Emotions ran high at Tot Primary School during a joint funeral service for the three children killed alongside an adult in a bandit attack on Sunday, May 29, before they were interred at their respective homes.
Shadrack Kiplagat (9) and Gibson Kirop (10) were Grade Three pupils at the school, while the third victim, Brian Kiptoo (8) was from neighbouring Kapkain Primary. They were felled by bandit bullets as they went to a nearby stream for a bath.
Six other people are still nursing bullet wounds suffered in the attack that has been widely condemned.
In the Tuesday sendoff ceremony, mourners took to the podium and castigated the government, saying it had done little to end the killings. Their messages were united: they need peace restored in the Kerio Valley.
Tot Primary Grade Three pupils, classmates of the three deceased children, sang a heart-wrenching song, pleading to President Uhuru Kenyatta to end the violence.
“Haki zetu twahitajia katika bonde la Kerio. Uhuru uko wapi tukiuawa kinyama katika bonde hili, haki zetu twahitaji (We need our rights as children in Kerio Valley. Mr President where are you when we are being butchered by the marauding bandits),” sang the pupils as they bade farewell to their departed colleagues.
Tot Primary headteacher Justus Kemboi implored the government to address the violence urgently because it was affecting all learning activities in the Kerio Valley.
“The government deployed us here as teachers not to bury learners but mould them into responsible and dependable citizens in future. It pains us when we see young children such as the ones we are burying killed by bandits,” said Mr Kemboi when he addressed mourners.
He said that though they had received an outpouring of messages of comfort from clerics and leaders, the killings of the youngsters had deeply unsettled the school.
“To offer closure to the pupils, there should be a form of psychosocial support to enable them to realise they need to move on and continue with the learning,” he said.
“Since the killing of the children, the school has been marked by poor turnout and we are encouraging them to come back to school.”
Mr Kemboi called on the government to start a school feeding programme so as to minimise the movement of children in the region. Schools should also be fenced to offer more security, he said.
He said the effect of the violence and displacements of families would be felt when learners seat the national exams.
Locals joined leaders in urging the government to end the violence in the Kerio Valley.
Mr Richard Ruto said they had asked, to no avail, for national police reservists to be deployed to the area to complement the existing security officers.
“We believe if the government would employ police reservists, we would be at least safe because they are the ones who promptly respond whenever there are attacks,” he said.
“Police reservists live with the locals in the villages and are well versed with the terrain unlike the security officers.”
Elgeyo Marakwet Deputy Governor Wisley Rotich said the senseless killings of innocent children is a new low for the bandits.
“I strongly condemn the killings and urge the national government to beef up security along the Kerio Valley to avert more killings. It is devastating watching the dreams of young school-going children fade away through the bullet,” he said.