Uncertainty in West Pokot as schools remain closed at tail-end of term 1

No sign of life in the deserted Cheptulel Boys after bandits invaded.

The fate of hundreds of learners from schools that were affected by banditry in West Pokot County hangs in the balance as many have not reported to school since January this year.

This is despite the government announcement to rehabilitate schools that were vandalized by bandits and beef up security in the schools.

The situation raises more questions on how the interior ministry will ensure that learning resumes in schools since most learners were forced to move away from the hostile environment and seek refuge in neighbouring schools while others drop out altogether.

This puts the government on the spot over its commitment to restoring peace in the region.

A total of seven schools in the troubled areas of Chesegon and Turkwel were shut down two years ago due to runaway insecurity in the region.

The gate is wide open to attest to its emptiness.

The government allocated Ksh100 million to restore infrastructure and purchase new facilities in the vandalized schools.

The schools are Cheptulel Boys, Samplomoi, Chesegon, Arpollo and KSA Primary schools along the West Pokot-Elgeyo Marakwet border where learners did not sit their KCPE and Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA) exams last year due to banditry.

Other schools are Lonyangalem, Kour Primary Songok, and Karon Primary in North Pokot Sub-county, and Tirap and Cheratat in Pokot Central Sub-county.

Inside one of the classrooms with stationery strewn all over the floor by rowdy bandits.

Locals and area leaders are now wondering if the promise by Interior Cabinet Secretary (CS) Kithure Kindiki who visited the area last year was a public relations (PR) gimmick.

According to locals, those rehabilitating the schools came for a very short time and left.

They are reading malice in the process, citing corruption as they call on Kindiki and his education counterpart Ezekiel Machogu to intervene.

Education News has established that many learners are not yet back to the affected schools.

A spot check at Cheptulel Secondary in Chesegon shows that learners are still in Surumben Primary in Masol Ward, more than 50 kilometers away. The schools also do not have the promised National Police Reservists (NPRs) to offer security.

Some security officers in plain clothes and locals go round the school to assess the damage caused by the bandits.

Villages in the area remain deserted after locals migrated to safer places due to fear of perennial attacks.

Chesegon Technical Institute that was under construction stalled due to attacks, and now it houses security officers.

Kelvin Mweutich, a local of Cheptulel, said the government did a shoddy job in rehabilitating the schools.

“No proper renovation was done. There are no toilets. The dining hall and dormitories were not touched and windows that were vandalized by bandits have not been replaced. They only painted the face of the school. We want to know where the funds for renovation went and who was responsible,” he said.

James Koitilo, the principal of Cheptulel Boys, said that there is no water in the school after pipes were vandalized, kitchen demolished, and teachers’ quarters destroyed and iron sheets removed by bandits and termites.

He said the school was relocated but they are ready to go back in case the pending issues are addressed.

“We are receiving students and we have 52 Form One. Last year we didn’t have as many as we only had 8. The school opened in March last year before we got a temporary shelter at Surumben,” he said.

He said the school is porous without a good fence, adding that the population of shrunk but it has started picking up.

“We now have 150 students being hosted in Surumben. The school had grown to 400 students with a good number from the neighbouring Elgeyo Marakwet County before the violence went to unbearable levels. The presence of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) had boosted the confidence of the community,” he said.

Area leaders who visited Cheptulel Boys recently, led by West Pokot Senator Julius Murgor, Sigor MP Peter Lochakapong’ and West Pokot Woman Representative Rael Kasiwai, said the schools are not yet ready to host learners because the rehabilitation was still pending.

They said schools in the area have been exposed to danger after the KDF were moved to the neighbouring Elgeyo Marakwet County.

Senator Murgor lamented the lack of accountability in the process.

“We need the KDF back in the Seketou area,” he said.

Lochakapong’ said the government promised to feed learners and their families, but it is not happening.

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By Evans Kapusia

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Education News - Newspaper Vol 281