Long-serving Maseno School Principal Paul Otula has been sent on compulsory leave.
The disciplinary action follows allegations that he may have failed to stop sexual molestation and bullying at one of the country’s oldest and best-performing national secondary schools.
In a letter from the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), the principal was asked to proceed on a 30-day compulsory leave to enable more detailed investigations into the allegations.
This is despite the fact that the Ministry of Education had conducted similar investigations and concluded that the sexual molestation claims could not be proved.
And in what could be bad news for Mr Otula, TSC has already appointed his replacement; Homa Bay High School Principal Andrew Buop, who was expected to report by yesterday.
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In a letter dated March 13, 2017 and which has been seen by The Standard, TSC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia said the commission wanted to independently investigate if the school’s prefects have been involved in bullying, including sexual molestation of their junior colleagues.
“Following preliminary investigations by the commission and Ministry of Education officials, the commission has decided to send you on compulsory leave for 30 days to enable the commission to conduct full investigations into the matter,” said Ms Macharia.
She added: “You will hand over the administration of the institution to Mr Andrew Odhiambo Buop. The commission will inform you of the outcome of the investigation as soon as it is completed.”
Macharia has directed the TSC Kisumu county director to ensure smooth handing over of the institution. Otula joined the school in 2001 from Mang’u High School.
Otula’s suspension comes barely a month after the principal of Alliance High School, another academic giant, David Kariuki, resigned following claims of widespread bullying.
Several students including prefects have either been suspended or charged in court over the bullying claims, in which some Form One students said they were forced to sleep on the graves of some of the school’s founders.
Otula’s problems started after a guardian claimed that his Form One son had been bullied and sodomised by prefects.
Tuesday, the school’s Parents Association said they would not allow any changes in the school’s leadership and asked Mr Buop not to report to Maseno.
“We will not entertain witch-hunt. The Ministry of Education and the Teachers Service Commission have continued to traumatise our children with these endless investigations of the alleged bullying and sodomy,” said the association’s Chairman Otieno Obondi.
He added: “Investigations have been done and allegations of bullying and sexual molestation found to be false. Why this endless drama? We are not going to allow them to play ‘karata’ with the lives and future of our children. They need a conducive environment to learn.”
Speaking after a parents’ meeting at the school, Dr Obondi said parents had not received any reports of bullying from their children. “Some powerful individuals have immense interest in Masenobut they should leave our children to learn,” he said.
And in a new twist, the Nyanza regional education coordinator, Richard Chepkwai, said they could not prove the sodomy allegations because a guardian of the alleged victim “disappeared soon after investigations were launched”.
“We were chasing wind; there was nothing at any of the hospitals where the boy had been treated and the case was not pursued after the initial report to the police,” he said.
He said efforts to get to the bottom of the matter were curtailed after the guardian withdrew the boy from Maseno School to another institution in Meru and stopped following up on the matter.
Mr Chwepwai said after closing their investigations, the file was forwarded to the ministry headquarters in Nairobi where officials from both the ministry and TSC visited the school, after which a show cause letter was given to the principal.
The regional office, he said, only investigated sodomy claims which had gone viral in social media.
Tuesday, over 50 parents who visited the school, accused the ministry and the media of creating unnecessary stigma on their sons.