Uasin Gishu, Kenya: Circumcision is considered a mandatory cultural rite of passage among the Kalenjin, which boys between 13 and 17 must undergo to become members of a named age-set.
But to pupils of Cengalo Primary School near Burnt Forest, this rite leads to outright expulsion from school, thanks to a ‘law’ formulated by the school head and the management board.
This fate has befallen several boys who would now be planning to sit for their Standard Eight Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams, but are now roaming aimlessly in the village, with nothing to do.
For Mike Kiboi, (not his real name), the decision to undergo circumcision while in Standard Seven became the end of his thirst to enjoy free primary education.
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“They told me to go home and never go back to school when they realised I was circumcised. I still wonder what wrong I had done to warrant such a harsh punishment,” he explained when The Standard caught up with him at Chereber centre.
“During the day I look for menial jobs in the village before strolling to the shopping centre because I cannot go back to school,” said 16-year-old Kiboi.
His father is as helpless as his son. He says several interventions by him and other villagers did not bear any fruit.
“I went to the school and asked why my son had been kicked out. The school head told me ‘we no longer need your boy here’,” said the distraught father.
He said the head teacher is a resident of the area and gets to know the boys who have been circumcised, and ensures they do not come back to school when a new term begins.
Kiboi’s father is not the only parent facing the predicament. When The Standard visited a nearby village, another parent, Boit was leaving for Nairobi to try and find his son a primary school vacancy.
“In all nearby schools, the answer was the same. Somebody must have informed them that my son was circumcised,” he explained.
But during our interview with the school’s head teacher, Mr Leboo Ngiroi, he turned the heat on the parents, accusing a number of them of encouraging their children to undergo circumcision at an early age.
“The school’s board agreed, together with parents, to stop the circumcision of boys until after Standard Eight. This is because a number usually don’t come back after the cut, while those who came back become a threat to girls and female teachers,” he explained.
Mr Leboo noted that a number of candidates, upon undergoing the rite of passage, opt to venture into tree logging business at a nearby government forest, and only return later to sit for exams.
Kenya National Union of Teachers Wareng branch Executive Secretary John Boor admitted having received complaints from the aggrieved parents.
“We shall visit the institution to find out more details. But it is improper to stop a child from benefiting from education,” he said.