Protests interrupt learning as worried parents keep children at home

Empty classroom at Moi Avenue Primary in Nairobi County on Tuesday, July 2, 2024 due to the ongoing protests in major parts of the country. 

Due to concerns that anti-government demonstrations might escalate into violence, many schools across the country remained closed as parents chose to keep their children at home on Tuesday, July 2.

Although certain schools notified parents on Monday that they would remain closed, some parents chose not to send their children to school.

“Due to the planned demonstrations Tuesday July 2, 2024, there will be no school as a precautionary measure. We shall resume classes on Wednesday July 3, 2024,” reads one such message sent to parents.

Classes resumed on Monday, July 1, 2024, following the mid-term break last week.

“We are planning to have physical classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then use the online platform on Tuesday and Thursday to cover more subjects. We would not want the children on harm’s way,” another message from a school in Rongai.

Learners did not turn up at Moi Avenue Primary School which is within the Nairobi Central Business District, but the teachers reported for duty. They later left as tension gripped the CBD as police engaged protestors in running battles and lobbed teargas canisters at them.

“We were asked not to take children to school but I couldn’t have allowed my children to come to school but I couldn’t have allowed my children to come to school under such circumstances. Last week, the police officers were throwing the teargas canisters even inside the school compound,” Chris Were, a parent said.

Jamhuri High, located in the Ngara neighborhood and within walking distance from the city centre, had not reopened and school staff member mentioned that learning is anticipated to resume today.

Out of the 250 enrolled students, only 10 learners attended St Brigid’s Public Primary along General Waruingi Road in the Pumwani area. These students were dismissed to go home at 10am, and the teachers were also permitted to leave.

“We didn’t tell the learners not to come. It’s the parents’ decision, which is good because we don’t have power to protect them in case their safety is compromised. We can’t punish learners for absenteeism under such circumstances,” said a teacher at St Brigid’s.

“The demonstrations are now affecting learning because even yesterday, only 50 learners turned up and we still don’t know what will happen tomorrow or on Thursday and next week,” said another teacher.

Both Dr Agrrey Primary School and Muslim Primary School had no students present. Meanwhile, at Muthaiga Primary, parents were withdrawing their children due to fears that the riots in the Mathare neighborhood might escalate.

Nevertheless, classes were in session at certain schools, including City Primary School in Ngara and Ainsworth Primary School along Muratina Street in Eastleigh.

In Homa Bay Town, numerous students refrained from attending school due to concerns about potential harm from protesters. A small number of those who did attend brought packed lunches to avoid any confrontations with demonstrators when returning home for lunch.

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According to John Oguttu, the head teacher at Shauri Yako Primary, all teachers were present for duty, and only a small number of learners were absent.

“We are processing with our studies as usual, however not all learners are present,” Oguttu said. Similar issues were reported at Lake Primary

Schools scheduled to reopen yesterday after the half-term break advised parents not to send their children due to safety concerns. However, parents with children at Ogande Girls received a message informing them that the school will open its gates on Wednesday.

“Please note that due to planned nationwide demonstrations on Tuesday July 2, 2024, our resumption date from half-term changes to Wednesday July 3, 2024,” read the message sent on Whatsapp.

In Kisii town, schools have partially reopened amid the ongoing anti-government protests. The reopening date for learners at Kisii High was rescheduled for today.

“The opening day from half-term has been moved to Wednesday July 3, 2024. Release the boys early enough,” read a message from the school to parents.

While some parents brought their children to school early on Tuesday morning, concerned that the protests might escalate during the day, some learners found themselves caught up in the demonstrations after protesters blocked the Kisii Hospital road.

“Good morning team, you all know that our Form 1 and 4 are reporting back tomorrow, the challenge is with Form 2 and 3. Given the prevailing circumstances, I ask that those who will manage to allow their girls report tomorrow we have no objection,” read a message from Sironga Girls High School.

Some parents in Siaya Town also did not release their children to go to school for fear of the planned demos dubbed #occupyeverywhere. Most of town’s streets remained deserted and business closed.

“I don’t trust these youth. Last week, one person was shot dead and that means the safety of my children is not guaranteed. They will go to school tomorrow,” said John Ouma, a father of three.

According to an unnamed senior teacher at Siaya Township Primary, the number of learners who attended school was less than half of the total enrollment. “We had a relatively low turnout. Majority of the parents feared that their children might be caught up in chaos,” said the teacher.

In rural areas, schools continued their usual lessons without interruption. Wang Chieng Primary in West Alengo, Upanda Primary, and Palpal Primary maintained uninterrupted learning.

By Frank Mugwe

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