Parents of students in schools that were affected by unrest this term are facing penalties running into millions of shillings for the destruction caused.
Most of the students who have since reported back are being charged between Sh1,000 and Sh5,000 to reconstruct the destroyed facilities.
And, as they report back, the students will have to make do with poor accommodation facilities as most schools have converted classrooms, and in some cases dining halls, into temporary dormitories.
The schools are racing against time to reopen since the second term is set to end of August 3 and the institutions need the money to reconstruct new dormitories ahead of next term.
Parents of the affected students are also being compelled to complete this term's fees before their children are admitted back while in some schools, students have to clear the whole year’s fees or they are kicked out.
Since the start of the year, more than 50 schools have witnessed unrest with the second term recording the highest cases which has seen several dormitories burnt down.
Rioting secondary school students target dormitories because they perceive them as the most valuable buildings around them. The students told a taskforce that was chaired by Claire Omollo and whose report was released last year that they burn dormitories because mattresses easily catch and spread fire.
At Kisii High School, the management has fined each of the 1,900 learners Sh1,800 to cater for repairs of the damaged dormitory. This amounts to over Sh3.4 million.
Parents who sought anonymity said it was unfair to fine all students yet some suspects had been arrested. The eight suspects, police said, were captured on CCTV cameras leaving the dorm moments before the fire.
“The suspects should bear the burden; why am I being punished yet my son is innocent?” wondered one of the parents as he escorted his son to school on Wednesday.
But County Education Board chairman Henry Onderi said the fines were imposed on parents after an assessment report on the damage by experts.
“The fines are not just random, assessors gave professional advice to the Board of Management and other education stakeholders,” said Dr Onderi.
At Botoro ELCK Secondary School in Kisii South Sub-County where at least five students sustained minor injuries after two dormitories caught fire, learners are yet to return to school after they were sent home. School Principal Victor Nabwaya said the two dormitories housed 110 students.
At St Mary’s Girls’ High School Mumias, 1,038 students who were sent home after a dormitory was burnt have reported back to school.
School Principal Mercy Luvai said the girls started reporting back on Saturday.
“We are committed to cover the syllabus and we have talked to the girls and their parents and they have agreed with us,” said Ms Luvai.
She said the school's management resolved to temporarily close the school after the fire “to get time to assess the damage and decide on the way forward.”
An investigative report released by the department of Public Works indicates the estimate for the damaged dormitory at Sh8 million.
“Other personal effects belonging to the 114 students was lost and Sh1.2 million equipment including beds, mattresses and blankets destroyed by the fire,” added Ms Luvai.
She said the school management had not decided on the way forward to cater for the damage because investigations were still going on.
In Makueni County, 12 students at Kikuumini Secondary School are expected to return to school tomorrow after a six-week suspension after they were wrongly accused of setting their school dormitory on fire.
Ms Damaris Karani, a resident magistrate at Makindu law courts, on Thursday discharged the boys following an application to that effect by the prosecution and wrote to the school to reinstate them.
"Their rights as children should not be violated now that the court has discharged them," Ms Karani noted.
Seven students were charged with the offence that saw beds and school property worth Sh680,000 destroyed.
The chairman of the Makueni chapter of Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) Julius Mutwii has defended the move by schools to charge parents for the losses suffered after destruction of school property in riots.
“Whereas schools have insured their property, the insurance companies do not compensate schools for cases in which students destroy property,” Mr Mutwii said.
Kessha chairman Kahi Indimuli said schools are only charging parents for destruction cost.
“School boards usually come up with fines after getting professional advice and estimates from Public Works officers in the counties,” said Mr Indimuli.
He said the cost of a dormitory with cubicles is between Sh9 million and Sh10 million since they must have toilets, bathrooms and floors with tiles.
Mr Indimuli said school heads are determined to ensure that learning goes on since next term will be very short.
However, National Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo said the government should release guidelines on how much parents should pay.
“What parents are being charged is too high and there is a need for regulation to avoid exploitation,” said Mr Maiyo.
Kisii County Kuppet Executive Secretary Otungu Omari said fining all students was the best decision because it would deter others against committing such crimes.
“After our investigations, we found that more students apart from those who were arrested could have been involved. They must all take responsibility,” said Mr Omari.
At Maranda High School, parents have accused the administration of unfairly levying extra charges.
After resuming classes, the administration is said to have demanded that each student pays Sh1,000 christened as “students welfare” before they could be allowed back.
Nyanza region Education coordinator Richard Chepkawai, however, refused to comment on the arbitrary costings by schools, saying that investigations were still ongoing.
Education Cabinet Secretary (CS) Amina Mohamed said the government will not use taxpayers’ money to rebuild the burnt facilities.
“Parents must be ready to bear the costs. No amount of grievance warrants burning of school facilities,” said the CS.
She said the causes of unrest include students’ reaction to last year’s cancellation of Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination results. This was particularly the case at Chalbi High School and Ortum High School.
“Over the past two years, the ministry has put up measures meant to guarantee the integrity of national examinations. These measures have completely closed any avenues that were previously used to compromise the integrity of examinations. Efforts of cartels to attempt to guarantee leakage of examination papers have failed. In some of the cases, students have been put under a lot of pressure to be adequately prepared for the examinations,” said Ms Mohamed.
She added that general cases of indiscipline were also to blame for the unrest.
“The Ministry has stepped up surveillance in our schools and taken up measures to ensure that normal teaching and learning resumes in the affected schools,” added Ms Mohamed.
Reporting by Ruth Mbula, Ouma Wanzala, Shaban Makokha, Victor Raballa and Pius Maundu