Schools will not be shut because of arson attacks, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said Thursday as a teachers' unions threatened to go on strike if they are not closed immediately.
A meeting of head teachers, religious leaders and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission in Nairobi, which was chaired by Dr Matiang’i, resolved that schools should remain open until August 12, the official closing day.
Deputy President William Ruto also said schools will not be closed.
But Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Chairman Omboko Milemba said in Nairobi that the attacks that have seen buildings in more than 100 schools set ablaze was a national disaster which called for drastic decisions.
“We have given them seven days to close schools or we will not step into those schools to teach,” said Mr Milemba in Nairobi. “We do not want this disaster to get out of hand.”
Mr Ruto was accompanied by Dr Matiang’i and Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang’, at the launch of a modern library at Nairobi School.
“Those who think that monkey games will change our resolve to sanitise education do not know who they are dealing with,” said Mr Ruto, who blamed the burning of schools on a group of “crooks” and “criminals”, saying the government will deal with them firmly.
The CS took advantage of the support to reaffirm his position on the unrest, saying he follows advice from the President and the Deputy President, who said no school should be shut.
“We will not close schools early,” said Dr Matiang’i. “Anybody calling on us to do so is wasting their time."
The stakeholders meeting at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development maintained that 99 per cent of the 9,300 secondary schools were running normally and that those involved in the arson were too few to necessitate an early closure. Dr Matiang’i is on record saying it is just about one per cent.
Kenya Special Schools Heads Association Chairman Arthur Injenga called for an end to the attacks.
“The arson attacks need to be addressed to avoid easy experimentation,’ said Mr Injenga. “Our fears are that it can spread.”
None of the special schools had been involved in the unrest.
A statement released after the meeting by the head of the Anglican Church in Kenya Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit attributed the unrest to poor school management, weak teacher-student relations and mock exams.
Separately, former presidential candidate James ole Kiyiapi asked the government to close schools immediately.
The former Education principal secretary said there was something unusual in the arson attacks and that urgent government action was needed to stop the destruction.
“When schools are systematically burnt as if it is a coordinated exercise, why can’t we ask ourselves why such a thing has not happened before?” asked Prof Kiyiapi when he spoke to the Nation at Boma Inn Hotel in Eldoret.
Additional reporting by Philemon Suter and Arnold Ngure