Learning paralysed in schools as insecurity escalates in Kerio Valley

Kerio valley security meeting

Kerio Valley residents during a peace meeting in Chesegon on July 3, 2021.

Photo credit: Oscar Kakai | Nation Media Group

The fate of more than 5,000 learners and over 500 teachers in Kerio Valley region hangs in the balance after they were displaced by the ongoing banditry attacks that have claimed six lives in a week.

Learning activities in various schools in the region have been disrupted by the attacks between the warring two communities.

Most schools are deserted after the learners and teachers relocated to safer areas due to fear of attacks.

Some of the affected schools are Cheptulel Girls, Cheptulel Boys, Arpollo, Chesegon, Tirap, Akiriamet, Amarel, Lochakula, Kamulogon, Kapushen, Kamelei, Sapulmoi, Annet and Charatat primary schools.

Education officials said that absenteeism is on the rise and enrollment in  schools has drastically dropped because of the escalating insecurity.

The officials say that the insecurity challenges facing the sector have led to poor education standards in the region.

Schools closed

The Kenya National Union of teachers (Knut) West Pokot Branch has threatened to withdraw teachers working in the volatile area along the West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet border following sporadic banditry attacks in the area .

West Pokot County Knut Secretary Martin Sembelo gave an ultimatum to the government to address the issue and asked teachers to keep schools closed until their safety is guaranteed by the government.

“We can’t risk our teaching in hostile areas. We are telling our teachers not to risk their lives by going to school without proper security,” he said.

Speaking to the press in Kapenguria, Mr Sembelo called on the government to mop up illegal guns in the area. He added that many teachers have been transferred to safer places.

“We need security personnel in the county to move with maximum speed and minimum delay to deploy more security for learners to learn well,” he said.

He asked the government to establish permanent security camps and anti stock theft camps in the area.

“We want harmony because this is a worrying trend. Pupils and parents are sleeping in caves,” said Mr Sembelo.

Mr Sembelo expressed concern over the recent spate of killings along the Pokot and Marakwet border, a situation that has paralyzed learning in the region thus teachers and learners are living in fear.

“We need more security officers and police officers in schools or we shall tell our teachers not to go to the areas,” he said.

Mr Sembelo said that the insecurity upsurge has caused panic among residents, school children and teachers in the area.

"We need at least two police officers in every school. We fear because without security, no learning or development will take place in the area,” said  Mr Sembelo.

Living in fear

He also called on leaders from both communities to give peace a chance and allow children to learn and stop the cattle rustling menace.

“The situation now is delicate and we need our children to be in schools .We condemn any politician that is behind all this. We need all stakeholders to come up and save the situation that is getting out of hand, ” said Mr Sembelo.

Mr Sammy Cornelius, a teacher at Tilakai Primary School said that teachers and learners are living in fear. He called on the government to beef security in schools.

“We only have a few pupils in school and learning has been affected in the area making pupils come to school late,” he said.

Sheila Kiptoo, a standard  seven pupil at Chesegon Primary, said that she is not in school because of fear.

“We are afraid of the series of attacks after living for close to three years in peace with our neighbors. We need police officers in all schools along the border ,” said Ms Kiptoo.

Former Lomut member of county assembly Hellen Madion said many pupils and teachers along Turkwel belt and Kerio Valley have suffered due to border disputes with killings orchestrated by raiders who take advantage of the situation at the border.

“The frequent attacks have led to many pupils failing to attend school regularly,” she said.

Ms Madio said the education sector still faces challenges like insecurity, poverty, lack of proper infrastructure, lack of food, political interference, female genital mutilation and early marriages among many others.

“We urge leaders from the neighboring communities to provide political goodwill to end the conflicts. The only way to bring peace between the two communities is by leaders coming together to solve the dispute to ensure that our people live together peacefully,” she said.

Sigor member of parliament Peter Lochakapong who visited the area    condemned the attacks calling on the government to beef up security.

“The frequent attacks have led to many pupils failing to attend school regularly. Parents have refused to allow pupils to go to school since they fear their children might be attacked,” he said.

The MP asked the government to intervene and end the conflict to enable pupils get free primary education.

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