Children of a lesser God? Schools reopen as others break for half-term

A total of 25 teachers working in terror-prone Boni forest in Lamu airlifted by military chopper to their respective schools.
Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu| Nation

Pupils in the terror-prone Boni Forest have resumed learning as schools across the country prepare to break for half-term this week.

This comes after teachers reported late to their respective schools due to travel difficulties.

The more than 20 teachers were airlifted to their schools by a military helicopter late last week and over the weekend.

Speaking to the Nation.Africa on Sunday, Lamu County Education Director Zachary Mutuiri confirmed that the teachers had resumed classes and that the 350 pupils in Boni Forest were also enjoying learning like their counterparts in the rest of the country.

"There were challenges in getting the teachers to Boni Forest. But we appreciate the efforts of the government. The teachers were airlifted to Boni Forest with the help of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF). We are still learning," said Mr Mutuiri.

Lamu County Teachers Service Commission (TSC) director Riziki Daido also confirmed that her staff had reported back to their respective posts in Boni Forest.

"I can also confirm that teachers working in Boni Forest have so far reported back to their respective schools. Learning has started and everything is in place," Ms Daido said over the phone.

Four of the five schools in Boni Forest had not reopened since May 13 this year, when schools across the country reopened for the second term.

The affected primary schools are Milimani, Basuba, Mangai and Mararani.
Only Kiangwe Primary School reopened after teachers travelled to the village by boat.

Although within Boni Forest, part of Kiangwe village still borders the Indian Ocean, which has always given residents alternative means of access, including road and water transport.

Parents who spoke to Nation.Africa on Sunday called on the government, through the Ministry of Education, to come up with strategies to ensure that their children are fully covered in the curriculum.

Khadija Gurba of Mangai said they would be happy if a special programme is introduced for Boni learners, provided they catch up on what they have missed in terms of learning.

"It is high time that our children get special treatment. Even if it means having special education terms for the Boni children, that will be fine with us. As you can imagine, it's almost half term and our children are forced to start learning. They've missed a lot and I'm worried if they'll be able to catch up by the end of this term," said Ms Gurba.

Adan Mahazi expressed disappointment that their children have always started school late, a situation that affects the overall performance of Boni students in national examinations.

Mr Mahazi stressed the need for local youth to be recruited, trained and sent back to the Boni forest to serve their community.

"Relying on these non-local teachers will continue to confuse us as a community. They are always afraid to work in our villages. Let our people be trained and come back to teach our children," said Mr Mahazi.

Lamu East Deputy County Commissioner George Kubai assured the teachers, pupils and parents in Boni Forest of their safety.

Mr Kubai said special arrangements have been made to ensure that teachers and learners in all Boni schools are well protected as learning continues.

He said National Police Reservists (NPR) will be stationed at the schools' premises day and night to guard the institutions and ensure that learning goes on smoothly.

"We have enough NPR officers guarding the schools every day. Our teachers also sleep in security camps at night. They only go to the schools to teach during the day. In general, security in Boni Forest has improved. It's calm and there's nothing to worry about," said Mr Kubai.