Schools open in Kerio Valley as peace agreement holds

Elgeyo Marakwet Deputy Governor Wesley Rotich (left) with Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya (second right) and other senior administrators in Iten recently. [Kevin Tunoi, Standard]
For the first time in two years, schools in a volatile area bordering three counties have reopened as scheduled for third term.

Education officials and teachers yesterday reported a high turnout of learners in nearly 50 schools bordering Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot and Baringo counties.

The development follows a peace agreement reached by local leaders following a meeting in July.

Elgeyo Marakwet County Director of Education Masibo Kituyi yesterday described the turnout in the areas long affected by insecurity as impressive.

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Mr Kituyi said the prevailing calm would give teachers room to prepare students for the upcoming Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) and Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations.

“We are happy that this time round the reopening was smooth. We needed the peace for our programmes to go on without interference. The turnout is not 100 per cent yet, but we expect all learners to report by tomorrow,” Kituyi told The Standard.

He added: “We are embarking on the delivery of the national examinations in collaboration with security officials.”

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Kamelei, Kamelei B, Kipsitona, Tenderwa, Kalya and Liter primary schools had been listed as the most affected institutions.

Learners often reported  back two weeks after the official opening dates and it was common for studies to be disrupted in the course of the term by bandit attacks.

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Education officials listed Liter Girls, St Paul’s Kapkondot and Queen of Peace secondary schools, among others, as also being susceptible to attacks.

Liter Girls principal Hellen Kibor said most students had reported to the institution, which is situated on the Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot border.

Ms Kibor expressed confidence that the peace deal struck by warring communities in the area would prevail, thus allowing teachers to prepare candidates for the national examinations.

“I hope that this year, my KCSE candidates will post good results. Their learning has been interrupted on several occasions by cross-border fights since they joined Form One. I expect that it will be peaceful this time,” the principal said.

Kibor said students from one of the neighbouring communities had left the school at the height of skirmishes that started in 2016.

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The attacks claimed lives of about 110 people and thousands of livestock, according to reports by security agencies.

Offer scholarships

Ms Kibor said they would offer full scholarship to children from West Pokot County who enrolled in the school. The gesture, she noted, was aimed at promoting cohesion.

The principal also explained that the student population had dropped from 420 to below 200 over the years due to insecurity.

“I expect more transfers from the neighbouring counties to the school next year. Our aim is to ensure students from different communities learn and interact,” Kibor said.

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During the first day of school in third term last year, bandits raided villages neighbouring Kamelei, Tenderwa and Kalya schools along the Elgeyo Marakwet-West Pokot border and stole more than 60 cows and sheep.

Joseph Kipchumba, a resident of Tenderwa area, said residents on both sides of the border were living in harmony following a series of meetings between elders and local leaders that resulted in a peace agreement and returning of stolen livestock.

The peace accord between the Marakwet and Pokot communities was signed and witnessed by regional leaders, led by Deputy President William Ruto, West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo and his Elgeyo Marakwet counterpart Alex Tolgos. MPs from the three counties also joined in the efforts to create peace.

“We have no problems at all. Our children went to school and we hope their learning will never again be disrupted by gunshots and cattle theft,” Mr Kipchumba said.

Elgeyo Marakwet County Commissioner Ahmed Omar said security agencies increased surveillance and put in place measures to arrest anybody who threatened the peace.

Mr Omar ordered residents with illegal firearms to return them to the Government or be arrested and prosecuted.

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West PokotElgeyo MarakwetBaringoSchools reopenVolatile countiesKCSEKCPE