The government on Tuesday turned up the heat on teachers over a wave of school unrest that has seen dormitories set ablaze by students across the country.
Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang, who was in Mombasa to assess the damage caused in the wake of the chaos, said teachers must work with the police to end the problem while Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, speaking in Kisumu, maintained that parents must be ready to meet the cost of destruction.
Dr Kipsang, who spoke after meeting education stakeholders at Uhuru na Kazi Building in Mombasa, said the buck stops with the teachers.
"Coast is safe other than three cases in Kwale and some challenges in Kilifi. Let’s share information to curb these incidents and work with security teams and headteachers," he said.
The PS assured the players that security will be enhanced in schools to curb the unrest. "But let us not be complacent. Let's put our ears to the ground. This is a copycat issue. They (students) might want to copy what is happening in Makueni. Let's network to address the challenges," he said.
PAY FOR DAMAGE
In Kisumu, Ms Mohamed said parents will have to pay for the damage caused by students.
The CS, who visited Kisumu Girls’ High School, however, indicated that the government will make sure the cost passed on to parents is the actual amount for rebuilding of the property destroyed.
“We are not taking up that expense because the money used to run our schools is taxpayers’ money. You cannot take public money and burn it,” said Ms Mohamed. “When you destroy property, you have actually destroyed the trust that the public had in our public schools, so we cannot continue funding criminal offences.”
Earlier, there had been a scuffle at the gate of Kisumu Girls, where parents were protesting a penalty of Sh5,000 per student following riots last week.
The parents said the charges were high and that no proper investigations had been done to determine the cost of the damage.
On Tuesday, Ms Mohamed said headteacher transfers, which have been a source of controversy, will not be stopped. “We are all delocalised. The deputy commissioner was just transferred the other day,” said the CS.
“I went to a school where, from Form One to Form Four, the principal was changed three times, so this is not something new. I think for a long time we had given up on that practice.”
Kenya National Examinations Council Chairman George Magoha said test papers are secure. “The tests will be seen on the morning of the exam date, so stop burning schools or throwing tantrums. If you like, burn more. We will administer the exams under trees,” he said.
He said the ministry will not be intimidated by hooliganism three months to the national examinations. “A normal student should be studying now and getting prepared, not diverting our attention by burning schools,” he said.
In Western alone, 16 cases of school unrest have been reported.
Among the schools closed in Kisumu are Chulaimbo, Kisumu Girls, Onjiko Boys, Otieno Oyoo, Ngere Boys, Withur Boys and Gae Girls. Usenge Boys, St Augustine Nyamonye Girls, Ng’iya Girls, Ambira and Maliera in Siaya have been shut due to student unrest.
In Homa Bay, police were detaining four students of Oriwo Boys’ High School in Rachuonyo North Sub-County after a dormitory was torched. The school was shut.
On Tuesday, police also found a container with petrol next to Samanga Secondary School in Rachuonyo North. Kandiege Mixed Secondary School has also been closed.
Homa Bay County Police Commander Marius Tum said security officials have heightened patrols over the current wave of student unrest. The county security team, led by county commissioner Irungu Macharia, on Tuesday held a meeting with top education officials in the county over the unrest.
Ms Mohamed on Monday said police had arrested some 125 students involved in school unrest as she announced tough measures to rein in the ring leaders, including locking them out of public universities and inscribing in their leaving certificates that they had perpetrated chaos in school.
Such students will also not benefit from any government scholarships while their parents will bear the cost of repairing the damaged facilities.
Ms Mohamed said the students involved in assaults and arson will be handled as criminals. “Arson is a criminal offence even if committed by a minor. We are not turning back on this. Whatever they are doing is unacceptable since you cannot destroy property and expect no punishment,” said the CS.
More than 40 schools have witnessed cases of unrest this year, which has seen property worth millions of shillings destroyed across the country.
The CS said a preliminary report by the ministry indicates that reasons contributing to the unrest include student reaction to last year’s cancellation of KCSE examination results.
“This was particularly the case in Chalbi and Ortum high schools. In the case of Chalbi, students attacked non-local teachers on claims that they were behind the cancellation.
In the two schools, students wanted an undertaking from the principals that they would facilitate cheating in the 2018 KCSE,” said the CS.
Reported by Winnie Atieno, Ouma Wanzala, Elizabeth Ojina and Barack Oduor