In Summary
  • Parents have complained about long distances to the schools, which are also grappling with a biting teacher shortage that has plagued the sector for years.
  • Parents who spoke to the Nation said they prefer private schools because they are near their homes and have fewer learners.

More than 10,000 learners have been ordered out of dilapidated schools ordered shut by the government in a countrywide crackdown on unsafe institutions.

Education officials have ordered more than 300 primary and secondary schools shut and asked parents to enrol their children in public schools near their homes.

Cabinet Secretary George Magoha ordered an audit and the closure of unsafe and unregistered schools countrywide two weeks ago, but the directive has faced resistance from the same people whose children it was intended to protect.

And Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang issued a circular directing officials to assess the infrastructure in schools and “make appropriate decisions” by October 25 and submit a report to him by October 31.

The resistance to the closures from parents and other stakeholders has lifted a lid on issues influencing education in informal settlements.

“This circular is an emotive reaction to a terrible tragedy which is understandable, but is not a good basis for making effective policy decisions,” Mr Allan Juma Masika of the Kenya Alliance of Non-Formal Schools Welfare Association said.

CHALLENGES

Nairobi regional Director of Education Jared Obiero acknowledged that though the ministry has directed where the learners should report, not all of them have done so.

“We cannot force the parents to take them there. It is their democratic right to school their children but the environment must be safe. If it is not, we’ll close the schools,” he told the Nation by phone.

The crisis has been compounded by congestion in many public schools, especially in urban areas.

Parents have complained about long distances to the schools, which are also grappling with a biting teacher shortage that has plagued the sector for years. The Teachers Service Commission has announced plans to engage interns in an attempt to plug the gap.

The directive to close non-compliant schools was a reaction to the tragedy that befell Precious Talent Top School, off Ngong Road in Nairobi, on September 23.

Eight learners were killed and 69 others injured when a classroom block collapsed. The owner of the school, Mr Moses Wainaina Ndirangu, has since been arrested.

He was arraigned on September 27 and detained for 15 days for police to complete investigations.

DONORS

Learners at the school were relocated to neighbouring public primary schools — Ngong Forest (480), Jamhuri Primary (180) and Riruta Satellite (130).

When the Nation visited the ill-fated school on Friday, eight children were learning outside the classrooms on their own.

“The private schools in this area are supported by foreign donors. The children get free things like lunch and uniforms. Closing the schools means the parents will have to cater for those needs,” the headteacher of a public primary school in Dagoretti South told the Nation.

The owners of the schools, the teacher said, use the poor infrastructure at the schools and poverty of the learners to attract donor funding.

“There are hundreds of these schools in Dagoretti and Kawangware.” Most of them are squeezed into tiny plots and do not even have playgrounds or trained teachers.

But parents have shunned government schools with better infrastructure, spaces and qualified teachers.

Pama Academy in Kangemi, which was closed last week, is only 800 metres away from two public schools (Kihumbuini and New Kihumbuini primary schools).

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