Tales of forgotten schools and pupils under trees in rural Kenya

The dilapidated classrooms at Tangul Primary School where facilities have never been improved since they were built in 1951. [PHOTO: KEVIN TUNOI/STANDARD]

Tucked away in the rugged terrain of the semi-arid Sigor lies the little-known Likwon Primary School.

Established a decade ago, the school is in a state of disrepair and more than 200 pupils have been forced to grapple with infrastructural challenges. The school has only two classrooms and a mud-walled administration block that is in deplorable condition.

The tiny administration block also acts as the staff room, kitchen and library as well as the head teacher’s office.

Most affected are the more than 85 nursery school children who are forced to learn under withered acacia trees outside despite their tender age.

The two classrooms have pitiable five desks between them and most of the pupils sit on either the sun-baked ground or rocks.

Salome Cheptoo, a nursery class teacher, said the school was first established as a nursery school before it was converted into a primary school.

“No one has built more classrooms to accommodate the increasing pupil population and ensure that there is no interference as they transition from one class to another,” she said.

Ms Cheptoo narrated how the children who, after walking long distances to the school, spent their class time dozing. The situation is exacerbated by hunger pangs and a lack of water at the institution.


Daily, the pupils are required to take water to school, which has a negative impact on their learning schedules.

“When it rains, lessons are suspended because the water fills the two classrooms and the field where the nursery pupils are taught. The situation here is dire also because there is no sanitation,” said Hosea Kalemnyam, the head teacher.

He blamed successive leaders for neglecting the institution since it was opened by Wilson Lotole, a former MP.

“When our pupils graduate to Standard Four, they move to neighbouring schools more than four kilometres away,” said Mr Kalemnyam.

In Marakwet East, pupils of Tangul Primary School face a similar ordeal.

From a distance, a structure made of rusted iron sheets, rafters and poles held together by patches of mud, most of which has fallen away due to age and weather effects, could easily pass for a sheep pen.

But a look inside the rectangle structure that is partitioned into three rooms reveals desks and blackboards; the only reason to believe the ramshackle structure is actually a school building.

The dusty floor in Standard Five East has damp patches as a result of water sprinkled by the pupils to settle the dust and ensure that lessons go on with less sneezing and coughing.


Charles Kaprait, the school’s chairman, said the dilapidated classrooms were established in 1951, when the school was founded.

“The classrooms have seen better days. My father used them before me and my children are using them now. During the rainy season, learning is disrupted because runoff water from the elevated end flows into the classrooms, which have no walls. The rooms become muddy and therefore unsuitable for learning,” said Mr Kaprait, pointing to huge holes in the old walls.

The school situated on the edge of Embobut Forest has a population of 1,200 pupils; 350 in the lower section and two streams up to Standard Eight.

Esther Kibor, a parent at the school, explained that the huge pupil population was due to the numerous families evicted from the forest who found alternative homes in the surrounding area. The neigbouring Chawis Primary School is about 10km away.

Embobut experiences low temperatures of about 12 degrees Celsius.

Mr Kaprait blamed area leaders for neglecting the needs of the school and giving empty promises whenever they visited.

“The MPs have been making pledges that they haven’t fulfilled. For the past 15 years, they have built only three permanent classrooms from the Constituency Development Fund,” he said.

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