Ensure safety of school children, Unicef urges Kenya after pupils were tear-gassed during maandamano

Teargas

Boda boda riders drive through teargas fumes after police dispersed protesting youths in Shinyalu, Kakamega County on Friday, July 7, 2023. Unicef has called on involved parties to ensure the safety of school children after pupils were tear-gassed during anti-government protests.

Photo credit: Shaban Makokha | Nation Media Group

The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef) says it is deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of children in Nairobi and various regions of Kenya.

In a statement following the recent protests that rocked various parts of the country on Wednesday, the organisation appealed to all parties involved to take necessary measures to ensure the safety and protection of children.

"The reports of children being exposed to tear gas and other dangers in large crowds are alarming. We call on all parties involved to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and protection of children. Children should never be exposed to harm and their fundamental right to education must be protected," she said.

It added that it would continue to work tirelessly in partnership with local and national authorities to ensure the well-being of children across Kenya.

The appeal comes after at least 53 children were taken to hospital in Nairobi after police threw tear gas into their classroom during protests on Wednesday.

Demonstrations across the country, called by the opposition over the rising cost of living, have turned deadly.

At the same time, Azimio MPs have called for the arrest of the police officers who threw tear gas at the Kangemi students. 

A section of Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition MPs in Nairobi County have condemned police for tear-gassing Kihumbuini School pupils during demonstrations on Wednesday.

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna, Embakasi East MP Babu Owino and Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi visited the school on Friday to assess the situation.

In his address, Westlands MP Wanyonyi accused the police of targeting schoolchildren.

"We were demonstrating peacefully before the police lobbed teargas at us, one fell into my vehicle and another inside the school compound...we condemn the attack and call on the police to take action against the police officers who disrupted learning in the school," said Mr Wanyonyi.

Babu Owino called on the Inspector General of Police to take action against the police officers who fired teargas inside the school compound, injuring a number of students.

Senator Suduna reiterated that the next nationwide protests will be held three times in a week to send a strong message to President William Ruto about the high cost of living.

He asked the police to deal with the Azimio politicians next time instead of targeting students.

Mr Sifuna also announced that the protests would continue for three consecutive days next week.

"We have told them that from next week on, the maandamano will be carried in three days. We've set aside five days to mourn those who were hit by bullets, those who were injured, including students, and to visit those who are in hospital. After that, Maandamano will be on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday," said Sifuna.

According to Kangemi MCA Mr Hamisi Maleya, 54 students were injured during Wednesday's violence, including 51 from primary and 3 from secondary.

The Azimio MCAs said they would visit the students who are still in hospital.

Meanwhile, the Azimio la Umoja coalition has announced three days of protests from Wednesday to Friday next week.

The coalition, which had planned to hold the anti-government demonstrations on Wednesday only, said it was forced to make the change in response to what it described as overwhelming demands from Kenyans.