Inside North Rift schools Gen Ogolla was determined to renovate after bandit attacks

Chief of the Defence Forces General Francis Ogolla

Former Chief of Defence Forces the late General Francis Ogolla.

Photo credit: File| Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • More than 50 schools were destroyed by bandits and affected by insecurity in the North Rift region.
  • A spot check in the affected schools shows ugly scenes and ruins of vandalized property by bandits, destroyed desks and scattered books on floors of classrooms, long-grown grasses and twigs and anthill homes in the school compounds.

When President William Ruto made a commitment on April 8 during the commissioning of the Sebit Cemtech Clinker plant in West Pokot to ensure Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) reached schools affected by banditry in the Chesegon area, the military quickly got into action.

The goal was to beef up security and reconstruction.

And the commitment went high up, with Gen Francis Ogolla, the Chief of the Defence Forces, who perished in a chopper crash after inspecting the reconstruction, leading from the front. 

While on the peace mission, Gen Ogolla told locals that the KDF was working hard to ensure the schools, which had been closed two years ago due to killings and attacks in the region, were renovated and security beefed up to reopen for next term. 

However, this was not the first commitment by the Kenya Kwanza regime to rehabilitate schools affected by banditry in the region. 

Early last year, Interior Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki promised to renovate the schools and ensure learners are in school. 

But the schools didn't reopen and are still shut down.

Prof Kindiki had promised to allocate Sh100 million to renovate the schools vandalized by bandits in the region.

A Nation.Africa survey shows shoddy construction work in a few schools. 

Last year, a few schools were reconstructed by the KDF, supported by National Youth Service (NYS) officers. 

The schools include Chesegon Primary, Cheptulel Primary, Cheptulel Boys Secondary, Sapulmoi Primary and Kissa ECD schools in Central Pokot Sub County.

Others are Lonyangalem primary, Ptoh, Kases, Takaywa, Lonyanyalem, Pough, Kour, and Songok primary schools in Pokot North Sub-County and Karon Primary School in West Pokot Sub-County. 

Learners in schools in Pokot Central sub-County in West Pokot County failed to sit their 2023 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA) exams due to banditry attacks.

Late last year, over 205 National Police Reservists were trained and recruited to beef security in the area. Some were deployed in schools.

However, learners and teachers have kept off the schools for fear of attacks.

A spot check in the affected schools shows ugly scenes and ruins of vandalized property by bandits, destroyed desks and scattered books on floors of classrooms, long-grown grasses and twigs and anthill homes in the school compounds.

Chesegon Technical Institute, which was under construction, stalled due to attacks and now houses security officers.

Villages remain deserted after locals migrated from the area due to fear of perennial attacks.

Local leaders raised concern over the shoddy work, corruption and failure of the affected schools to reopen.

Sigor Member of Parliament Peter Lochakapong, West Pokot Senator Julius Murgor and West Pokot Women Representative Rael Kasiwai asked President William Ruto during his recent visit to intervene. 

The leaders lamented the delay in disbursing funds meant for the construction of the schools.

Murgor, Lochakapong and Kasiwai said the schools are not yet ready to host learners because the rehabilitation was still pending.

They said schools were exposed to danger after the KDF officers stationed at Cheptulel moved to the neighbouring Elgeyo Marakwet County.

“We need the KDF back in the Seketou area. Nothing happened in the staff room and laboratory.

"The schools need more renovations and it has not reached the level where learners can come,” said Lochakapong.

He called on CS Kindiki to come back and assess the situation.

“The schools need more funds. Flooring and painting was only done in 4 classrooms. Books were spoiled and littered on the floor. Only Sapulomoi Primary School is on,” he said.

Kasiwai raised concern over how the funds meant for the renovation were utilised.
Senator Murgor lamented the lack of accountability in the process.

“The Government promised to make sure that the schools will be reopened. We need KDF in the area. We need reconstruction of the schools,” he said.

The recent attacks and killings targeting teachers and learners in the region inflicted fear and trauma among locals in the troubled Kerio Valley region.

Locals decried the situation, describing the closure of the schools as unfortunate.

“No proper renovation was done. There are no toilets. The dining hall dormitories were not touched and windows that were vandalized by bandits have not been replaced. They only painted the front side of Cheptulel Boys High School. We want to know where the funds for renovation went and who was responsible,” a local said of the schools.

James Koitilo, the Principal at Cheptulel Boys Secondary School, says there is no water at the school after pipes were vandalized.

Learners of the school are at Surumben Primary School in Masol ward, more than 50 kilometres away.    

“We only have 52 Form Ones. Last year, we didn’t have many as we only had 8. The school opened in March last year before we got a temporary hostage at Surumben,” says Mr Koitilo. 

He said the school does not have a fence.

“We now have 150 students being hosted at Surumben. The school had grown to 400 students with a good number from the neighbouring Elgeyo Marakwet County before the school went to unbearable levels. The presence of Kenya Defence Forces officers in the area had boosted the confidence of the community,” he said.

Mr Musa Kariwoi, head teacher at Pitpath Primary School, cites that the fate of learners remains unknown. He says the population of teachers and learners in the region has drastically dropped.

"We didn’t sit for exams last year,” he said.

General Ogolla, who signed a visitor’s book at Cheptulel Boys High School, urged parents who were present to bring their children to school after the renovations were over. 

Gen Ogolla also spoke to three children at Cheptulel Boys High School. He encouraged them to work hard in school. The children are from the schools affected by banditry in the area. 

More than 50 schools were destroyed by bandits and affected by insecurity in the North Rift region.

The schools are in West Pokot, Turkana, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Samburu and Laikipia counties.