It is chaos in ill-prepared schools as second term starts after deadly floods

Pupils at Muslim Primary School in Nakuru County take part in a clean-up exercise after the school reopened for the second term on 13 May 13, 2024. The school was among those affected by floods.

Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Flood waters also brought down a special pit latrine built for learners with disabilities.
  • In West Pokot County, learners in Chepkalit secondary and primary schools will not open after the institutions were submerged

Basic education institutions across the country reopened for the second term of the academic calendar on Monday, with hundreds of learners and their teachers in flood-hit areas forced to seek refuge in other schools.

This is after their institutions were destroyed by the devastating floods that have killed over 200 people and displaced more than 120,000 others.

This was the situation for learners and teachers in Hatata and Bakuyu primary schools in Tana River County.

“We have decided as a school board to have learners coming from Garissa and those within Mororo to remain in Garissa town where a private school has offered us some classrooms,” Mr Omar Ramadhan, a member of the school’s board of management, told Nation on Monday.

Bangale Deputy County Commissioner Joseph Kipkorir said the affected learners were settled in Garissa and Iftin primary schools.

“The situation at Hatata Primary School remains unchanged and we are having the affected students accommodated in other schools,” he said.

Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Garissa County Secretary-General Abdirizack Hussein Aden said the situation was dire in schools affected by floods.

Flooded toilets

In Nyeri County, pupils and teachers at Ndunyugwathi Primary School were forced to push a septic truck that got stuck in mud inside the compound while on its way to drain pit latrines.

The situation saw some pupils and teachers, who had just resumed their afternoon lessons, suspend their classes for two hours to help push the vehicle across the murky ground.

 Muslim Primary School

A pupil from Muslim Primary School in Nakuru County scoops water from a corridor of their classroom using a plate after re-opening for term two on May 13, 2024. 

Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi | Nation Media Group

Speaking to the Nation, the schools deputy headteacher, Mr Anthony Maina, said that the heavy rains had caused flooding in all the three semi-permanent pit latrines that were demarcated specifically for the pupils.

Flood waters also brought down a special pit latrine built for learners with disabilities.

Besides the flooded toilets, the school also had to deal with flooded classrooms. Yesterday, teachers were forced to report to school early to drain and clean two flooded classroom blocks.

Ndunyugwathi is among the 160 public primary and secondary schools in Kieni Constituency facing a crisis of flooded pit latrines. Only 10 schools have been spared from the crisis.

The problem saw the area MP, Mr Njoroge Wainana, mobilise sewage trucks to drain flooded pit latrines over the weekend.

In West Pokot County, learners in Chepkalit secondary and primary schools in Pokot South Sub-county will not open after the institutions were submerged, while Kodera Primary School in North Pokot Sub-county may be partially reopened after a bridge linking to it was washed away.

West Pokot County Education Director Simon Wamae expressed concern about the devastating impact of floods on Chepkalit Secondary and Primary School, noting that they will need rebuilding.

"The school will not be opened because it was badly destroyed by floods. Our priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of learners and employees. We are working tirelessly to assess the damage and expedite the restoration process," he stated.

In Turkana County, due to huge volumes of water in River Turkwel, students at St Kevin's Secondary School who cross the 50-metre-wide river from Nabulon village daily, were forced to take a long detour.

Crossing the river

They persevered a 40-minute walk through Lodwar town instead of the less than 15 minutes they usually took to school by crossing the river. Locals called on the county government to build a bridge across the river to save time for the students.

In Uasin Gishu County, hundreds of learners were stranded in Eldoret due to lack of means of transport. In Meru, Murang’a and Tharaka Nithi counties, learning in junior schools was paralysed after intern teachers took to the streets, demanding to be confirmed as permanent and pensionable employees.

In Homa Bay County, more than 500 families who had sought refuge in Kobala and Osodo Primary schools were evicted to pave way for the resumption of learning. The families were camping within the compounds of the two schools following the flooding of their homes after River Miriu burst its banks more than six weeks ago.

 Muslim Primary School

Pupils from Muslim Primary School in Nakuru County clean their classroom after re-opening for Term Two on May 13, 2024. 

Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi | Nation Media Group

Last week, Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo directed local officials to move the camps elsewhere, saying, no school should be occupied.

Following the directive, the administrators spent the weekend looking for alternative accomodations for the displaced families, including in churches.

At Kobuya Primary School, over half of the learners reported back to school yesterday. Some parents said their children lost their learning materials in the deluge.

Waive second term fees

“The government needs to waive second term fees for people affected by floods,” Ms Christine Adhiambo, a parent, said.

County Education Director Eunice Khaemba said all schools in Homa Bay had reopened, but at least 50 learners at Sikri Jerusalem Primary School in Mbita Sub-county could not report back to school due to the backflow in Lake Victoria. The school is located on a peninsula.

In Lamu County, students travelling by road had to use boats to cross the Gamba section of the Lamu-Witu-Garsen highway which is flooded after River Tana burst its banks.

Transport along the route has for the past three days been hampered with commuters having to use boats to connect their journeys. Lamu County Education Director Zachary Mutuiri told the Nation that only Chalaluma Primary School has had challenges owing to floods, a situation that forced teachers to use canoes to access the school.

Meanwhile, at least 120 pupils from the terror-prone Boni Forest, who usually go to Mokowe Arid Zone Primary School in Lamu West, were unable to report back due to insecurity.

Pupils from Milimani, Mangai, Basuba, Mararani and Kiangwe are always airlifted by military helicopters to the school every time a new term begins.

In Kisumu County, several schools in Nyando, which were severely affected by floods, opened their gates for learners despite lingering challenges.

Nyamaso and Ombaka primary schools are some of the worst-hit institutions that surprisingly welcomed students back for the second term.

At the same time, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has criticised the government over its decision to reopen schools without addressing the safety concerns of children.

In a statement, LSK president Faith Odhiambo noted that reports have indicated that over 50 schools across the country have been submerged. She added that access roads have been cut-off and buildings damaged by floods.

“Even if reconstruction were prioritised, it is unreasonable to assume that the large-scale work required has been done to a sufficient degree to guarantee the safety of students,” Ms Odhiambo stated.

She termed as reckless the reopening of the schools without first addressing the concerns.

Floods schools opening

Students disembark from a canoe to school at Watta Hamesa village, Tana River County on Monday May 13.

Photo credit: Stephen Oduor| Nation

Ms Odhiambo said President William Ruto’s assurance that the rains were expected to reduce and it was, therefore, safe for students to return to school came a few days after Interior CS Kithure Kindiki issued evacuation orders to residents living near 178 dams and water reservoirs across the country. On the forceful evictions of people living along riparian reserves, the LSK boss termed the move as unlawful and a breach of the rights of evictees.

She said the LSK had instructed lawyers to file a case on behalf of a family of a four-year-old child allegedly killed in Mukuru kwa Reuben, Nairobi, during the evictions and demolitions.

Reporting by Winnie Atieno, Domnic Ombok, Kalume Kazungu, Manase Otsialo, George Odiwuor, Oscar Kakai, Sammy Lutta, Evans Jaola And Oscar Kakai, Mercy Mwende and Mumbi Wainaina