Children living in Witemere village in Majengo informal settlement in Nyeri town have to cross River Chania to attend school or brave heavy traffic to get to school.
This is despite the fact that in the middle of the sprawling settlement, the largest in the town, there is a newly-built public school with no children.
Alice Nyaruai, 60, has four grandchildren under the age of 10 who live in the area. She often has to help them navigate these challenges despite living a stone's throw away from Nyakinyua Primary School.
“My two grandchildren are in Grades 2 and 4 and they have been attending Chania Primary School in Kigongo estate, which is across the river,” she said.
It is not easy keeping the children safe when the river waters rise during the rainy season.
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“I have neighbours whose children have drowned and others were hit by vehicles in town. I live near Nyakinyua Primary but efforts to have the school opened have been slow and difficult,” she said.
As the Ministry of Education grapples with overcrowded public schools across the country, a newly-built public school in Nyeri town stands empty awaiting learners.
Nyakinyua Primary School in Witemere in Majengo area is empty as public schools surrounding the area are overwhelmed by learners, stretching them beyond capacity as they try to maintain social distancing due to Covid-19 protocols.
At Nyamachaki Primary school, which has a population of 1,550 pupils, over 300 parents are requesting admission to the institution which is stretched beyond its capacity.
Neighbouring Githwariga Primary has a population of 610 pupils, with 70 applications on the waiting list.
The schools serve children from Majengo area as well as other residential estates within the town.
Nyeri Sub-county Education Officer Paul Mungai said Nyakinyua Primary School is yet to open because it is still awaiting registration certificate from the Ministry of Education.
“The school management has already applied for a licence from the Ministry through the County Education Board (CEB), which was evaluated, and forwarded to Jogoo House for approval,” Mr Mungai said.
He said the CEB has no authority to register new schools as the mandate comes from Ministry of Education headquarters.
Without a certificate of registration, parents in the area will have to bear the costs of running the facility.
“The Ministry of Education cannot deploy Teachers Service Commission teachers to the school or pay any running costs, so parents must pay teachers and any bills incurred by the institution,” he said.
Mungai said that once the school opens its doors, it will help in decongesting the surrounding primary schools such as Githwariga, Chania, Nyamachaki, and Hill Farm which are congested.
Area chief Christopher Wambugu said the community had held several meetings and would soon be conducting interviews for the children seeking to be transferred to the facility.
“The school will be the best option for children in this area because it is closer to their homes and is affordable,” Wambugu said.
He said the school board had made arrangements to hire teachers and that it would open its doors to learners soon.
“I have met with the board and the area leaders. We talked about infrastructure such as desks and chairs for the pupils. Everything is set for the children to come and start learning. I am confident once we start learning, the school will be filled to capacity,” he said.
Nyakinyua steering committee chairperson Francis Ngachu said the school had a provisional certificate from the Ministry of Education that would allow rollout of learning.
“By Feb 1, we shall have Grades 1 to 3 pupils enrolled in the school," he said.