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Ministry should protect Sosiana principal, take on officers who castigated her

OPINION
By Judith Oloo | April 17th 2021

The media was recently awash with the story of  the secondary school teacher who trekked 20 Kilometres to deliver exams for her students. This story has caught the public’s attention because it is the reality of many Kenyans; bad roads and poor delivery of public services. It reflects what thousands of rural teachers undergo to ensure candidates sit their exams. The Daily Nation earlier this week reported that the principal “endures the morning chill and trudges through the muddy Murkan-Sosiana Road that is full of bushes and boulders. She crosses the seasonal River Kibailuk and finally scales a hill to where the school is situated….”  It is difficult to understand why a teacher would be victimised for going beyond the call of duty to make the right to education a reality for all.

It does not matter whether she treks nine or 20 kilometres as is now alleged by Ministry of Education officials who are castigating this hardworking and dedicated officer for speaking to the media to share her reality. But even going by the ministrys position, trekking for 18 kilometres on mud and rugged roads daily is not a mean achievement, most ordinary people cannot make it. Noting her effort and dedication, Kenyans have taken to social media to applaud this teacher for showing a great example for handwork and sacrifice to nation-building.

As the East African Centre for Human Rights (EACHRights), a regional NGO that advocates for the right to health, education and child protection, with a focus on children in marginalised and vulnerable communities and are therefore an authority on matters of education, we add our voice to this discourse in support of the teacher who is being victimised for sharing her experience on how prepared or unprepared the Ministry of Education is in ensuring exams reach the exam centres countrywide. These are matters that have at one point or the other been brought to the attention of the centre.

Magdalene Kimani, the Sosiana High School principal, did her work with dedication. What is more tragic than what the teacher has to endure every day is that focus of the County Director bosses is to punish her even as they try to sweep her experience under the rug, instead of putting their effort towards alleviating her suffering.

This issue is not just about this teacher and exams but cuts across the delivery of services for example access to health care facilities, water, public transport.  It is a matter of public knowledge that this country has poor infrastructure, roads include. For one, some parts of this country have never seen tarmac, 60 years post-independence! As a result, the rural population trek miles and miles to be able to access these services.

Secondly, government facilities are set too far from the population. In many cases, lives are lost unnecessarily on the way to government hospitals. For instance, the problem of access has seen many expectant mothers deliver in the bushes while on their way to hospitals that are miles and miles away, children have been kidnapped and even abused (defiled) on their way to school for the very reason of having to leave home in the wee hours of the morning to able to reach a school that is miles away on time.

Therefore, EACHRights suggests that the way to go about this pertinent issue is not to suppress the sharing of experience but to look at this issue from a wider lens and address the root causes of Kenyans trekking for miles to deliver or to obtain public services. The dedication and voice of this teacher and other public servants in such predicaments should not be muzzled by bureaucrats whose only worry is that they have been reported and or exposed to their seniors and not the welfare of the worker. One step in the right direction is for Cabinet Secretary for Education to protect this teacher from further victimisation and take on the officers who want the teacher punished for speaking her truth.

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Secondly, now that this issue is on the table, the ministry of education could ride on this opportunity to engage the ministry of Transport to put in place motorable roads to access schools around the country.

 

Dr Oloo is the CEO of EACHRights and head of Public Law Department, JKUAT Law School

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