Confusion across Kenya as schools reopening put off

Students in Mombasa head back home after schools reopening postponed

What you need to know:

  • At different bus stages in Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale counties, students caught unawares by the order were seen heading back home after reporting to school in the morning. 

Confusion marred school reopening on Monday after hundreds of Primary and Secondary school students trooped to their respective institutions, only to find that the government had postponed the second term opening date.

They were scheduled to reopen on April 29, 2024 but will now open on May 6 after Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu issued the directive late at the night. 

But at different bus stages in Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale counties, students caught unawares by the order were seen heading back home after reporting to school that morning. 

Students in Mombasa head back home after schools reopening postponed

Scores of learners were stranded at various bus stages in the North Rift upon learning about the last-minute change of the school's reopening date by the Education Ministry.

In some towns, matatu operators quickly stepped in to help the learners go back home following the midnight announcement by Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu that caught everyone off-guard.

Some schools across the region quickly made arrangements to accommodate learners from far away who had already arrived in schools by Monday morning, with some having arrived by Sunday evening, while the last-minute change by the Education CS left non-local teachers who had already arrived in their institutions of learning confused.

Parents furious

In Eldoret Town, Uasin Gishu county, the Nation team spotted stranded learners from Singore Girls, St Joseph Boys Kitale, St Arnessens Burnt Forest, and Bunyore Girls, among others.

Parents did not hide their fury following the sudden change of events.

"The government must stop politicizing everything. How do you make such a serious announcement in the middle of the night expecting all parents to adhere? What was so hard for the government to announce on time after the weatherman's report,” a furious Joseph Kiprono who had already released his son to a Nairobi school where he studies, said in Eldoret town, accusing the Ministry of Education of incompetence.

He urged the government to review the performance of Mr Machogu, noting that his performance in the education docket was worrying. 

At Paul Boit Boys High School in Eldoret, all Form Four learners had already reported. Principal Shem Busolo said the management thought it wise not to send the students back home to save parents from extra expenses. 

“We will retain them in school to continue with revision as we wait for the rest to report as directed by the Ministry,” he said.

"We are parents to these boys and we will take care of them the period they will be in school until others report. Their parents should not worry because their children are in safe hands since already all staff members and subordinates have reported," Mr Busolo said. 

In West Pokot County, learners were seen stranded at the Makutano bus stage looking for vehicles back home.

At Chewoyet High School, 35 students had arrived by Sunday and slept at the school, and an additional 50 students arrived by 9am Monday.

“We were surprised to receive a circular in the morning. This is an inconvenience to my parents,” regretted Principal Stephen Akuto.

Fifty parents had also already arrived at the school for a meeting that had been scheduled for them on the opening day, among them a parent from Makueni county who traveled on Sunday and slept in Kapenguria town. 

“He was here at 7am. We had already prepared breakfast and lunch for the learners and parents and we asked workers and neighbors to come and collect it. This is a big loss,” he regretted.

The school has been forced to accommodate learners from far away areas for the next week.

“We have advised those from near to go back home. Those who come from far like Mombasa and Makueni will be housed at the teacher's quarters. It is costly for them to go back home,” the principal said.

At the Kitale Bus Park in neighboring Trans Nzoia county, confusion filled the air as students who had traveled overnight to resume learning in schools in the region found themselves at a loss upon learning of the new directive from the Ministry of Education.

Unanswered phone calls

Job Kimani, a student at St. Joseph’s Boys Kitale had traveled overnight from Nairobi to Kitale, paying Sh1,700 for fare, only to discover upon arrival that the opening day had been postponed. 

“Now, I am trying to contact my parents to arrange my return,” explained the student whose family is in Nairobi. 

Another student was frustrated as she couldn't reach her parents on the phone.

Amina Faheem was on her way to Kapsara Secondary in Cherangany when she learned about the school reopening changes.

“I am uncertain about what to do next since I haven't been able to reach my parents who don’t answer calls from unknown numbers," she said.

At Mary Immaculate Primary, a Kitale a day and boarding school, Nation.Africa found two learners from Mombasa who had arrived early Monday.

Headteacher Leonard Bett said the school would be forced to host the students for one week before schools reopen next week, noting that the abrupt change had inconvenienced many schools due to budget considerations.

“We have been forced to reschedule our calendar. Even today we have prepared food for the children and now it will be a loss for us,” he told Nation.Africa.

"We might be forced to host learners arriving today from far away," he stated.

Trans Nzoia county Kuppet chairman Eliud Wafula and Knut county secretary of KNUT George Wanjala said the Ministry of Education should have only adjusted dates in areas affected by floods.

"No school in this county has been affected by the flooding, so it's a waste of time and resources to have the learners stay at home,” Mr Wafula stated.

In Turkana County, Mr Meshack Wangwe, a teacher at Kapua Primary School in Turkana Central Sub County is now being hosted by a friend to save on hotel lodging costs.

