Tangulbei Day and Boarding Primary School in Tiaty is not your ordinary kind of institution.
Besides executing its core function of imparting knowledge and life skills to learners, the school also shelters 35 girls who have made it their refuge.
The pupils, who hail from different parts of Tiaty sub-county, escaped their homes for fear of being circumcised.
Their fears are well-founded because female genital mutilation is still rampant in the region with parents forcing their daughters to undergo the rite.
While at the school, the girls are under the care of head teacher Musa Terter who told The Standard that the minors, aged between 12 and 13, sought refuge at the institution since they had nowhere else to turn to.
Fourteen-year-old Kwenyi* (not her real name) said she left her home in Kabalat to escape the cut and scuttle plans to marry her off to an elderly man.
Kwenyi told us she first fled to a relative’s home in Laikipia, but her father managed to track her down.
“I left home for my aunt’s place in Laikipia but my father kept following me. He came home with an old man and said I would marry him,” she said.
Despite resisting as well as pleading her case, Kwenyi said it was clear her father would not change his mind. Luckily, she shared her story with a well-wisher who took pity on her and took her to Tangulbei, which became her new home.
Some time back in 2016, Kwenyi became homesick. She left the school and returned home, thinking that her father had forgotten everything and forgiven her. She couldn’t have been more wrong.
“I went home thinking I would be welcomed. This, however, was not the case because my father was still angry. He did not want to see me. My mother, who had encouraged me to go to Tangulbei, was equally helpless,” she said.
Kwenyi, who is the third born in a family of nine, had no option but to return to her sanctuary. She is now in Standard Four and dreams of becoming a doctor, adding that she wishes she could convince her father of the importance of education in securing a better future for their family.
The school’s activities have not gone unnoticed. Director of Education Willy Muchocho recently said they were working to ensure that the children’s basic needs, including security, were met until they completed Standard Eight.
“It is true we have them at school and we will continue holding them until they finish school. They came to us for help and we will assist them,” said Muchocho.
Some of the girls are too scared to leave the school compound on fears that they could be abducted.
Amaya*, a 15-year-old girl from Churo, said that ever since she left home, some people had continued to pursue her.
Amaya, who is in Standard Seven, said her mother intended to marry her off but only after she had undergone the cut.
“My siblings told me my mother said there were people who would come for me, and I could not sit back and wait,” she narrated.
The second-born in a family of eight gathered courage and sought refuge at Churo Police Station before leaving for Tangulbei.
One of her sisters was not as lucky. Amaya said the girl was forced to undergo FGM and later given to an older man in exchange for goats.
“I fear leaving the school compound, even to go to the nearby centre, as they might come for me. FGM to me is bad and I would not wish to undergo it,” she said.
Terter said they had no option but to host the girls even during holidays.
“Despite facing challenges providing the pupils with personal effects and lacking beds we will continue being a safe haven for the determined girls,” said Terter.