The 92nd edition of the Kenya National Music festivals began yesterday at Dedan Kimathi University in Nyeri County with a warning against the transportation of pupils past 6pm.
Kenya National Music Festival Chaiman Peter Wanjohi said the policy would be strictly enforced and any buses found transporting students past that hour would be impounded.
A minute of silence was observed before the first performances of the two-week festival in honour of 10 pupils of St Gabriel Boarding Primary School in Mwingi who perished in a road accident on Saturday night.
"Any school bus found operating beyond those hours will be held in a police station and arrangements made to accommodate the students. All schools have been issued with a circular giving the guidelines on this. The traffic regulations will be enforced and the security team is there to ensure the law is followed to the letter," Mr Wanjohi said.
He added that the participants would be accommodated in 39 select institutions situated within a radius of 20kms of the venue.
This is the first time the national event is being held in the Mt Kenya region.
At least 120,000 learners from primary, secondary and tertiary institutions will be in the county to participate in the festival, which will end on August 18 and culminate in a performance before President Uhuru Kenyatta at Sagana State Lodge.
The deputy director for field and co-curriculum at the Ministry of Education, Patrick Khaemba, said the Government had committed Sh96 million to facilitate the music festival.
Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga said he expected high standards of discipline to be maintained.
Central Regional Commissioner Wilson Njega banned hawking in the vicinity of the event.
This, Mr Njega, said, would sanitise the event from those selling drugs and alcohol to the students under the guise of hawking.
Participants braved the chilly morning weather as the fete opened. There was tight security.
The festival under the theme 'Enhancing National Unity, Cohesion and Integration' began with own choice performances of African-style singing games by nursery schools.
During the morning session, 14 nursery schools flexed their muscles on stage.
Among the institutions that competed in the nursery category were St Peter's Mumias, Sana Academy, Carol Academy, Umoja Day, Roseline Academy, St Judes Kwingi, Kinagoni, Mashimoni Squatters, Elsa and New Light Academy.
Others were St Angela, Kirie, Best Care School and Karatina DEB.
In the next category sponsored by the Kenya Music Festival, 'The Kenya National Anthem', Thika, Chokaa, Mukuthu, Esirisia, St Francis VI, Mbaka Oromo, Valley View and Ganjoni schools tussled for the top honours.
Kangaita, Karura SDA, Milimani, Migori, Mulukusi and Burumba primary schools were also in the catedgory.
Wanjohi asked heads of institutions to give opportunities to young learners to participate in co-curricular activities.
He said children had untapped and undeveloped potential and schools should provide opportunities for them to realise culture, arts and music activities.
The festival will attract learners from early childhood development, primary and secondary schools, middle-level, vocational colleges and university.
Mr Kahiga said the county, the home of several musicians, was honoured to host the event.
Wanjohi said the theme resonated with the national educational goals of promoting nationalism, patriotism, national unity and appreciation of the rich and diverse cultures that define Kenya.