Teacher insecurity in northern region calls for novel approach

Wednesday March 18 2020

Eldas MP Adan Keynan and other legislators representing northeastern region address a press conference about the withdrawal of teachers from the insecurity-prone region, at Heron Hotel in Nairobi on February 4, 2020. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Teaching is an exciting career.

In less than two decades, it took me through Laikipia, Nakuru and Tharaka-Nithi in rural Kenya.

In the urban areas, I taught in Dandora Secondary School — appallingly still situated within a dumpsite once described by Ross Kemp as “one of the most toxic places on earth”. With nostalgia, I recall calling it a day at the Kenya High School.

I find the transfer of non-local teachers from parts of the northeastern region in response to insecurity an example of systemic refusal by officials to learn.

These teachers’ insecurity present some three rather obvious singularities: frontier mentality, a formidable ethno-religious cultural barrier and the presence of violent extremism.

A deeply ingrained frontier mentality among the locals makes even the most harmless of emissaries potentially malevolent strangers.

The ethno-religious barrier between the teachers and the community means the necessary empathy between the teachers and their pupils is non-existent.


Education takes place but learning is non-existent. The barrier has killed effective communication between the teachers and the community, denying the former the vital societal support and protection.

I taught in Dandora when the place and lawlessness were synonymous. In my second week, I was caught up in a Mungiki matatu carjacking drama.

As I sat frightened and confused, a gang member recognised me, gave me one look and ordered: “Wewe mwalimu nenda (Go, teacher).”.

When battles between Mungiki and police were too hot, the students would show teachers the safe routes.

The level of protection teachers enjoyed from the dumpsite community should not be perplexing; it is evidence of a socially symbiotic relationship not present in northeastern.

Distinctively, not even the most notorious chokora (street person) dared attack a teacher. The third apparent factor manifested by presence of violent extremism requires no exposition.


In the circumstances, non-local teachers are extremely exposed to criminals of all descriptions, including the Al-Shabaab; they are low-hanging fruits.

These factors demonstrate the numerous challenges. The authorities must entrench the rule of law and provide social services for sustainable development.

Our technocrats should not expect to be excused for using security to introduce different education standards for all parts of Kenya.

And it is criminal to post teachers to a fatally violent environment with zero cultural orientation, nil survival training and an unreliable security network.

That this has occurred repeatedly since independence gives new meaning to doing the same things in the same way and expecting different results!

It’s high time our technocrats asked themselves how highly militarised societies are governed with a view to designing an approach that will contribute to building of Kenya as one progressive nation under the rule of law.


Given the fact that teachers have the unique responsibility to manage the pupils, their parents and by extension the catchment communities, I strongly recommend a targeted recruitment of teachers who would then undergo mandatory orientation in one of our national police academies.

In the case of northeastern, the orientation would include training in effective weapon handling, local Somali dialects and an objective social cultural history of the region.

They should also be appointed as police reservists. That will enable teachers to integrate easily with the host communities, access necessary information for survival and seamlessly coordinate with government security agencies when deemed necessary.

And why not? Over the years, we have given firearms to reservists in their hundreds. In Israel, the bulk of hotel waiters, medical doctors, teachers, pilots, among others, are military-trained commandos, and Senior Superintendent Shaw was a teacher at Starehe Boys Centre.

By training teachers to be secure as they teach, the National Police Service could also create opportunity for future talents.

Dr Mutegi is a lecturer in the Department of Education Management, Policy and Curriculum Studies, Kenyatta University. [email protected]