Protection of schools, teachers key to securing nation's future

Police on patrol near Tuiyotich Primary School  in Mochongoi, Baringo, on March 12, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Workers of the world consider safety at their work places as one of the factors that greatly contribute towards good performance.

A safe, clean and protected work environment is in itself motivating for workers to engage and bring out their best. It is becoming increasingly a matter of concern in our country when insecurity is extended to our schools.

Everyone has the right to the highest attainable standard of protection against natural and man-made hazards. This definition is supported by other economic, social and cultural rights agreed in international human rights instruments. Article 35 of the Basic Education Act, 2013, provides that pupils shall be given appropriate incentives to learn and complete basic education.

The safety standards Manuals for Schools in Kenya, 2008, which was developed by the Child World Service (CWS), a church organisation, insists that safety in our society calls for genuine tolerance and appreciation of one another and our cultural diversities. Such tolerance requires active efforts to understand the points of view of others and their contributions to our collective good as a nation. Our collective good in this case is education for our children and the society.

Education programmes have been interfered with in Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Samburu and Turkana counties where over 50 schools have been closed down due to insecurity. In Baringo County alone, at least 19 schools have been closed indefinitely since January 2024 following banditry attacks in the region.

The attacks have claimed lives of 16 people and displaced more than 2,000 families who now require humanitarian support in internally displaced camps. Attacks in six counties of the North Rift have stirred conversation on the government’s inability to weed out bandits from their hideouts.

One would wonder what the root cause of insecurity is in Kenya. The major cause of insecurity is said to be unemployment, which leads to social and economic vulnerability, as well as institutional decay and governance challenges. Rapid population growth in urban areas, coupled with climate change and diverse physiographic conditions also contribute to the insecurity in Kenya.

In addition, rampant banditry and terrorist attacks by organisations like Al Shabaab have further destabilised the country, highlighting weaknesses in the State’s security institutions. 

Persistent food insecurity is another significant cause, resulting from horizontal public policy inequalities and regional disparities in resource distribution. Overall, a combination of economic, social, political, and environmental factors contribute to the insecurity challenges faced by Kenya.

We have seen government making attempts in dealing with security challenges caused by pastoralist militia activity, especially in North Rift region. In February 2023, following a spike in violent activity by pastoralist militias, government launched a security operation dubbed Operation Maliza Uhalifu North Rift.

As the campaign gained momentum, activity by pastoralist militias has significantly decreased, indicating that it has succeeded in reducing insecurity across North Rift region. However, its long-term impact is less certain due to the country’s multiple security challenges and the risk of overstretching government security forces.

Armed conflicts and insecurity disrupts lives and livelihoods and impoverishes people even more that its intended improvement of livelihoods and recovery from it can be slow.

Education on the other hand increases labour productivity and wage rate of an individual and makes one have an identity both at social, cultural and political dimensions of his life. Education enables an individual to make most of other assets and negotiate new ways of living and improve people’s environments.

People with education are more likely to have socio-economic resilience during conflicts and insecurity; finding new livelihood options, adjusting to displacement and accessing safety and new livelihood options through migration. Therefore education is one most important thing we must not compromise is the education of our children and by extension the community.

Other areas worst affected by insecurity include transport sector, health sector and environment among others. There should therefore be a concerted effort by all the stakeholders in the affected area and beyond to look for ways to curb this problem and also put in place mechanisms that are aimed at ensuring that the problem is brought down to its bare minimum or so that it never recurs.

Our leadership on the ground has called out those perpetrating insecurity in the areas to shun the practice and focus of engaging in other activities that can improve the livelihoods of the people in these areas. This has gone to extends of asking teachers not to report to stations we suspect to be a danger and life threatening zone. This basically means withdrawing labour and hence affecting programmes of teaching and learning.

Our Baringo branch unions officials and security officials keep on clashing over pushing of teachers to serve in the banditry-prone areas amid the ongoing operation. Kenya National Union of Teachers and our sister unions have come out strongly to demand withdrawal of all teachers out of the insecurity zones if by the time schools open government will not have enhanced security to both our teachers and learners in the affected areas. We insist that life comes first and that the union and the teaching fraternity is not ready to lose any more lives out of insecurity.

The union opines that government establishes military camps in all affected areas, crash these militia groups mercilessly just like during the days of the late CS John Michuki when he surrounded and crashed the outlawed Mungiki group, train teachers on basic paramilitary skills to be able to protect themselves, their families and the children they teach. Protecting schools, teachers and learners is protecting the future of our nation.

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