Just what could be the cause of the unrest that has rocked Nyanza schools in the past one week? This is the question that most parents and education stakeholders are faced with in the wake of closures of at least five secondary schools in the region.
Three National Schools; Maranda High School, Kisumu Girls and Ng’iya Girls High Schools as well as Ambira and Maliera Secondary Schools have been closed. Siaya County is the worst hit with a record four Schools now closed down.
Even though four of the institutions in Nyanza were closed down due to unrest, it is not clear what could have caused the fire that gutted down a 130-capacity dormitory at Ambira leading to its closure on Friday.
Ambira principal Thomas K'Ogolla declined to comment on the fire, and instead referred Nation to education authorities. But students interviewed said the fire broke out when they were attending their night preps around 8pm. Nyanza Counties Education coordinator Richard Chepkawai asked students in Ambira to go home as investigations into the Thursday night inferno kicked off.
"They will go back to school as soon as we sort out the issue of the burnt dormitory to ensure those affected have a place to sleep in," he said. In Maranda, principal Edwin Namachanja met staff and later met school’s board of management led by chairman Carey Orege in an attempt to work on a return-to-school formula on Friday.
Mr Chepkawai said the institution was closed down on Wednesday after they foiled a planned strike. He said authorities reached the decision to close down the school and send the students home following “rising tension at the school that started building up on Monday." Mr Orege blamed some Education ministry’s policies for the wave of unrests in schools.
"The populist policies they are imposing must not be applied selectively. Why are their children not subjected to this free system of education? These cannot produce better results. Teachers must be motivated," said Mr Orege, a former Ministry of Regional Development permanent secretary.
Mr Chepkawai said preliminary reports show the strikes could have been caused by "resistance to new Teachers Service Commission (TSC) changes."
"We also feel the new principals may have brought new changes in administration which may not have gone down well with " those they work with."
"We believe however that TSC changes were positive and shall act appropriately depending on those liable for the unrest," Mr Chepkawai said. Kuppet Executive Secretary Akello Misori warned that it is not the responsibility of students to identify who to teach them.
“It is the responsibility of the ministry and TSC to identify the leadership of schools and not students or parents. Where students are selecting who to teach them, I think this is a subject for investigation,” said Mr Misori. Kisumu County Kuppet Executive Secretary Zablon Awange said the Ministry of Education must carry out thorough and urgent investigations over the incidences.
“As Kuppet Kisumu we also demand the Education Act 2010 which gave students much freedom be reviewed because it was the genesis of numerous strikes, fires and lies by students.”
“The government must also promptly release results of investigations and task force beginning with recent case of DNA tests on Moi Nairobi Girls teachers,” Mr Awange said.
He went on: “Legal action should be taken against students who lead strike or lie against teachers on corporal punishment or sexual relations. Teachers are besieged and attention is on them rather than students. Unless this stops it will be hard to stop the strikes.” Nyanza Counties Parents Association chairman Jackson Omollo Ogweno censured students for making demands to teachers.