Schools in Boni Forest are grappling with an acute shortage of teachers and other learning resources, even as the national government strives to ensure they remain operational.
Bodhai-Junction, Milimani, Basuba, Mangai, Mararani and Kiangwe schools, all in Lamu East sub-county, opened a week late for this term after teachers failed to report back on January 4, owing to insecurity and travel challenges.
Learning institutions in the region had been closed for more than seven years after al-Shabaab militants raided and vandalised them in 2014.
The government has been keen to keep the institutions running, including airlifting teachers from their homes to the schools using police and military helicopters.
A spot check by the Nation this week, however, revealed these institutions are facing serious challenges.
At Bodhai-Junction Primary School, only one teacher was posted to serve the institution, which has only three classrooms and pupils right from Early Childhood Education (ECDE) level to Grade Three.
The teacher, the Nation learnt, has no option but to put learners from different grades in one classroom.
Parents who spoke to the Nation pleaded with the government and well-wishers to help them build more classrooms and deploy more teachers.
Mr Abdi Guyo, a resident of Bodhai-Junction, said their children could hardly adhere to the Covid-19 protocol of social distancing due to infrastructural challenges.
“Our children are sharing one classroom under one teacher. I doubt the coronavirus protocols are really being observed here. The government should do something to keep the learners safe,” said Mr Guyo.
The Nation also established that learners, especially those in upper classes, have to walk for more than six kilometres from Bodhai village in Lamu County to Ijara in Garissa County, as there are no facilities for that level at Bodhai Primary School.
Parents expressed fear that their children might be attacked by wild animals on their way to school, especially with the prevailing drought.
“More classrooms should be built at Bodhai-Junction Primary School. The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) should also dispatch more teachers to this place so that our children can attend classes in their villages,” said Ms Nuru Ahmed.
At Milimani Primary School, also in Boni forest, there were only two teachers serving the school that runs from ECDE up to Grade Four.
In most schools in the area, the classrooms lack windows and doors and have cracked walls.
“We thank the government for reopening schools here but most of the classrooms and buildings are in dire need of attention. Almost all the classrooms have rusty iron-sheet roofs and cracked walls and floors,” said Mr Ali Mahadhi.
At Mararani Primary School, there were only two teachers, who were busy at work in dilapidated classrooms.
“Our school was closed for long. As you can see, some roofs are falling off here. The roof, walls and floor are in bad shape,” said Mr Galo.
Most schools in Boni forest are also surrounded by bushes and thickets, which parents say expose their children to snakes.
Sometimes, they added, the reptiles crawl into classrooms, disrupting learning.
“There are no toilets and other crucial infrastructure needed for the normal running of a learning institution. The government should be serious on this,” said Basuba Ward Rep Deko Barissa.
Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia denied that Boni forest schools were facing teacher shortages.
Mr Macharia said most of the schools have few pupils as they only operate from nursery up to Grade Three or Four.
He said the two teachers dispatched to each school were more than enough.
He said discussions were, however, ongoing and that by June more Boni children would be learning within their villages.
“A school like Bodhai has one teacher posted by TSC and another ECDE teacher employed by the county government. That’s enough. We’ve also ensured the rest of the schools in Boni are well equipped,” said Mr Macharia.