crime scene
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Alarm over teacher deaths in Kisumu

A crime scene tape. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Over the past two years or so, there has been a worrying trend of attacks on teachers in Kisumu County.

The latest is Calvin Oruko, a young man and a teacher by profession with a strong focus on science, who was attacked and killed by unknown assailants on his way to his home in Sondu last Friday.

Mr Oruko, who was a tutor at Kisumu Senior Academy, was known for nurturing his students in science, leading them to glory in national science and engineering fairs.

However, he is the latest victim of a wave of attacks on teachers in the county since late 2022 and early this year. 

According to interviews with various people, the attacks on teachers are being perpetrated by the community, administrators, criminals and current and former students who have passed through their hands.

There have been reports of increased cases of mental health problems leading to suicide among teachers, as well as gender-based violence.

In fact, the situation is so dire that it formed part of the concerns raised during the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) county general assembly held at Seme Teachers Training College on 7 October.

During the forum, Zablon Awange, the executive secretary of KUPPET Kisumu County branch, summed it up as "Teachers are under siege".

In his report and subsequent interview with the Nation, he revealed that they had lost more than 10 teachers between 2022 and October 2023. Few were due to illness, while attacks and accidents dominated the list.

They listed another nine cases, few from 2018, which they want police bosses to speed up investigations and bring the perpetrators to book.

"There are many security concerns for our teachers as they engage with learners. Teachers in Kisumu are under siege. We have reported this increase to the police and are demanding action," said Mr Awange.

He is also calling for the strengthening of guidance and counselling services to reduce the number of attacks by students on teachers and vice versa.

During the forum, the union threatened to withdraw teachers in attack-prone areas if their safety was not guaranteed.

Mr Peter Oyombe, a teacher at Nyakach Girls Secondary School who has been at the forefront of campaigning for the welfare of his colleagues, points the finger at the authorities, which include the police and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).

According to Mr Oyombe, teachers' issues are not taken seriously by the authorities, some violence against teachers is systematic and when they report and ask for a transfer, it takes a long time for action to be taken.

"Take the case of the Sondu clashes for example, the government and the security apparatus should have secured the teachers both in the school and in their compounds immediately the violence broke out. The staff should have been trained on how to conduct themselves and emergency numbers should have been provided just in case," said Mr Oyombe, who is also the founder of Teacher for Teacher (T4T), which looks after the welfare of teachers in Kisumu County.

He also said that a police station should have been built around the schools affected by the violence, but this never happened, leaving teachers vulnerable to attacks.

He also feels that some administrators are poor managers and allow disciplinary cases to go unchecked, leading to conflicts between teachers and students.

There have also been cases of teachers turning on each other, such as in Muhoroni where a head teacher slapped a female colleague from the Junior Secondary School in his office. The other was a head teacher in Kisumu East who locked a teacher in his office and physically assaulted the teacher over a professional conflict.

On the issue of GBV in teachers' homes, Mr Oyombe said that tutors live on a tight budget, which sometimes leads to attacks in the home if they cannot meet certain obligations.