Wreckage of a school bus and rubble of a dining hall are the only reminders that an institution once existed somewhere within a compound in Elgeyo Marakwet County.
The wrecks are sitting several metres apart in Liter area along the border of Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot counties.
The place that was once Liter Girls Secondary School is full of rocks and mud, telling a tale of horrendous landslides that buried the institution that had helped bring together communities from warring Marakwet and Pokot communities.
On April 18, a deluge hit the mountainous Kerio escarpments on the upper side and the school became a casualty.
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In the aftermath, huge rocks and mud fell down the Kerio hanging valley and buried the school once hailed as ‘a peace school’ owing to its admission of students from the two communities. But now the institution which has 300 students, is no more.
On normal school days, Liter was effervescent, with girls moving between classrooms, dining hall and the playgrounds. But after the Saturday tragedy that killed at least 15 people in areas adjacent to the institution, it has become a resting place for an avalanche that ran down the mountainous Kipchumwa Location.
At Liter area where the school existed before the disaster, one would enjoy a view of the magnificent Marakwet hills on the west and the Tiaty hills across the Kerio Valley plains on the east. Education officials in Elgeyo Marakwet said it was sheer luck that the disaster happened at a time when schools were still closed.
The entire 17.7 acres the school occupied, was completely submerged. School Principal Hellen Kimutai painfully explains how she found it difficult locating an institution she manages.
From classrooms, student certificates to the laboratory and library, to dormitories, to dining halls to teachers’ quarters, nothing is left of the school.
“It is saddening. We have lost all our infrastructure and most worryingly, we have lost the school land,” Kimutai told the Saturday Standard.
Kimutai called on parents to remain calm as they reach out to government and leaders to have the school back on its feet.
The school board met four days ago at the neighbouring Liter Primary where they counted the losses, and the figures were colossal – Sh170 million for infrastructure alone.
“We still have our students and teachers but we have no school,” school board chairman Jonah Kirop said. He urged the State to come to the rescue of the school, which has 28 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) candidates.
“We are urging leaders starting with the President to hear our plight. This school united communities living along a troubled border and we cannot afford to lose it to mudslides. Please, come to our rescue because we need to reconstruct the institution,” said Kiprop.
He said the Marakwet community in Marakwet East Constituency has identified parcels of land in the area where the new Liter Girls Secondary can be relocated.
“The community has proposed three sites for rebuilding of the school. We will identify one proposed site after consultation with stakeholders,” said Kirop.
William Kipchumba, a parent at the school appealed to the Ministry of Education to relocate the school to a site not prone to landslides and mudslides.
“The future for our children is bleak, and we hope the government and local leaders will act fast. The school had previously been rocked by frequent banditry attacks and it has now been buried by mud and rocks,” he said.
Kenya National Union of Teachers, Marakwet chapter John Cheberi said the school may need up to Sh500 million to return to normalcy.
He said it will be difficult to admit students since books and other learning material were swept away and buried by the avalanche.
The unionist urged the Kenya National Examination Council to process new certificates for former students who were yet to collect their documents.
“It is shocking that an entire school is no more. We are asking the Ministry of Education to set aside emergency funds to build a new school,” he said.
Elgeyo Marakwet County Education Director Masibo Kituyi said meetings are underway to decide how the school’s candidates will sit their examination.
“It is sheer luck that the mudslides struck at a time when schools were closed. We would be talking of many deaths,” said Kituyi.