Parents want school re-opening pushed forward over flooding

Flood victims residing at Valley Bridge Primary School in Kiamaiko, Nairobi on April 28, 2024. Thousands of residents have fled their houses and are now living in camps. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Parents are calling upon the government to postpone the opening of schools for the second term in view of the ongoing heavy rains.

The National Parents Association says tens of homes and learning institutions have been affected by floods and that poses a danger to learners.

According to the association's Secretary-General Eskimos Kobia, tens of schools across the country had been affected by the rains and flooding.

Kobia called on the government to audit the number of schools affected by the heavy rains and change the opening dates for the safety of the students and teachers.

“We are keenly monitoring the ongoing rains and working with the government so that the lives and safety of the students are guaranteed as the schools reopen for the second term,” he said.

Speaking in Naivasha on Sunday, Kobia noted that some schools are serving as camps for families displaced by the floods.

Kobia says with the rains, major roads, mainly in the rural areas, had been cut off, further putting the lives of the students in danger.

“The issue is not only about reopening schools but how safe the students will be when travelling from home to the learning institutions,” he said.

Kobia added that an initial assessment done by the association had established that most affected families had lost school uniforms and learning materials.

He added that in affected schools, walls and classrooms had caved in, making the institutions uninhabitable, while in some cases, learning materials had been washed away.

In Busia County, at least ten primary schools have been marooned by floods in Budalang’i and several others are serving as temporary camps for displaced families.

Six villages, including prominent community hubs like Mau Mau Market and essential facilities such as dispensaries, such as Rukala, Makhoma, and Sigomere, now lie submerged following heavy rains.

A section of parents said the management of marooned schools has not communicated whether learners will be returning to school or not.

Robert Odera, a parent at Musoma Primary School, one of the affected schools, said they were waiting for communication from the schools.

“We are not sure whether they will open today but we will reach out to the head teachers so that they can know the fate of their children.

Hundreds of locals are still putting up in schools and temporary camps after their homes were swept away by the perennial raging floods that started about two months ago.

On Sunday, Western Regional Commissioner Irungu Macharia said Budalang’i is badly off.

“The problem is that many schools are currently occupied by the displaced families, however, we plan to relocate them from schools to makeshift camps to allow learning to continue,” said Macharia.

He said that no school in the region will postpone its opening date, not even Budalang'i.  “We are on top of the situation and as a government, through county emergency response committees, we are working around the clock to ensure our children report to school as earlier planned,” said Macharia.

“Budalang'i has 1,700 people displaced and most schools are currently acting as evacuation centres, a school like Gumbe has 1,100 households camping there," he said.

Macharia said the government has plans to resettle the affected families in safer places, attributing the situation to the backflow of water from Lake Victoria.

According to him, Vihiga, Kakamega, and Busia have not been affected by floods.

“In Lugari constituency, we had a little problem following an overflow of water from some river but the situation is under control, similar cases were reported in Bungoma where river Nzoia broke its banks causing damage to crops."

Kakamega County Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) chairman John Wabuti insisted that the government should postpone the school opening date to give room for renovations of classrooms and for the rains and water level to reduce.

“As teachers, we have no problem with the government delaying schools from opening because by doing so it will be in the best interest of our children," he said.

Migori County Education Director Jacob Onyiego said all schools will re-open.

"From the survey we have, no school will remain closed. So far no report of any school will not reopen," Onyiego said.

The heavy rains caused floods in Nyatike which saw roads destroyed and some schools like Angugo Primary School and Secondary marooned by floods.

A school in Uriri had one of its roofs blown off by a strong wind last week.  St Vitalis Nanga Primary School in Kisumu is among the affected.

The school buildings are always flooded with water affecting normal learning in the school.

The school's head teacher John Adala however says the buildings are now permanently built, unlike before.

Communicable diseases, he says, are among the biggest worries as students and even teachers are exposed to diseases like malaria and typhoid, following the floods.

In Kisii, KUPPET Chairman Laban Ouko called on parents to take extra caution as children report back to school for second term.

"We are experiencing unusual rains across the country. Parents should ensure that their children report to school on time. Let no one take risks."

Remote villages in Kilifi and Tana River counties have also been marooned.

On Sunday, villagers in Magarini said the river burst its banks at Bombi area, partially submerging 208 acres of the land.

Magarini Community Management Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) officers led by Mr Francis Fondo said heavy rains in Nairobi and Ukambani have increased water volumes of River Tana.

Residents of Garashi, Madunguni, Burangi, and Lango Baya villages in Kilifi County were yesterday moving to higher grounds to avoid disaster.

Magarini ward Member of County Assembly (MCA) Tom Charo said six villages in his area have been affected as flood waters marooned them.

“The villages are on higher grounds, but farming areas are lowlands. At least 11 villages in my area are affected, especially the farms, and all crops swept away,” he said.

In Tana, hundreds of families are stranded after floods marooned at least 11 villages in Tana Delta, Tana River County. Water levels of River Tana continued to rise with residents fearing for their lives.

According to the Kenya Red Cross Society, the affected villages are Samicha, Kikomo, Semikaro, Odhole, Kone Masa, Nduru, Kipao, Onkolde, Oda, Ongonyo, and Chara. Meanwhile, traders are counting losses after more than ten cargo trucks ferrying fresh produce got stuck due to raging floods.

On a different note, Kipkelion KNUT branch Executive Secretary David Bore appealed to the Ministry of Education to release the capitation funds on time.

"As schools reopen next week for the second term, we are demanding the immediate disbursement of capitation to avert a crisis in learning institutions," Bore said.

Bore said the government knows that schools cannot be run without money.

He said that under the current circumstances, the directive by the Ministry of Education not to send learners home over school fee arrears is impractical.

He said school heads are urging the government to review the capitation upwards to factor in the inflation rates.

In Nyeri, Catholic archbishop Antony Muheria appealed to the public to help those affected by the floods by donating food, blankets, and clothes among other help.

Muheria said that though the rain is a blessing, currently the heavy rains have caused flooding leading to destruction and death.

He said the Catholic Church has opened an account where the public can send money through mobile money platforms to help those affected by the flood.

[Reporting by Anthony Gitonga, Kiprono Kurgat, Purity Mwangi, Benard Lusigi and Mary Imenza, Nehemiah Okwembah, Anne Atieno, Sharon Owino, Eric Abuga]

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