Students suffer brunt of abrupt ministry orders to close schools

"Some parents had requested us to keep their children until in the evening since most of them were out of town," he said.

A circular from the Ministry of Education directed all school managers to send the children home by mid-day. "Release learners in boarding schools before 12 noon as provided for in Basic Education Regulations (2015)," read the notice signed by Education Principal Secretary Julius Jwan. Schools were also required to put in place measures to confirm all learners reached home safely. But in reality, confusion marred the closing day.

Many learners were stranded at the city bus terminus. Learners who spoke to The Standard said they had not received bus fare and were using their pocket money, which in some cases wasn't enough.

"Bus fare to Rongai is Sh150 but I only have Sh50. I am still hoping that the fare will come down so that I can board," said one student.

Mary Simon, a parent at St Anne's Girls Nairobi, faulted the move by the ministry. "It came out of nowhere. We are worried about confusion among schoolteachers, households and schoolchildren. I was planning to pick my child on Thursday as earlier communicated," she said.

Kenya Secondary School Heads Association chairman Kahi Indimuli admitted that the directive had caught parents and teachers unaware.

"We have received complaints from parents, but let me just be clear: we also received the orders on Monday, and we must adhere to them," Mr Indimuli said.

Students going home with guardians following the closure of schools on August 2, 2022. [Esther Jeruto, Standard]

Many public service vehicle operators who usually make a killing when schools close said they were caught unawares. Learners who live far from school normally book buses before closing day. But this time things were different because they had to travel to the main bus terminus to board vehicles to their destinations.

John Mwadime, a matatu driver plying the busy Nairobi-Mombasa road, warned that scores of secondary school students were stranded.

"We stopped at Taru trading centre to pick passengers, among them students. The students claimed they did not have bus fare and were boarding lorries. This is dangerous for the young girls because they could be molested," said Mr Mwadime.

The management of ENA Coach, one of the main bus companies plying the Kisumu, Nairobi and Mombasa routes, said they were forced to make unplanned trips.

David Alaka, the company's Kisumu manager, told The Standard that they had to cancel several bookings to accommodate learners, but that was still not enough.

In Murang'a County, the matatu and bus termini were congested as students struggled to find affordable means to get home. James Kuruma, a resident said fare from Murang'a to Nyeri was Sh350 up from Sh250.