Armed bandits fired shots into a school compound on Monday afternoon, sending learners and teachers into panic mode.
Kapindasum Primary School, a boarding school in Baringo South, is one of the schools in bandit-infested villages in Baringo County that reopened in January after being closed for more than three years due to insecurity.
The schools were reopened on the orders of President William Ruto following the deployment of a multi-agency security team backed by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) to restore order in bandit-ridden counties in the north.
Kapindasum school had been closed for more than five years - from 2012 to 2017, when it was partially reopened. It closed again in 2019 and reopened on 23 January.
Students were on their lunch break when the armed bandits fired shots inside the school compound, sending everyone running for safety, according to the school's head teacher, Elijah Kiptoon.
This came an hour after the bandits were reportedly repelled by security officers while herding their cattle about 300 metres from the school compound.
The bandits are believed to be among several illegal herders who have invaded the area with their cattle under the guise of looking for water and pasture.
"I had earlier raised concerns with the local administration about some armed illegal herdsmen who had invaded the area with their cattle and were grazing near the school. Yesterday morning they were spotted by the General Service Unit (GSU) officers and their hideouts were bombed," said Mr Kiptoon.
At noon on Monday, he said, some police reservists went on patrol in the area and came into contact with the criminals. There was a fierce exchange of gunfire between the two groups for more than 10 minutes.
"The reservists then retreated and an hour later the bandits resurfaced and fired three shots into the school compound while the students were going for lunch. It was helter-skelter as everyone in the institution ran for safety. There is tension following the incident and we fear that learning may be disrupted if the criminals are not flushed out," said the head teacher.
But Baringo South Sub County Police Commander David Too disputed the claims, saying the shots were fired by security officers targeting the criminals.
"We have received conflicting reports on the incident but I am afraid the said gunshots were fired by security officers flushing out the criminals," Mr Too claimed.
The institution is one of 20 in six counties in the restive North Rift region that the government has earmarked for reconstruction following vandalism by armed criminals from the neighbouring community.
For security reasons, the institution opened its doors only to learners in Grade Six, Junior Secondary and Standard Eight. The idea was that in the event of an attack, the relatively older students would be easier to control and secure than the younger ones.
To ensure their safety, more than eight policemen have been deployed to live in the school, supplemented by a General Service Unit (GSU) camp manned 24 hours a day and an Armoured Police Carrier (APC).
The school has been opening and closing since 2012 due to attacks. Over the years, bandits have destroyed desks and more than four solar panels at the institution.
Nation.Africa learnt that armed criminals emerged from a hill 200 metres from the institution and shot at learners and teachers to instill fear and scare them away.
Bullet holes in windows and water tanks are some of the evidence of the criminals' attacks in the past.
In a 2012 incident, armed bandits had attacked students in class, shooting indiscriminately, killing three students and injuring several others.
This led to a mass exodus of people from the area, with many fleeing with their children to safer villages such as Embosos, Mochongoi and Kabel.
Villages near the school have also been abandoned after locals fled due to insecurity, with the nearest being Chemorong'ion, more than four kilometres away.