Puzzle of school land turned into private property

Nelson Ochieng (Left), Chairman of Mukuru Vumilia Group (MVG) with some of the group members, who have been fighting to reclaim the land. (James Wanzala, Standard)

When District Commissioner Silas Maina sub-divided community land into three parcels in 1987, residents of AA in Imara Daima, Nairobi County, were elated.

At the time, only a provincial administration block was on a part of the two hectares. Maina subdivided it so it could accommodate the administration block, Mukuru Community Centre to include a primary school and an orphanage and Bakhita Catholic Church.

Kenya Airways and KLM then built a school at the centre as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.

However, today, what would have been a public school is now two private primary schools and a private teacher training college. They include St Nicholas Teachers Training College, St Nicholas Junior Academy and Goodrich Schools that serve children from well-off families.

“The nearest public school is Njenga Primary School, about 1km away. During the rainy season, the paths to the school, within Kwa Njenga slum, are impassable. Security of the pupils is also not guaranteed,” says Stephen Pius, who was once a head teacher at a school in Mukuru Community Centre.

Residents say the land that St Nicholas school is on was meant for an ECDE centre and where Goodrich is built was a public primary school.

Documents changed

Pius left the community centre in May 2011 and started his own school in Kwa Njenga falling out with the trustees of the centre, Julius Mupiyo, Julius Kimeu and Gideon Kyalo, who is thought to be the owner and director of Goodrich Schools.

“While I was there, the documents of the school read Mukuru Community Centre, but later changed to Mukuru Educational Centre,” says Pius.

Children and footballers who would play in the community centre have nowhere to play since it is now a private property.

When elections are held, the school acts as a polling centre listed by IEBC as Mukuru Educational Centre.

When contacted, St Nicholas Junior Academy director Mary Olubayi said “the school is under Goodrich Schools, so look for owner, he will give you more information.”

Residents claim there are people who connived with lands officials to grab the school land.

Mukuru Vumilia Group has been fighting for the land to be given back to the community.

Revoked title deeds

Group chairman Nelson Ochieng says they have reported the matter to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i who has promised to follow it up.

Jackson Kimani, who is part of the local community policing, says the National Land Commission (NLC) had revoked two title deeds, one for Goodrich Schoolsand the other for a plot that a former Mukuru Kwa Njenga chief had hived off.

It’s not just the school land that was grabbed but also the provincial administration block.

Paul Mbithi, who has lived in Mukuru area since 1985 and who is the chairman of the Embakasi Division Peace and Security Committee, says he has received threats for following up the matter.

Former NLC vice chair Abigael Mbagaya said: “I am aware of this issue after the residents complained to us. We revoked the title deeds of Goodrich Schoolsbut Kyalo appealed and we had not made a decision by the time our term was ending. We hope the incoming team will solve this issue.”

When we reached out to Kyalo, he referred us to Ministry of Lands. "Why shouldn’t you go to the Ministry of Lands?” he said, then hang up. Mupiyo also referred us to the Ministry of Lands. Further requests for a comment were futile.

Chief Peter Sila said: “As leaders, we are following up to ensure the parcel of land is returned to the community. We will collect all relevant documents and forward them to the right authorities.”