In a hushed tone, Dominic, 15, explains the sexual ordeal he underwent in the hands of his most trusted minder -- his teacher. As the interview progresses, his voice trails off. He lowers his head and a tear drops.
“He called me one evening and ordered me to remain behind as others went home. He said he had an assignment for me,” the boy narrates after composing himself.
When he walked to the staff room that evening in February 2019, the unsuspecting boy had no idea what would strike him. After ensuring that they were alone, the teacher -- Felix Mbithi -- immediately closed the door behind him.
“He unzipped his trousers and told me to suck his organ. I refused and he slapped me,” says the boy. The Standard Seven pupil explained that the teacher then overpowered him and sodomised him.
“He ordered me to rush home and never report to anybody as that would attract a severe punishment from him,” says Dominic says.
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His innocence and silence provided a perfect opportunity for the 24-year-old teacher to prey on him more. The boy says the teacher violated him three more times.
Dominic was not the only victim. Elijah, 17, who sat his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam this year, was also another of Mbithi’s victims.
He remembers when the teacher asked him to remain behind during the April holidays when they were going for remedial lessons in the school. And just like Dominic, he led him to the staff room and sodomised him.
“He called me two other times but I refused. I then started dodging him,” Elijah says.
By the time the pervert’s cover was blown in June this year, he had assembled a pool of boys from Standard Six to Eight, whom he would prey on either early in the mornings or late in the evenings during school days, according to the victims we spoke to.
The boys revealed that most of the victims were either too scared or ashamed to speak out.
For the case of Elijah and another 14-year-old boy from the same school, Mbithi of Kai Primary School was last month found guilty and sentenced to 15 and nine years, respectively, by Makindu Law Courts.
And on Friday, the same court added Mbithi 10 years in the case of Dominic. The court noted that each of the cases was independent and so the convict will serve a total of 34 years in jail.
During cross examination, the boys told the court that the teacher was a known bully who would terrorise them during his lessons.
“He however offered to exempt some of us from his cane if we accepted his sexual advances. Because I feared him, I obliged,” Elijah said.
What gave out the teacher was that he accosted Dominic while grazing his family’s livestock near the school. The boy took off and narrated his ordeal to his cousin who immediately alerted his mother.
When summoned by his parents, the boy owned up, revealing names of three other boys who had also been violated. The parents then reported the matter at Makindu Police Station, leading to the arrest and subsequent prosecution of the teacher.
Offered safe forums
The rising cases of sexual violence against children in Makueni County has jolted Deputy Governor Adelina Mwau to launch a campaign dubbed ‘the sound of silence’ in which the children are offered safe forums to speak out about the violations meted out to them by adults.
Ms Mwau says this will ensure cases of defilement and sexual exploitation are exposed and the culprits prosecuted.
For instance, during the school holidays, Mwau, working with the Gender Department of the county government, created sessions where over 7,000 children aged between 10 and 17 from all the six sub-counties narrated the issues affecting them.
In these forums, the children were given pieces of paper to write down what bothered them.
“We wanted to create a safe space for our children to talk about their issues without fear. The aim was to identify the most critical and painful things the children undergo.
“We spent three days sifting through the messages and the issue of sexual violence and exploitation came out very strongly. It was mind boggling,” Mwau says.
The children identified pastors, teachers, fathers and close relatives as the top most sex pests.
It is from these messages that Mwau has identified a pool of ‘duty bearers’ ranging from pastors, priests, teachers, parents, chiefs, educationists and the police to join hands and find solutions.
“We want to have the duty bearers know what the children are saying and take responsibility,” she says.
To underscore the importance she attaches to protection of children, the deputy governor on Wednesday addressed headteachers of schools in Makueni, during the Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (Kepsha) meeting in Mombasa where she displayed a photo gallery of the messages compiled from the children.
“On every dinner table, we prominently displayed the cards because we felt that was the easiest way to start the conversation on how to protect the children,” she says.
She says some of the cases have depressed her to date. She remembers a case of a one-year-old girl who underwent reconstructive surgery after being defiled by a 50-year-old man. The man was handed a life sentence by Kilungu Law Courts.
Another case is of a Form Three girl who developed fistula after being defiled by her father while she was in Standard Seven.
“It is very painful,” Mwau says.
The deputy governor thanks Governor Kivutha Kibwana, who has himself become a champion against gender-based violence (GBV).
This financial year, the Makueni County Assembly allocated Sh10 million for sensitisation programmes on the GBV.
To sex pests, Mwau has a warning: “Let them know that our children have spoken and we will no longer keep quiet. The law will catch up with them.”
The names of the victims have been changed to protect their identities.