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School fires blamed on exams fever

Thursday July 24 2014

An onlooker at Tala High School's Komarock dormitory where a Form One student was burnt to death and 14 others injured in what police suspect to have been arson. PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI

An onlooker at Tala High School's Komarock dormitory where a Form One student was burnt to death and 14 others injured in what police suspect to have been arson. PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI 

EVELYNE MUSAMBI
By EVELYNE MUSAMBI
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The recent wave of school property being destroyed by protesting students has led to the closure of over 15 schools across the country paralysing learning.

Makueni county director of education Kamau Gatheru told Nation.co.ke that most incidences of destruction of school properties appear to be cover up for the students’ fear of the ongoing mock exams.

Mr Gatheru added that the pattern has become apparent every time mock exams are being administered to form four candidates.

The trend is common during second term as students approach the form four mock exams. Education experts link the timing of the protests to the unfinished school syllabuses.

“We cannot rule out the fact that some syllabuses are not usually complete by the time students sit for the mock exams and this can affect their confidence,” said Mr Gatheru.

Makueni County has had the highest number of school fires this year, with seven schools closed down in the past three months leaving properties worth thousands destroyed.

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“I think this trend of students destroying school property should come to a close. Why should they destroy property? They can just demonstrate and air out their grievances,” said Mr Gatheru.

Though the county has not had any fatalities, the latest unrest in Machakos County left one student dead and 14 others admitted after a dormitory was burnt down.

According to Mr Gatheru, students release the pressure to excel being impacted in them by teachers and parents by engaging in unrests.

“For instance in Makueni, the pressure to perform in high school is very high after the students perform exemplary well in primary exams,” he added.

The county has been carrying out sensitisation campaigns in schools, informing students of the implications on destroying school property.

“On Friday we will have a meeting with all the school principals in a continued discussion to find out what is ailing our schools,” said Mr Gatheru.

Among the affected schools in Makueni are Kitondo Secondary whose administration block was burnt down by students last week and Kakuswi Secondary where students broke classroom windows and walked out.

Kola Girls high school in the same county had its dormitory burnt down on July 6 evening when the students were in class for preps.

In Kisumu County, one dormitory in Homa Bay High School was burnt down and property destroyed on Monday evening after the students had retreated to their classrooms for evening preps.

Sipili Secondary School in Laikipia County reopened on Monday, a week after it was closed down following a fire that gutted a dormitory.

Gelegele Boys in Bomet County had one of the dormitories reduced to ashes on the night of July 5 after the students were allegedly denied a chance to watch a world cup match.

In Nyeri Country, Karatina girls high school had one of its dormitories razzed down last week after students demanded for that the deadline for reporting to school be moved to 5pm.

Additional reporting by Maurice Kaluoch, David Macharia, Geoffrey Rono and James Ngunjiri.