Agony of principals locked out of schools

So bad has been the situation that by Tuesday, huge thorns and a barricade were still hanging over the entrance of St Stephen Kirindo Mixed Secondary School in Mbita Sub-county after parents moved to eject the principal.

Increasing protests and animosity against principals and head teachers are eliciting concerns among various stakeholders.

On Tuesday, one of the school heads rejected in Homa Bay told The Standard that he is unsure whether he will be allowed to report to work.

"I was rejected by the board and parents. Some of them threatened to beat me up if I showed up and even blocked the gate," he said.

According to the teacher, he is in talks with the Teachers Service Commission to reverse his transfer. This is despite having already handed over at his previous school in the hope of starting a new chapter in his life.

"There is no point in going to a place where my life is in danger. They have made wrong judgments about me, and this is unfair," he said.

More protests have rocked the county. Last week, parents held demonstrations outside Dr Mbai Mixed Secondary School to demand the transfer of the principal.

Other affected institutions include Got Kabok Secondary, and Long'o and Osure primary schools.

The parents insist they do not want the new school heads.

Homa Bay Education Network Coordinator Julius Omuga and human rights defender Evance Oloo attributed the problem to inaction by Ministry of Education officials at the grassroots level.

Mr Oloo blamed the officials for ignoring parents' grievances against the school heads.

He said that parents are disillusioned when the ministry does not act on grievances they raise against the school heads.

"The moment parents report their grievances, such as poor academic performance in schools, but the ministry does not take action, it means there's a problem. Parents feel the government has abandoned them."

In Migori, there was tension at Komolorume Secondary School in Awendo town after its board of management and parents association rejected a principal who was recently posted to the school.

The TSC had posted Michael Getangita, the former principal at Maeta Secondary School, to replace the Jackson Owino who has been the acting principal since last year.

Mr Owino, who had been the former deputy principal at Rapogi High School, had been posted to Komolorume in May last year after the principal was interdicted over alleged examination irregularities that led to the examinations body withholding the school's results.

On Tuesday, parents were joined by board members and community members in rejecting Mr Getangita. Instead, they urged the TSC to confirm the deputy principal.

In a heated board meeting, both the board and its sponsor, the Anglican Church of Kenya, rejected the new principal. The meeting was convened by Regional TSC Director Stephen Ajanga to resolve the impasse.

Board chairperson Pamela Ageyo claimed TSC had refused to act on their recommendation letter that Mr Owino be promoted and retained.

Ms Ageyo said Mr Owino had helped lift the school's academic performance thus attracting close to 400 new students this year.

"The school took over 30 students to university this year. It was also doing well in inter-county mock exams and academic competitions," she said.

The board said the good performance at the school had won the local community's admiration, and many parents were withdrawing their children from neighbouring schools and taking them to Komolorume because of its budding reputation for excellence.

ACK Homa Bay Diocese Bishop Simon Onyango said that Owino should remain at the school "for stability".

"This man from a national school has helped rebuild the school's image. He is already helping to fix the problems at the school. Let him carry on," said Bishop Onyango.

The TSC director, while addressing the press after the heated meeting, said they had suspended the transfer after the board and parents warned of a possible strike.

"TSC will go back and consult again before they make any further resolution," Mr Ajanga said.

About two weeks ago, authorities in Kisii were forced to intervene and warn parents against frequent protests targeting new principals.

Kisii County Commissioner Tom Anjera raised concerns over increasing cases of principals and teachers transferred to the region being blocked from taking over their roles.

Speaking in Kitutu Chache North during a familiarisation tour after being posted to the county last month, Mr Anjera advised the residents to engage in dialogue with the school leadership to avert crises.

"What we are not going to subscribe to is invading learning institutions, closing gates and locking out school leadership over poor performance," Mr Anjera warned.

He described such incidences as unfortunate and said the authorities would not tolerate violence targeted at teachers.

"Blocking principals of learning institutions from executing their duties cannot be allowed. We will take action," he said.

The affected institutions included Masimba, Nyabiosi, Amariba and Nyabworoba secondary schools.

[Stories by Anne Atieno, James Omoro and Sammy Omingo]