternoon classes, killing one of their teachers.
The deceased, Philemon Kemei, was shot dead by the bandits as he walked to the neighbouring trading centre in Chemorongion.
Two years later, the school reopened, but only for students in higher classes.
For security reasons, most schools in the border areas are guarded day and night by security officers to prevent criminals from arming children.
The situation is the same in other border schools in the border villages, where bandits stage attacks in or near school compounds.
A week ago, a herder was shot dead in another bandit attack near Ng'aratuko Primary School in Baringo North Sub-County.
The midday attack took place about 100 metres from where more than 51 candidates for Grade Six and Standard Eight were sitting for the national examination.
Residents claimed that the armed attackers wreaking havoc in the area were illegal herders who had invaded several villages in the border area under the guise of searching for water and pasture.
The head teacher of Ng'aratuko Primary School, Charles Tarus, told the Nation that at the time of the attack, Grade Six pupils had completed their second paper, while Standard Eight candidates had just completed the Kiswahili paper and were in the process of collecting them.
“We were forced to round the learners in classrooms and we slept on the floors until the gunshots stopped. We had just collected the Kiswahili papers but had not secured them at the time. The gunshots were shot close to 100 metres from where we were,” said Mr Tarus.
However, despite the panic, the students at the institution managed to sit for their afternoon exams, and the supervisors and teachers were later escorted by the military to the exam container in Loruk.
Mukutani Primary School in the same sub-county is located in a border village that is synonymous with frequent attacks, forcing locals to flee their homes each time the criminals descend.
Former Mukutani chief Benjamin Lecher said that when bandits strike in the area, they mainly target school compounds to instil fear in the locals and force them to leave the area.
“Children in the banditry-prone areas have become accustomed to gunshots and have been trained on what they are supposed to do in case the criminals descend. For instance, they know that they are supposed to lie still when they hear them, and not run aimlessly to avoid being shot at,” said Mr Lecher.
At the school, the Nation found that bunkers within the school compound have been reinforced so that in case the criminals attack, the children have a safe place to hide from the gunfire.
Thomas Kibet, the head teacher of Kagir Primary School, said the situation in border schools was worsened by dilapidated structures that put learners at risk in case of attacks.
“We have trained our pupils that if the bandits invade the school or villages, they should take cover... But it is a sad reality that some of the schools are made of iron sheets which make them susceptible to attacks.
Some schools also have no perimeter walls, making it easy for bandits to get in,” said Mr Kibet.