"I came early before public service vehicles hiked fare from Eldoret to Lodwar and booked lodging for two nights. After the announcement of the postponement, I will be forced to relocate to my friend's house," Mr Wangwe said.

More teachers and students across the region were stranded along the Kitale-Kapenguria-Lodwar-Juba highway after it was cut off at the Lous trading center at night by floods.

Three teachers from PAG Lodwar Secondary School said that they learned of the news while traveling from Kitale to Lodwar just past Makutano town in West Pokot County and were stranded at the Lous trading center time of going to press.

At Lodwar Boys High School, Principal Patrick Lokwayen said that they communicated the news to the parents through WhatsApp.

"Following the government directive of opening the school after a week, all parents have been reached through WhatsApp. No student is at the school," Mr Lokwayen said.

In Nandi County, all the 105 teachers at Kapsabet Boys High School who had already reported ahead of the expected reopening for the second term will remain in school until the new date next week.

Chief Principal Kipchumba Maiyo said teachers had arrived earlier since they come from different parts of the country. 

Mr Maiyo said they were currently undergoing a two-day mental health awareness workshop before embarking on preparation for the re-opening of schools next week in line with the new directive from the Ministry of Education. 

Discontinue learning

Mr Maiyo said students had not reported since the school had been scheduled to open on Thursday, May 2. 

“We Just like our students, some of the teachers come from different parts of the country and had to arrive earlier,” said Mr Maiyo.

"Since they are already at school, they will not go back home unless they apply for their leave. They will now focus on preparations," said the Chief Principal.

An Eldoret parent, Eliud Kosgei said schools where teachers and students had already reported should not carry on with learning as it would disadvantage their peers who would lag in the syllabus. 

"For equality, we should not disadvantage students who are yet to report. Let the teachers wait until all students have reported in school to start teaching," said. 

Humility Otieno, a student from Mombasa County was desperate in Makutano town after arriving on Sunday from Mombasa.

“Unfortunately, I have to go back to Mombasa because of the failure of the Government. I don't know how I will get back home," he said.

“It is very unfair for parents and us. For us in Form Four who are sitting our national exams in the next five months, this minimizes our time for study. The Government should be proactive and communicate to avoid such circumstances. The Ministry of Education should be held accountable. We are from humble backgrounds and our parents struggle to make us come to school,” he lamented.

Vincent Mageni, a parent from Kapenguria criticized the government for the confusion.

“Though there are floods, the government did not follow the weather advisory. Why do you send information at night?” he said

In Baringo County, a parent, Richard Chepchomei from Chemoe said the move was ill-advised.

“Some learners already reported to school on Sunday. Parents in remote areas have neither mobile phones nor radios to get this kind of information. This government should be serious,” he said.

Several learners learned about the change of the reopening date while already at the Kabarnet bus station in the morning heading to their schools.

“We had to inform them and sadly, they have been forced to go back home. Parents will be burdened because they will have to look for more money to pay for their bus fare next week. Such announcements should be made early to avoid such inconveniences,” said Mike Kipsang, Kabarnet Town resident.

A parent, Messaid Omar, whose child studies in Kilifi County, told the Nation that she learnt about the postponement when he had already arrived in school. 

"I work and reside in Mombasa and had to drop my child in school very early...only to realise later that the reopening date has been extended by the government. I can't go back to Kilifi because of work, which means I have to send someone to Kilifi to pick my child from school," said Ms Omar.

Remain in school

In Taita Taveta County, at Senior Chief Mwangeka Girls High School in Wundanyi, some students had already reported to school by Sunday evening.

School principal Beatrice Mwashi said they had been advised by the Ministry of Education to retain them in school until the official opening day next week, meaning those who have reported will remain in school.

However, it was all quiet at Shimo La Tewa and Mama Ngina Girls High Schools in Mombasa when the Nation visited. Mama Ngina Cief Principal Mwanamisi Omar said the school was to reopen on Tuesday.

"When we got news of the postponement, we informed our parents. School will resume next week," she said. 

At Shimo La Tewa Boys High School, two students from Kiambu and Kirinyaga had to return home.

A Principal at a boarding school in Kilifi, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they would not send children back due to hard economic times.

“It will be unfair for us to send them back when parents are struggling financially,” said the Principal.

Day schools

In day schools, headteachers also sent learners home. For instance, Mbaraki Girls Secondary School opened its doors to students, only to send them back home at around 8am on Monday. 

In other schools, for instance Ribe Girls, teachers took to WhatsApp groups to inform parents of the postponement.

However, other primary schools decided to keep pupils for the day since most of them had been dropped by parents who were busy at work.

“We've been told to continue with the day's programme as planned until evening. The school will close from tomorrow,” a teacher at a private primary school in Mombasa told Nation.

Reports by Winnie Atieno, Lucy Mkanyika, Kevin Mutai, Maureen Ongala, Titus Ominde, Evans Jaola, Oscar Kakai, Sammy Lutta, Florah Koech and Gabriel Kudaka.