Get out of the city and leave the schools alone

Learners raise hands to respond to a question in an elementary school. [Getty Images]

Kisumu and Eldoret have a strange connection. Want to guess?

One is a city the other is aspiring to be one. One is cold, the other is humid. One has more immigrants than the other. One is in the highlands, the other by the lake. Both have a university and an airport. 

What ties them together is relocating schools from central business district (CBD) to somewhere else, I guess outskirts. 

That logic left my head spinning. Do they see see schools in their CBDs, specifically primary and secondary schools as “under investment.”?  There is no doubt the land on which such schools sit is worthy a lot if it is taken to the market. You can put up high-rise buildings, and location only bids the price up.  You can guess the price of an acre at CBD. 

But wait a minute. Why do we think commercial buildings are more valuable than children playfields and their classrooms in CBD? Why do we value tangible assets like plots and buildings more than education of our children? Why do we think children do not benefit from proximity to the city like anyone else?

Schools in the CBD diversity land use. Give the city “breathing spaces” and remind its residents it has a future through children. Our image of the city as full of skyscrapers is outdated. It should have schools, hospitals, parks and even cemeteries. It must be real. 

Trying to purify the CBD is idealism. More so, by removing schools which gives the city their identity. This logic demonstrates why intellectual assets are so rare in Kenya. How many patents do we register per year? We prefer what can be seen like buildings, cars or houses. 

Yet the future lies in intellectual assets, invisible but easily scalable. Think of Google, Microsoft or even Uber and closer home, mpesa. If these schools get out of CBD, how will their land be allotted? Auctioned? Lottery or through influence?

We should leave schools alone; they are part of the city heritage and their owners are defenseless children. Why not locate what you want in the CBD elsewhere? Relocation means there is land elsewhere.  Why not replan the city with schools in their present location? I fear other towns and cities will take cue and start relocating schools out of their CBD. 

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