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Jubilee’s school laptops sold to Uganda, plays music in a busaa club

By Nanjinia Wamuswa | June 16th 2018
Pupils of Tulienge primary during a digital learning class. The school’s government provided laptops were stolen last month. [Nanjinia Wamuswa, Standard]

Jubilee digital literacy programme is running into the headwinds of theft in Bungoma County, with the devices disappearing into neighbouring Uganda.

In the last few months, four schools have lost hundreds of the branded tablets issued to them as thieves exploit weak security measures. 

It is 2pm at Tulienge Primary, Cheptais, Bungoma County. Bravin Simiyu and his classmates have come from lunch and are sitting for their digital lessons.

But the laptops necessary for the lesson are missing. They were stolen on the night of May 4, all 46 of them and the teachers instructional laptop.

“Our pupils had gotten used to the tablets two months after we started the programme and had made great progress. Since they were stolen, the programme has stalled,” head teacher Patrick Nato told School and College.

Despite losing the devices, the pupils still turn up for their lessons. They remain hopeful that the classes will resume.

“I cannot stay at home because another pupil will take and use my tablet,” says Bravin, a seven-year-old class two.

Four other schools in the county are singing the same song.

Namawanga FYM primary was the first to suffer the loss after thieves struck at night, cutting off part of the roof above the head teacher’s office and carting away 64 laptops. That was in August last year.

Head teacher Sarah Nyongesa said the school was closed for the August holiday when the thieves struck.

Main suspects

“The school was left with only 21 tablets. Pupils are literary fighting for the remaining tablets,” she says.

The pupils are asking for other laptops to allow digital lessons to resume.

Sarah bumped into one of the stolen laptops that had been intercepted by police officers manning the Kenya-Uganda border.

“But it did not belong to my school. I looked at the serial number, compared it with mine and realised it belonged to another school,” she said.

Also forced to halt digital lessons are pupils at Mufungu Salvation Army (SA) Primary School. The school lost 49 of the 72 tablets it received in September last year.

“Thieves broke in at night and stole the laptops. I was called at 5am and told that my office had been broken into and our laptops stolen,” said head teacher Charles Chebukati, who reported the matter to area chief and at the Malakisi police station.

In yet another loss, Namunyu primary lost 46 laptops. Headmaster Stephen Musungu said they were stolen from his office at night on April 10.

“I had travelled to Eldoret when the thieves broke in. The loss of the laptops has disorganised our digital learning programme. We are in the dark. We have no idea what to do with the children who want to learn,” he said.

In the four reported theft cases, watchmen have been prime suspects. All of them were arrested.

Immediately the laptops got lost at Tulienge, the watchman took poison in unclear circumstances.

“He was rushed to hospital, treated and arrested,” Mr Nato told School and College.

His case is yet to be determined.

Sarah suspects her watchman was not around when theft of laptops took place at her school. “He was arrested and jailed for two years. He is serving a two-year jail term,” says Sarah.

The Mufungu watchman was also jailed for two years over the theft at the school.

At Namunyu Primary, the deputy head teacher was arrested with the watchman and later released.

Bungoma West Deputy County Commissioner Daniel arap Kurui blames teachers in the affected schools for carelessness.

“After l visited some of the schools, l found out that it was pure carelessness. In one school, the laptops were stolen from the desks. The government insisted that these laptops be kept in a secured place,” he said.

The DCC says the laptops are being sought after like hot cakes.

“When thieves raided and stole laptops in my school, l was accused of being careless. That was August last year. Today, more schools continue to lose these laptops,” said Sarah.

Bungoma Education Director Jacon Mong’are said the affected schools have asked for other tablets to allow them continue with digital lessons.

On alert

“We have to give a report to the Ministry of Education, wait for their opinion, and advise the way forward,” he said.

There are rife reports that several laptops belonging to Kenyan primary schools have been trading in various parts of Uganda.

An informer who saw laptops being sold at Bumbo, Uganda, volunteered to link this reporter to a seller.

“In fact, there’s busaa club at Bumbo that plays music using one of the laptops,” he said.

For two days, this reporter camped at Bumbo hoping to purchase the laptop without success.

The seller had mysteriously gone missing. The DJ who owns the laptop used to play music at a busaa club also disappeared, yet to return.

“Looks like their suppliers have warned them to be on alert, especially now that Kenyan officers are following this matter,” said the informer.

Chebukati said a teacher friend from Uganda had informed him that he had seen some people selling Kenyan laptops in Uganda.

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