Except for butterflies drifting off between the roof and twigs that stick out of the mass of water in an area that once hosted Ng’ambo Primary School, Lake Baringo is discretely silent.
On the shores of the lake, learning is going on at Seriani Early Childhood Development Centre (ECD) that currently hosts learners from the submerged primary school.
Interestingly, Class Eight and ECD learners are in one class, facing the same direction, sharing one board while attending different lessons conducted by two teachers.
The instructions from the two teachers sound like a shouting match to the learners trying to comprehend the new development caused by the swelling lake.
“Ng’ambo Primary School was submerged and when Class Eight learners resumed, they had to be hosted at Seriani ECD. Now when the schools opened, they had to share a classroom while others had to learn under trees,” said Barkolwa Sharriff.
Salvaged some items
Sharrif notes that the primary school initially had 300 learners, but only 15 reported on the first day. Out of 25 Class Eight candidates, only 12 have been consistently attending classes.
Seventeen schools - five secondary and 12 primary - were submerged by the swelling of Lake Baringo.
Lake Baringo Secondary School incurred a loss of more than Sh50 million after it was submerged. The school management is awaiting Sh2 million promised by the government to relocate and build infrastructure.
“All buildings were submerged - classrooms, laboratories, dormitories and libraries. The government had promised us Sh2 million when Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang visited, but we are yet to receive anything,” Chesoi Limo, one of the school board members said.
Limo added, “When the government delayed to release the funds, we conducted a funds drive and construction of four classrooms is underway. We have also managed to put up some dormitories, but learning will take place in tents.”
He explained that when Lake Baringo water levels started rising around June last year, the management salvaged some items and ferried them using boats to Kampi Samaki Primary School, where the Form Four learners were hosted last year.
Learners have been forced to use boats to access Loruk Primary School after it was marooned by water from the lake.
To access the school by road, learners walk for five kilometres, which is a longer distance compared to taking a boat where they only cover 500 metres.
“The turnout is too low because the learners have to adjust to the new development of crossing over using boats, which is expensive,” he said.
“In the seemingly serene waters, crocodiles and hippopotamus lie in wait and occasionally roam about the school compound, which poses a security challenge,” the school headteacher, Luka Kandie, said.
Observing Covid-19 protocols in the area is also a challenge as masks are a rare commodity. Learners also scramble for the few available spaces hence they cannot keep social distance.
“Imagine a school submerged and the government does not give you a single coin and they expect you to adhere to Covid-19 regulations and take learners in,” said Michael Kangogo, Lake Baringo Secondary School board member.
Learners at Salabani Primary School are also stranded after the lake expanded by more than 60 per cent its original size.
Last August, government officials expressed optimism that by the time schools reopen the affected institutions would have been rehabilitated.
But the Education PS said it was impossible to rehabilitate the schools since there was no sign the water would recede.
“We have decided to look into the dynamics of how we place our children so that we address proximity for day scholars and capacity for boarders, as well as ensure their comfort. Progression and settling in is the primary driver of the decisions to be made,” Kipsang said.
Baringo County Director for Education Mwasaru Mwashegwa assured that the national government has data of the affected schools and will address the matter.
“The top ministry officials are aware of the situation and they are the ones to address the matter. However, all schools will be opening within this week,” he told The Standard on phone.