A Form One student’s far-out arrival at Maranda High School in Bondo Sub-County, Siaya County, on Monday, August 2 triggered talk on social media platforms Facebook and Twitter.
As other newcomers arrived at the national school on foot – or in vehicles –, this particular student landed in a helicopter, sparking chatter within Maranda High School, its environs and the blogosphere.
So viral was the picture of the incident, that the name “Maranda” trended on micro-blogging site Twitter a better part of Tuesday.
There were rumours that the student came from a wealthy family, and that his parents escorted him to the institution in a helicopter.
The Standard has, however, learnt that the teenager is one of the students whose education has been sponsored by the Raila Odinga Foundation.
The charitable institution’s founder, Raila Odinga, who is the leader of ODM Party, had escorted the boy to school on his reporting day.
The guardian and student, who were aboard a helicopter of registration number 5Y-PKZ, touched down at the Maranda High School on Monday mid-morning.
A teacher at the institution, who spoke to The Standard in confidence, said the boy was also accompanied to school by Raila’s elder brother, Dr. Oburu Oginga.
The Standard understands that the chopper is the one used regularly by Raila Odinga during his frequent trips to different parts of the country.
“The picture that has gone viral is not of the boy Raila Odinga brought to school. The photographed student was only posing for a picture with the helicopter in the background,” the teacher, who sought anonymity, said.
Other reports suggested Raila and Oburu had visited the school for other engagements, and a group of excited students, teachers and parents took the opportunity to pose for pictures with the aircraft in the background.
Raila Odinga’s spokesperson, Dennis Onyango, was unavailable for comment.
Economist David Ndii said the student’s arrival at Maranda in a copter lays bare the class differences Kenya is grappling with.
“Someone reporting to a public school in a chopper, and I read that another boy walked 50 kilometres, and another one came with a chicken [as an alternative to school fees]? I have no issue with reporting in a chopper to school, but public school should be a no-no,” said Ndii.
Twitter user Wahinya Charlie said: “In Maranda they don't go to school. They fly to school.”
The incident also brought a new debate ground, with economist David Ndii saying students in public learning institutions, especially secondary schools, should be protected from “class segregation”.
“How is a student, whose patron is Raila [Odinga], going to relate to other students and teachers? Why put him on the spotlight, and subject him to pressure? Why not sponsor quietly as the rest of us do? Very poor judgement,” he said.
Mwaniki Mwangi said: “Government should convert all schools to day schools and fund them equally. Just like the bright [pupils] study with the not-so-bright [schoolmates] in primary, so should it be in secondary schools. We should not teach kids privilege by clustering the bright together and tell them they are the chosen ones.”
After a brief engagement at the Maranda High School, Raila Odinga hopped onto the helicopter and flew to Homa Bay and Nyamira counties, where he attended funerals.