Lamu schools deserted as forces fight Shabaab in Boni

Friday September 1 2017

Pandanguo Primary School in Witu, Lamu County, which is among those which still remain closed as pupils keep away due to insecurity posed by Al-Shabaab. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Pandanguo Primary School in Witu, Lamu County, which is among those which still remain closed as pupils keep away due to insecurity posed by Al-Shabaab. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By KALUME KAZUNGU
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Learning has been paralysed in all areas of Lamu County where the multi-agency security operation dubbed Linda Boni is ongoing.

The operation which is being conducted by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in cooperation with the various units of the National Police Service was launched by the government through in September 2015 with key objective being to flush out Al-Shabaab militants believed to be hiding inside the dense Boni Forest.

A spot check by Nation this week established that a total of eight primary schools in the operation areas in Lamu remain closed even as the third term commenced.

The schools include Basuba, Milimani, Mangai, Mararani and Kiangwe in Lamu East Sub-County and Pandanguo, Maleli and Kakathe, all in Lamu West Sub-County.

AL-SHABAAB

The schools haven’t been opened due to insecurity posed by Al-Shabaab militants and the ongoing crackdown by the security agencies in the affected areas.

The situation has affected the learning of over 1,000 pupils whose fate now hangs in the balance as they are now forced to remain indoors with their parents while their peers around the country go on with their schooling.

Nation also established that Basuba, Milimani, Mangai, Mararani and Kiangwe primary schools in Lamu East were shut down since the beginning of second term in May after 12 teachers fled the areas alleging direct threats from Al-Shabaab militants.

For the last three years, education in the five schools has also been disrupted numerous times owing to frequent Al-Shabaab attacks.

BONI COMMUNITY

The area is occupied by the minority Boni community who still lag behind in matters education and general development.

The 12 teachers who fled had earlier been posted in the areas early 2016 in order to ensure learning goes on in the region.

Since they fled, no effort has been made to ensure pupils in Basuba Ward resume their learning.

Parents are now calling on the government to seek a permanent solution to the issue of insecurity in order to enable their children stay in school and learn.

CONCERNS

Mr Ali Kuro, a Boni elder in Basuba, expressed concern in the manner in which education in their areas continues to dwindle by the day due to insecurity.

“My seven children who are in class three, four, five, six and seven haven’t stepped in class for the last two years since schools are still closed to date due to insecurity. We need the government to intervene and ensure a lasting solution. Our hope is to see our children going back to class,” said Mr Kuro.

On the other hand, the three schools of Pandanguo, Kakathe and Maleli in Lamu West had to be closed down in June after residents fled into IDP camps following attacks from suspected Al-Shabaab militants that left several people dead and houses torched.

Teachers in the areas also fled due to the rising insecurity and subsequent attacks.

IDP CAMPS

Residents in the area are currently putting up at IDP camps in Katsaka Kairu and AIC church in Witu Town.

Mr James Akello, an education officer in Witu, confirmed to Nation on Thursday that the three schools have not opened for third term since majority of the pupils live in the camps with their parents and they cannot attend school from there since they are far away from their villages.

“We have around 600 pupils from the three schools. All of them are affected since the schools haven’t been opened for third term which commenced this week.

“We will have to wait until the government allows those living as IDPs at the camps in Kastaka Kairu and Witu AIC to come back home,” said Mr Akello.

REMAIN IN CAMPS

Lamu County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo stressed the need for those in IDP camps to remain there until the security agencies complete the ongoing operation in areas bordering Boni Forest.

He said he is aware that parents want their children to go back to school but asked them to remain with them children in the camps until the security operation is over.

“We have about 2,150 people at the Katsaka Kairu IDP camp and others at the Witu AIC church. I understand schools are open for third term but my advice is that no one should leave the camps for their homes since the security operation isn’t over yet. We will notify them when it’s safe for them to go back home,” Mr Kitiyo told journalists in his office on Thursday.