Police tear-gas nursery pupils in Kisumu's Nyalenda slums

Tuesday October 3 2017

By ELIZABETH OJINA
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As supporters on the National Super Alliance took to the streets of Kisumu to push for electoral reforms on Monday, the focus was on their running battles with police.

At the end of the day, only the man who was killed in Siaya and the scores who were injured were counted as casualties.

ECDE

But there were more, some who neither knew anything about the protests nor Raila Odinga’s push for systems and personnel changes at IEBC.

One group of these casualties is nursery school children in Nyalenda slums who were tear-gassed by anti-riot police.

The mid-morning corrosive assault on their eyes and nostrils came as they learned how to read and write.

The attack on St Peter’s Awich Kodingo ECDE was reminiscent of the tear-gassing of pupils at Lang’ata Road Primary School in Nairobi as they protested against land grabbing in 2015.

A video of the Nyalenda attack trended in social media for the better part of Monday night and early Tuesday morning, with Kenyans demanding accountability.

INJURIES

According to school’s founder Beatrice Schnelli-Okello, armed police “unlawfully” entered into the school premises and hurled teargas at the minors.

Three children sustained injuries as they stormed out of their classes.

“They attacked us without any due regard for the children aged between 3-7 years and staffers. It took the intervention of teachers and good Samaritans to evacuate and aid the little ones to safety,” she told the Nation on Tuesday.

Ms Okello lamented and questioned the motive of the officers in attacking the young children.

“It is unfathomable to involve innocent children, within school premises, and further risk their lives. The children are traumatised and some have suffered injuries,” she said.

The institution’s head teacher Eunice Odhiambo said the incident took place at 11am on Monday.

TEAR GAS

“The anti-riot police were outside the gate demanding the children to be released from classes. They suddenly lobbed teargas into the school compound that exploded right at the entrance of one of the classes, chocking pupils,” she said.

According to the teacher, six police officers forced their way into the school compound.

“We had to break the gate to secure the release of the children from jaws of police brutality.”

She said she had to hide in the administration block for two hours as the six police officers pursued her after realising she was recoding a video.

But police are denying attacking the minors.

Kisumu County police boss Titus Yoma said no anti-riot police were deployed to the area.

POLICE

“There were no riots in Nyalenda hence we cannot claim any responsibility. Our officers were focused on Kondele where the riots were rampant,” he said.

He said police would not take responsibility over the alleged attack.

Locals are not happy with that response. They support school leaders’ claim that police attacked children.

Kisumu City Residents Voice Chairman Audi Ogada condemned the attack, saying the officers attacked unarmed and innocent pupils.

“The police must take responsibility over the incident because there is enough evidence,” he said.

“There is no way senior officers can claim officers were not deployed in Nyalenda slums,” he added as he called for the transfer of Mr Yoma over “deteriorating” security situation in Kisumu.