Uncertainty marred the reopening of schools in Kerio Valley after local leaders asked parents not to send their children to the institutions citing the deteriorating security situation in the region.
The leaders and teacher trade union officials yesterday told the Nation it was risky for schools to reopen when bandits are killing and maiming people at will.
“Three people, including a Standard Three pupil are nursing gunshot wounds following yesterday afternoon’s raid in Arror, Marakwet West sub-county.
“Last year, we ordered the indefinite closure of all schools and our stand is still so, until the insecurity situation in Kerio Valley is handled,” said Marakwet Kenya National Union of Teachers branch executive secretary John Cheberi.
There are over 25,000 learners in the insecurity-hit areas of Endo, Sambirir and Arror wards which host over 70 primary and secondary schools.
“If teachers and learners are bulletproof, let them go to school but we have issued our advisory against school opening. We want the government to tell us which school in Kenya starts their lessons at 11am and closes at 2pm and expects learners to perform as the rest of their counterparts,” he added.
He said last year, learners were forced to hide under their desks for over three hours as bandits engaged herders and police officers in a fierce gunfight in one of the school compounds.
“The regional coordinator George Natembeya had announced police officers will be deployed to secure schools and several months down the line no single police officer is at any institution,” said Mr Cheberi.
Marakwet West MP William Kisang claimed that over 50 people have been killed in the past three months with thousands of animals stolen. He said that to safeguard the lives of teachers and learners, all schools in Kerio Valley should remain closed.
“The government has abdicated its role to provide security ... The schools will not be opened until there is peace in Kerio Valley,” said the MP.
He said unless the schools are provided with armed security, they will continue with the calls to have learning suspended.
However, Elgeyo Marakwet County Commissioner Ahmed Omar said learning would go on.
“We will not entertain politicians using school children to gain political mileage. All schools in Kerio Valley will open as scheduled because the government is putting in place security measures including the recruitment of police reservists to aid in restoring security,” said Dr Omar.
Meanwhile, supermarkets, bookshops and school outfitters across the Rift Valley counties on Tuesday experienced a boom in business as parents shopped for their children who were returning to school after the short December holiday. Banks were also crowded in major towns like Nakuru, Bomet and Nyahururu as parents paid fees.
“I am shopping for my daughter and the list of demands by the school is just too long. These days, primary schools are more expensive than secondary schools,” Enid Okelo from Nakuru said.
In Nyahururu town, parents complained of the high prices of commodities with some urging the government to give them time to raise the third term fees.
“The financial burden is much bigger for a parent with more than one student in boarding school like me,” said Ms Alice Muthoni.
Parents in Narok town also thronged retail shops as they prepared to take their children back to school.
“We are really struggling to educate our children as the general cost of living is very high and especially after the outbreak of Covid-19,” said Mr Moses Lesaloi.
Reports by Fred Kibor, George Sayagie, Steve Njuguna, Vitalis Kimutai, John Njoroge and Geoffrey Ondieki