The process of transferring land occupied by church-founded schools from the government to the various religious institutions may take longer than one-week as directed by President Uhuru Kenyatta, according to a statement detailing the early consultations made.
President Kenyatta last week gave the Education ministry a week to effect the change, a deadline that elapses in two days.
But according to a joint statement from the Lands and the Education ministries on the consultations done last week, there will be need to amend the laws governing schools and land so that the process can be a success — which may mean more time taken.
The update was issued after a meeting at Ardhi House on Thursday between principal secretaries John Muraguri (Lands), Belio Kipsang (Basic Education) and representatives from the various churches that sponsor public schools, alongside the Shule Yangu Alliance.
“The meeting took note of the need to review the existing legal framework to safeguard the interests of faith-based organisations, government and community,” said the statement.
“An inter-ministerial team is reviewing the legal framework with a view to strengthening the safeguards on administration and management of land occupied public schools.”
“This legal framework will address matters concerning ownership, land use, use of land as collateral by financial institutions and subdivisions,” it added, noting that all public schools will have title deeds within the next one year under the Public School Titling Programme.
The meeting resolved, however, that the process of titling public schools sponsored by faith-based organisations will be expedited.
Mr Kenyatta said at a gathering at the University of Nairobi grounds on Tuesday that Dr Kipsang had one week “to restore all church-owned land in schools back to their rightful owners”.
“The PS will be with your education secretary tomorrow morning and he has a week to finalise on that agenda that we have discussed,” Mr Kenyatta told the gathering, in a message directed at the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB).
The Sunday Nation has learnt that there is grumbling within the Education ministry ranks, as officers who have interacted with the Church on various occasions complain of various acts of overreaching by the Church even with the kind of control they have at the moment.
“Principals of more organised schools are being held hostage by the Church. Churches are in fact more of liabilities than assets,” said a source, adding that some faiths have been demanding payment for every learner enrolled.
Furthermore, said the source who has heads a county education body, facilities under the control of churches have witnessed developments that are, arguably, not in the interest of learners.
The source gave an example of Catholic Parochial Primary School near the Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi, whose space has shrunk over the years as the Catholic Church has erected various commercial structures.
Education expert Amos Kaburu said that, despite the fact that churches are seen as moral authorities, they have their shortcomings.
“We are not dealing with a clean constituency of complainants. We know that, even amongst themselves, they have lots of issues, particularly where land is concerned. There are plenty of vested interests,” he said.
President Kenyatta noted that a reversal of school ownership to the sponsors would ensure a better upbringing of today’s learners, whose indiscipline he said was not witnessed in past years when the Church had more say in the running of schools.
His message drew wild applause from Catholic faithful and clergy who were in attendance. Embu bishop Paul Kariuki, who heads the Catholic education team, on Friday told the Sunday Nation through his secretary that he would issue a comprehensive statement on the matter later.
Protestant churches, on the other hand, are impressed by President Kenyatta’s order — if the words of Canon Peter Karanja, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) are anything to go by.
Canon Karanja said in an interview last week that it is “very nice” that the government has “declared that it is not the owner of the schools”.
“It has been the mischief of some State operatives over the years, after enactment of the Education Act of 1968, to claim that church-sponsored schools belonged to government,” said Canon Karanja.