Several schools are unlikely to reopen despite Ruto's directive

Marooned, Burgei Secondary School in Rongai, Nakuru County, on April 5, 2024, after the River Rongai breached its banks flooding into homes and schools due to heavy rains in the area. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Thousands of learners are unlikely to reopen school next week as several institutions remain submerged in floods while others are grappling with damaged classrooms.

For some, toilets that were swept away and would be another catastrophe waiting to happen. In some areas, hundreds of families displaced by floods have sought refuge in classrooms and in school compounds.

Yesterday, a section of parents claimed their children risk being disadvantaged because they can't reopen next week.

Spot checks by The Standard in Nyanza, Mount Kenya, Rift Valley and Western region established that a significant number of schools are in a sorry state.

In Nyanza, at least 40 schools in Kisumu, Migori and Homa Bay counties are inaccessible and are either submerged or acting as rescue centres for displaced families.

At Oseth Primary School in Nyando, the entire school compound is submerged and only accessible through a boat. Surrounding homesteads have been evacuated and are also inaccessible.

Similarly, Ombaka primary school is also acting as a rescue centre, with its classrooms now homes of several families displaced from the nearby Ombaka village.

In one of the classrooms, 37 women are sharing a small space with their children. Yesterday, Rosemary Birenge, the Kisumu director of education confirmed that most schools in Nyando and Kadibo sub-counties were affected by floods.

"The ones affected most are Ahero girls, Kolunga, Kowala and Oseth primary schools," she said.

At Ahero Girls, the chances of the school reopening next week is almost zero as the institution is still partially submerged, while drinking water in its boreholes are all contaminated.

Similarly, in Migori, at least 10 schools are inaccessible and still submerged.

School-going children walk back home after they found their school Kantafu Primary in Matungulu, Machakos County closed on April 29, 2024. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

In Rift Valley, stakeholders are scratching their heads to find a solution to the destruction left in several schools.

Walter Wanjala, the Trans Mara Sub-County Director of Education, said most schools are struggling with poor sanitary conditions.

“Our major problem is flooded pit latrines and inaccessibility of learning institutions except those near the highways,” he told the Standard.

Some of those schools that have reported flooded toilets are Changina, Chepkureret, Emitiot, Olpopong, Chebulu, and Simotwet primary and secondary schools.

Those totally inaccessible are Kamermeru, Olpopongi, Sosiot, Naisukut, Cheserton, Kisiara, Kuresiet and Ndamama primary schools.

Wanjala said his office is working with the affected schools to fix the damages ahead of the school reopening.

“I have talked with the principals and head teachers from the affected schools so that we can come up with a remedy for each of the respective schools,” Wanjala said.

In Nakuru County, several schools are still submerged following heavy rains.

Visoi ward MCA Hellen Chemtai said Sosiot dam in Mosop ward broke its walls and a nearby river broke its banks unleashing floodwaters to nearby farms, homes, and schools. She said Burgei's primary and secondary schools are flooded.

Joseph Lel said parents wished to have their children back to school but due to the prevailing circumstances, it will be difficult.

Joseph Chebukaka, Kuppet organising secretary, Nakuru branch, said teachers are worried about the learners going back to school.

He said River Ndarungu has swollen and children have to cross the river to access learning in over 55 schools.

Marooned, Burgei Secondary School in Rongai, Nakuru County, on April 5, 2024, after the River Rongai burst its banks flooding into homes and schools due to heavy rains in the area. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

In Nyandarua County, County Commissioner Abdirizak Jardeza has assured parents that most schools are ready for opening.

A report by the county director of education showed only those in parts of North and South Kinangop whose classes had been submerged by water would be slightly affected.

In Mount Kenya, several schools are struggling with poor infrastructure after the heavy rains and mudslides destroyed a number of schools.

In lower Murang’a, access roads to learning institutions have been cut off owing to the flooding of the major rivers originating from Aberdare Forest.

Mwana Wi Kiyo in Kakuzi ward is among the schools which by last week access roads from Murang’a and Thika had been blocked due to flooding of Kabati and Thika rivers.

Yesterday, Murang’a County Director of Education Annie Kiilu said majority schools face the challenge of sinking toilets owing to the hilly topography.

She said a number of schools have reported destruction of roofs and sinking toilets.

“A team of education officers has been dispatched to conduct inspections on the situation, ahead of the schools reopening next week,” said Kiilu.

In Kieni constituency Nyeri County, an estimated 6,000 learners from 27 schools may not resume learning next Monday, after flood water filled pit latrines in the schools, posing a health hazard to both learners and teachers.

Parents want the Ministry of Education to postpone school opening dates, to allow schools to address the sanitation challenges.

"From the look of things, we are not ready for the second term, our appeal to the government is to postpone the opening dates since we are afraid that children may contract some waterborne diseases," said Michael Wangai, a parent. 

In Isiolo County over 1,200 households in Merti area have been displaced by flood waters, following a heavy downpour in the upper regions that has caused the Ewaso Nyiro River to break its banks.

Half of Merti town has been submerged by the floods while at least seven schools namely Macci Pry Sch, Macci Sec Sch, Khalifa Pry Sch, Khalifa Girls Sec Sch, Gamachu Pry Sch, Hamza Pry Sch and Mlanda Nur Pry Sch and at least four mosques have all been marooned. 

According to Hajj Mohamed Haro Katu, a businessman in Merti town, the floods have cut off movement of people and goods in and out of the town.

Women wade through a flooded section of Makunda Primary School in Budalangi. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

"Many of our villages have been cut off and as a result, our businesses have been affected, we are worried that the area could soon run out of food supplies if the rains do not subside," Katu said. 

Similarly in Western, hundreds of learners in Budalang’i and Teso North constituencies Busia County could remain confined in temporary camps when schools reopen on Monday.

According to Busia County Education Director James Ekalyio about 14 schools have been damaged by floods in Budalang’i and Teso North with at least 10,000 students likely to miss out on learning.

The affected primary schools include Bukoma, Maduwa, Bulwani, Budalaa, Musoma, and Lunyofu in Budalang’i.

In Teso North Constituency, Amoni, Kaejo, Kapkuyi, Kajei Primary Schools and Kamolo Secondary School and Kolanya Girls have been affected according to the education officer.

Ekalyio said some schools have been serving as evacuation centres. “We have more than 12 schools completely underwater in Budalangi and if the situation persists, our children will lack a place to learn from,” said Elkayio.

He said UNICEF has pledged to provide tents for learning when schools reopen. “We have more than 10,000 pupils from Junior and upper secondary schools who are affected, and UNICEF has promised to help us with tents,” said Elkayio.

[Report by Anne Atieno, Clinton Ambujo, Kiprono Kurgat, Julius Chepkwony, James Munyeki, Jackline Inyanji, Benard Lusigi, Robert Amalemba, Bruno Mutunga, Fayo Abraham, and Boniface Gikandi]