Parents lament learning disruption, want future polls held in December

Matulo Girls students in Webuye West constituency, Bungoma county going home on Tuesday August 2, 2022

Students of Matulo Girls in Webuye West constituency, Bungoma county brave the heavy Tuesday rains after schools were closed ahead of the general elections next we

Photo credit: Brian Ojamaa | Nation Media Group

Parents have faulted the Ministry of Education over the abrupt closure of schools because of the elections to be held on Tuesday, August 9, accusing top officials of poor planning.

Some parents have also suggested changes to the Constitution to push future elections to December, when all schools are closed, to avoid interference with learning.

"This won't interfere with the school calendar. We pay fees, but students spend more time at home,” Susan Cheptoo said. 

“What was the rationale of running a crash programme for learners and parents, as if they are being punished for the government's poor handling of Covid-19?”

She said parents are frustrated by the school closures and the Constitution should be amended to avoid such disruptions.

Caught unprepared

Most parents said they were unprepared for the decision.

"We had just paid school fees, only to be told to send fare. I had to Fuliza to raise fare for my child," said Edwin Kemboi, a parent in Eldoret.

Mr Musa Tekelezi accused the Ministry of Education of poor planning.

“There is too much disruption. We pay school fees for the whole term (three months), just for students to spend less than two months in schools. It is the schools that are profiting from short terms. We as parents are suffering,” he said.

Nicholas Maiyo, National Parents Association’s Chairman addressing a press conference at Boma Inn, Eldoret on August 02, 2022

Nicholas Maiyo, National Parents Association’s Chairman addressing a press conference at Boma Inn Hotel in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County on August 02, 2022. He faulted the Ministry of Education’s announcement that schools will reopen on August 11, 2022, after the General Elections saying the political environment would still be unfavorable for learning to resume.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Parents' association

The complaints came as the National Parents Association noted that parents were caught unawares by the directive from the Ministry of Education. 

"Most of us learnt about it through social media. Many parents had to quickly ensure their children got back home,” said chairperson Nicholas Maiyo.

“As we speak, three quarters of schools have closed. We have a few students still in schools due to challenges and we urge principals to get in touch with parents,” he told the Nation in Eldoret.

The association called on political leaders and other stakeholders to preach peace and unity to ensure that the school calendar is not affected, expressing hope that normality would return soon after the polls. 

"We are urging all candidates to accept the poll results, because if a loser fails to concede, it may disrupt the school calendar," said Mr Maiyo.

“If one fails to concede, he or she has seven days to go to court and another 30 days for a repeat, meaning this may interfere with the school activities," he stated.

PSVs double fares

Matatus cashed in on the sudden closure of schools on Tuesday, raising fares as learners trooped back home.

Some matatus nearly doubled fares even in these tough economic times.

For instance, on the Nairobi-Kakamega route, some parents had to part with Sh1,500, while matatus in Eldoret charged Sh1,500 to Nairobi, up from Sh800. 

Students from various schools in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County going home on Tuesday August 2, 2022

Students from various schools in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County on Tuesday August 2, 2022 as they headed home after schools were closed ahead of the August 9, 2022 General Election.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Some parents lamented the high fares, urging the Ministry of Transport to crack down on matatu saccos taking advantage of the situation. 

Many parents complained that they were unable to raise bus fares for their children learning in other counties such as Uasin Gishu, Nakuru, Nairobi and Mombasa.

Mr Michael Ekitela requested teachers to allow children whose parents were unable to raise fare to stay in school two more days.

Some students in Bungoma told the Nation that they did not have enough fare to get them home.

"Some of us have been forced to walk long distances while some have had to borrow money from teachers for transport," said a student, who requested not to be named.

Heavy rains

The Turkana Girls High School principal, Sr Florence Nabwire, said it may take them two days to transport students to Lodwar using school buses because of rains. The school is in Loima sub-county.

"When it rains, rivers, mainly the River Kospir, burst their banks, rendering the Lorugum-Lodwar road impassible," Sr Nabwire said.

Learners across parts of the North Rift and Western regions had to brave rains and chilly weather on Tuesday to get transport back home.

Students in Nandi County arriving in Kapsabet town on Tuesday August 2, 2022 after schools were closed for elections

Students in Nandi County brave Tuesday rains as they arrived in Kapsabet town on Tuesday August 2, 2022 after schools were closed for elections.

Photo credit: Tom Matoke | Nation Media Group

In Nandi County, learners had to wait for the rains to subside before travelling.

Kapsabet Boys High School Chief Principal Kipchumba Maiyo said he heeded the directive from his boss, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha and sent home 2,100 students.

David Martin, a parent in the county, endorsed the closure of schools to allow students to be at home during the elections.

In Turkana County, most schools complied with the Education CS’s directive.

St Kevin Secondary, a day school with 969 students, closed on Monday evening, said Principal Thomas Lokuruka.

"Our school programme has not been interfered with and we will do the mid-term examination immediately after the schools reopen," Mr Lokuruka said.

Sheila Mwangi, a Standard Eight pupil at Lodwar Girls Primary, said she would utilise the break to prepare for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam in November.

Left in droves

In Bungoma County, students started trooping back home as early as 6.30am.

Ms Anne Wamalwa, a parent from Webuye town with a child in Form Four and another in Form One, said the government should have informed parents about the planned closures earlier so that they could arrange transport for their children.

"I had planned to go pick up two of my children who are students in Kisii County on Friday this week. Right now, I will be forced to close my shop and find a way of raising money to bring them back home," she said.

David Waswa, a tout who operates a matatu between Webuye and Bungoma, said he was charging Sh150, up from the usual Sh100.

Bungoma East Knut secretary-general Aggrey Namisi said Prof Magoha had inconvenienced parents and disrupted school programmes with the impromptu school closures.

"Most of these schools had started their end-term exams and sending the students home immediately will affect their exams programmes," he said.

"We want the reopening date rescheduled to a much later date, just in case we have post-election violence," he said.

Learners stranded in Kapenguria town, West Pokot county after schools were closed on August 2, 2022

Learners stranded in Kapenguria town, West Pokot county after schools were closed on August 2, 2022.

Photo credit: Oscar Kakai | Nation Media Group

Students stranded

In West Pokot County, many learners were stranded in schools due to a heavy downpour on Tuesday, particularly in Kapenguria, Sigor, Kacheliba and Ortum.

Chesta Girls Principal Patricia Khagai Nancy said many parents had complained about lack of fare.

She said she would have to stay in school until Saturday because many students had not left.

“Because of the terrain and poor infrastructure and the long distances, it will take time for them to go home,” she said.

Kapenguria Boys High School Principal Moses Ndeda said class teachers were receiving fares from parents.

He said learners were to sit the midterm examinations this week. “Some exams were done halfway because we had to close the school,” Mr Ndeda said.