Concern raised over school fires and riots in Kisii, Nyamira and Migori counties

On Saturday, Mr Mwangi cited clan politics as a possible cause of the fires.

Sunday March 27 2016

Parents assess damage after an inferno

Parents assess damage after an inferno destroyed a dormitory at St John’s Nyamagwa Boys Secondary School on March 21, 2016. There is growing concern over a wave of fire incidents and riots that have hit a number of schools in Kisii, Nyamira and Migori counties. PHOTO | BENSON MOMANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By AGGREY OMBOKI
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ByELISHA OTIENO
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There is growing concern over a wave of fire incidents and riots that have hit a number of schools in Kisii, Nyamira and Migori counties.

In Kisii County, the national government has ordered a probe into the infernos, with County Commissioner Chege Mwangi instructing the Criminal Investigations Department to act.

Last week alone, the dormitories of two schools — St John’s Nyamagwa Boys High and St Mary’s Nyamagwa Girls’ High in Kisii County — were gutted in mysterious circumstances.

Nyamagwa Boys was consequently closed for two weeks after students protested the school’s poor showing in the 2015 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination.

The Catholic Church-sponsored school scored a mean of 7.9 points.

Rioting students allegedly ordered their colleagues out of the dormitories and set on fire a hostel named Cardinal Otunga. No student was injured.

A day later, fire razed a dormitory at St Mary’s Nyamagwa Girls High School in Bobasi Constituency.

NO STUDENT INJURED

The fire, which started in Kilimanjaro dormitory, destroyed students’ personal effects and bedding.

The students were attending morning Mass at the local Catholic Church when the fire broke out.

The church is about 100 metres from the school. No student was injured.

Bassi Boitangare MCA Isaiah Mosota condemned the act, calling it a “shameful attempt to derail the education of innocent students".

“We are shocked and saddened by these senseless acts,” he told the Nation.

On Saturday, Mr Mwangi cited clan politics as a possible cause of the fires, adding that leaders engaging in divisive politics would be arrested.

He asked the Teachers Service Commission not to succumb to demands by leaders to post “preferred” teachers.

“All the culprits will be brought to book,” he said.

In Nyamira, police fired several shots in the air on Wednesday to disperse rowdy Bonyunyu Secondary School students, who were baying for the blood of the deputy principal.

They accused him of being too strict and pelted his residence and office with stones, injuring his wife.

Before this, the students had tied two watchmen to a tree and confiscated their phones.

But the watchmen later freed themselves and alerted the principal, Mr Johnson Nyamboga, who called the police.

By then, the irate students had damaged the deputy principal’s office and residence.

In Migori, a dormitory at Mukuyu Mixed Secondary School was set ablaze on Tuesday.

No student was injured as all were in class for preps.

Beds, books and bedding of 120 boys were burnt.

Uriri DC George Chelagat said investigations had been launched.

“We will provide tents so that the affected students continue preparing for their end-term exams,” he said.

Principals in other schools are said to be monitoring their students for fear of possible strife.

Migori Boys, Abwao, Kangeso and Uriri High schools have also suffered student unrest.

The students cited strict management and poor exam results and sought guaranteed access to leaked exams in future “as happens in other schools”.

Uriri Principal Fanuel Okoth said the students would be recalled with their parents after “the situation is contained”.

The students had demanded the removal of Mr Okoth, claiming he had “outlived his usefulness”.

They said they would not accept “poor results” again.

Migori County police boss David Kirui linked the unrest to the recently released exam results.

Abwao High School Principal James Langi expressed fear over further student unrest.

“Incitement should not be ruled out. These things can’t just happen simultaneously. Some people could be settling scores with the affected principals,” he said.

He dismissed claims of poor results being the cause, saying five of the school’s students had qualified to join public universities, a feat never achieved before.

The Migori County Executive Member for Education Michael Ogutu termed the unrest as “worrying.”

“Soon the students could refuse to sit exams unless the marking scheme is brought to them first,” he added.

He asked parents and head teachers “to always be in touch with the students as “some strikes were not linked to exam results but to poor leadership”.

Additional reporting by Magati Obebo

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