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Kenya: Keeping students safe in schools not an easy task

EDUCATION
By Mercy Kahenda | August 10th 2015
Kelvin Konyanoi, a student at Tulwet Secondary School in Bureti, Kericho County rummages through the remains of his box after a fire razed down a dormitory at the institution. [PHOTOS: FILE/STANDARD]

NAKURU: A spot check by The Standard at various schools in Nakuru County revealed that most of them have met safety measures.

At Kiboron Boys High School in Nakuru Town West Constituency, the watchmen take details of all visitors, insisting on knowing the purpose of every visit.

The school, which has 320 students, has complied with a number of safety regulations.

All classroom doors open from outside while windows allow for quick escape in case of emergency.

Fire extinguishers have been fitted at the laboratory, outside classrooms and the staffroom.

Dormitories have cubicles that accommodate approximately six to eight students and the metallic doors open from outside.

Fire-fighting machines are also fitted in the dormitories and two emergency doors at the centre and back of the building. The school principal told The Standard that the school installed fire extinguishers  in September 2012 and 2013.

“Some boys lit fire in on one the dormitories but luckily, the other students were in the classrooms. I quickly convened a meeting with parents and we installed fire extinguishers and removed all grills from  the windows,” he recalls.

Students are also equipped with disaster risk reduction skills designed to minimise destruction of life, property and disruption of normal operations.

Kampi ya Moto Secondary School in Rongai, which has a population of 370 students, has partly met the regulations despite financial hitches.

The mixed day secondary school, which was opened in 2002, has four fire extinguishers fitted at the staffroom, classrooms and laboratory.

The school principal, John Singar, says the metallic and wooden doors at the school can easily be broken in case of an emergency.

Mr Singar cites financial constrain as a major challenge in implementing safety measures.

“The Government does not allow us to levy any money from parents, a role only played by the county education board. The administration is planning to enhance development,” he reveals.

With recent militia attacks that have been facing the country, the school has organised sourced security and disaster management officers to train students.

“Disaster is something that can arise at any time, despite safety measures. This is the main reason we  often train students how to be courageous and handle themselves in case of a disaster,” he adds.

Rhino Secondary School with more than 300 students is struggling to erect a fence to keep off trespassers but is faced with the challenge of land.

Though the school has a security guard, Parents Teachers Association Chair Zipporah Wanjiru says since the institution was embroiled in a land ownership tussle years ago, safety of the school still remains a challenge.

“Security personnel are keen to know who enters the school compound but it is difficult to control flow of strangers who keep trespassing,” she observes.

But despite many schools in the county having met safety regulation measures, most public primary schools in the county are faced with challenges with regard to infrastructure and sanitation facilities, which affects smooth learning and safety of learners.

 SIX TOILETS

Pupils at Park View Primary school are also faced with the challenge of sanitation, which puts them at risk of diseases. There are only six toilets in the school that serve 465 pupils in, addition to 60 nursery pupils.

Head teacher Edna Kapsowe says the toilets were constructed by the Ministry of Education under the school infrastructure fund programme in 2010.

The principal says lack of enough sanitation facilities makes pupils waste time while crowding for a chance to access the few facilities.

“The problem is experienced more with girls who crowd around the toilets, thus wasting more time,” says the head teacher.

The school established in 1999 has six permanent classrooms and two temporary ones.

Kapsowe says congestion in classrooms makes learning a challenge. The classrooms are dusty, posing the danger of students being infested with jiggers and other diseases.

She notes that though students clean the rooms and sprinkle water, it still remains a challenge because not all parents cannot afford water for cleaning purposes.

“The floors of these classrooms put the health of the students at risk. Asking them to bring water to school is not sustainable because their parents purchase water for domestic use. It is therefore not possible to burden them with buying water for cleaning purposes,” she says.

She observes the school is supposed to have two streams for a conducive learning environment but currently, there is congestion with a population of approximately 70 pupils per classroom.

While most residents along Lake Nakuru National Park complain of human-wildlife conflicts, which have resulted in numerous deaths and destruction of property, students at Kigonor Primary School are not safe either.

The school bordering the park has no fence, putting the lives of the pupils and their teachers at risk.

Another school, Kigonor Primary, has only seven classrooms that serve pupils from Standard One to Eight, forcing them to share classrooms. Out of the seven classrooms, only two are complete with windows and doors.

The other five have dusty floors and have no windows and doors. Worse still, the institution does not have a fence.

 BOARDING MASTERS

The school’s head teacher David Kering has converted a cowshed that was owned by white men years ago, to serve as an administration block. Trees serve as offices for teachers. The tutors sit under trees while marking books and working on schemes to ensure the syllabus is completed within the stipulated time.

Most students have also dropped out of school due to lack of food and water.

The school has also been trying to set up a live fence but unfortunately, wildlife normally destroys planted trees before they mature.

“It is very insecure for a school to lack a fence because criminals can easily enter the compound from any direction and harm the children. We have been planting trees but they are destroyed by communities living around this area and wild animals from the park,” he states.

County Education Director Esther Muiru says all schools including private, public boarding and day should be able to meet the safety and security regulations to provide safe learning environment to students.

“Every school has a role of ensuring they abide to all measures for safety of our children to avoid and handle disasters in a proper manner,” she says. Muiru observes that schools have different priorities on safety and disaster management depending on areas of their location. In areas where water is a problem, she advises on water harvesting and treatment to curb infection of water bone diseases.

According to Muiru, schools, especially boardings, are also required to have matrons, boarding masters and mistresses to closely monitor children.

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