Church leaders and Muslim preachers on Sunday accused Education minister Mutula Kilonzo of lowering the country’s morals. They challenged him to apologise and resign for supporting mini-skirts in schools.
They also accused the minister of failing to respect nuns, describing his comments as unfortunate and amounting to promoting immorality in schools.
“The issue is when you are under discipline in an institution of learning, especially at prime age of primary and high school, you must grow within proper moral ethics which includes dressing,” said Anglican Bishop Stephen Kewasis of the Kitale Diocese at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, on arrival from Thailand.
He said it was unfortunate that Mr Kilonzo was out of tune with Kenyan culture.
“It is in primary and high school where the country moulds good citizens and there should be no excuse when it comes to morals,” Bishop Kewasis said.
African Inland Church head Silas Yego and Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims director-general Latif Shaban warned that the minister had set a dangerous precedent.
“Kenyan schools are decent. I have been visiting secondary schools and students dress in a modest way and there’s no need to interfere with them.
He should leave it to schools to decide. You cannot force things on people,” Bishop Yego said.
The bishop said mini-skirts were not part of the Kenyan tradition and that schools were supposed to be custodians of common decency.
Mr Shaban said the statement was derogatory to Kenyans.
“It is unfortunate that we have leaders who think that way. Mutula should apologise to the country as he is supposed to be an icon of our children due to his position as minister,” Mr Shaban said.
The Catholic Church accused the minister of promoting immorality and indiscipline in schools by supporting students’ demands to wear short skirts.
Bishops Philip Anyolo (Homa Bay) and Joseph Mairura (Kisii) challenged Mr Kilonzo to provide exemplary leadership.
“If Mutula’s direction was heeded, it would make the girl-child more vulnerable to temptation and this can lead to erosion of moral values, crimes and conflicts in the society and I advise the students to dress decently at home and in schools to avoid moral conflicts,” said Bishop Mairura.
Bishop Anyolo, who is also the vice-chair of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, asked parents and teachers to ignore Mr Kilonzo’s statements and mould students into responsible adults.
Bishop Maurice Makumba, chairman of the Commission for Education and Religious Education, said educational institutions were formative centres and therefore dressing and discipline were vital to the development of the child.
Sense of belonging
“The purpose of the school uniform is to unify, create cohesion and build a sense of belonging and identity which are crucial in the formative years of a child,” said Bishop Makumba in Nairobi.
Father Bernard Ng’ang’a of the Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi said it would be irresponsible for schools to give in to such demands.
“I wonder how a man of such calibre can say that students should be allowed to wear what they want. We cannot allow students to control us, if we do, we will be digging our grave,” said Fr Ng’ang’a.
“We need to be firm to be able to discipline students. Students should dress decently. They may love or hate us now, but they will be disciplined,” he added.
MPs, Ephraim Maina (Mathira), Jeremiah Kioni (Ndaragwa) and Clement Wambugu (Mathioya) asked the minister to retract the remarks.
“The minister’s comments are not only in bad taste and unfortunate, but also likely to promote immorality in our learning institutions,” said Mr Maina.
He asked the minister to apologise for saying schoolgirls “should not be expected to dress like nuns”.
The MPs spoke at a memorial service for Archbishop Samson Mwangi Gaitho of the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (AIPCA) in Ruiru.
In Murang’a, Kikuyu elders asked Mr Kilonzo to resign. “The minister should be concerned with the increasing cases of sexual harassment involving teachers in schools instead of how the students dress,” the elders’ chairman, Mr Joachim Gitonga, said on Sunday.
Former minister Mutahi Kagwe asked Mr Kilonzo to be more cautious. “The minister should realise that dresses worn by nuns represent spirituality and a spirit of giving and we believers respect them and even admire them,” said Mr Kagwe at Kariko Catholic Church in Othaya.
In Kirinyaga, Anglican priest Samuel Kanjobe said the minister erred by hastily supporting Rwathia Girls (Murang’a County) students who were protesting to demand shorter skirts. (READ: Church seeks apology from Mutula over skirts drama)
By Lucas Barasa, Oliver Musembi, Rose Kamanga, Winnie Molly Owuor and George Munene