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School where drug addicts, child molesters roam freely

WEDNESDAY LIFE
By Mwangi Muraguri | August 3rd 2016
Kisauni Baptist Church Students Centre

All is not well at Kisauni Baptist Primary School in Mombasa County.

Located at Mla Leo, Kisauni, the school is smack within the ‘territory’ of the blood thirsty Wakali Wao gang who terrorise teachers and students alike.

Operating under the influence of drugs, this gang has — for the past two years — featured in every meeting held by security organs in the county. They have effectively turned the school, started by the Baptist church in 1984 and made a public school in 2003, into a no go zone.

We witnessed the choke-hold this gang has on the school after our crew, comprising a KTN cameraman, this reporter and photographer, were on several occasions stopped by the unruly youths who sought to know our mission at the school.

So far reaching is their reign of terror that all the teachers we spoke to requested we hide their identities. This request also came from their representatives in the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).

But, emboldened by the prospect of voicing their cries through the media on anonymity, the teachers say they want the school shut down as it has become dangerous ground for them and their pupils.

“Tell Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, enough is enough. This trouble has lingered around for far too long,” one teacher said.

A few of the teachers shed tears when they started recounting ordeals they have had to endure when goons, affiliated to Wakali Wao, invade the school.

Because the school has no fence, gang members and other social misfits are free to come and go as they please, wreaking havoc with mindless abandon.

“Only last week, a riff-raff came into the classroom while learning was going on. He sat down, pulled out a marijuana joint and started smoking before the pupils. This is not a one-off occurrence; this is what we have to put up with almost on a daily basis.

“Sometimes the thugs insult and mock us in front of the children. This is very degrading to us,” one of the teachers said.

As we conduct the interview, our attention is drawn to the smell of marijuana, wafting into the classrooms. We peek out of the window and from our vantage point spot a band of young men puffing joints in the school compound.

The teachers tell us learning is often interrupted when curious learners crane their necks to witness gang members squaring it out in the school compound. Often the heated arguments are when the youth fail to agree on how to divide the spoils from petty theft and peddling.

On another occasion, the muggers ventured into the staff-room armed with pangas and took away the teachers’ cell phones and other valuables.

Then there was the strange man who one day drove into the school and took a girl from class. Teachers would later learn that the man was a sugar daddy.

But the scariest part is that the school toilets have now been converted into public property where teachers and pupils are forced to share toilets with complete strangers.

“Three girls have so far been raped by men who trail them as they go to use the facilities. We have since resorted to escorting the children to the toilets,” lamented another teacher who in the past has rallied colleagues to submit their grievances to Knut and senior Ministry of Education officials.

Teachers say the fact that 20 out of the school’s 22 teachers employed by Teachers Service Commission are female may have emboldened the gang to commit atrocities without expecting resistance.

Only the head teacher and his deputy are male. We could not get the head teacher’s views as we were told he was away on sick leave.

The teachers also accused the Ministry of Education and the County Government of failing to clip the problem which they say is akin to watching the lives of 950 children crumble.

Some of the teachers, who have served at the school for over 15 years, blamed the authorities for failing to act on their grievances which they have on several occasions submitted to them.

“Ministry of Education officials know the challenges we are facing having submitted our grievances to them severally but no action has been taken to stop the rot at this school.

This time round we want our grievances to reach Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i so that he can take steps to save these children.

We are employed by the same agency that employs other teachers and there is no reason why we should be exposed to this kind of working environment. If the Ministry of Education cannot deal with the problem, let them relinquish the responsibility to the church and transfer us to others school,” one teacher said.

However, Mombasa County Director of Education Abdulkadir Kike said the teachers’ grievances are yet to reach his office.

Kike asked the affected teachers to forward their grievances through their union representatives, which is the required protocol, so that action could be taken.

Interestingly, County Secretary Francis Thoya said they are aware of the gangs that lurk inside the school compound.

“We have reports that some of the drug addicts have been removing glass panes from windows and using them as surfaces for sniffing drugs. We have instructed askaris from the County Inspectorate to conduct swoops and arrest all drug peddlers operating within and near the school,” he told Wednesday LIFE in an interview.

As though these woes are not enough, the school is also embroiled in a legal tussle with the Mombasa County Government.

This is the by-product of a two decade long conflict of interest between the defunct Municipal Council of Mombasa and Kisauni Baptist Church.

The two have been in court since 2003. The latter claims ownership of the 3.6 acre piece of land which holds the school, a church and a school pitch which is the bone of contention as the county government has expressed intent to upgrade it into an astro-turf ground.

County officials say they intend to use the newly re-furbished grounds as a platform where way-ward, idle youth can engage in extracurricular activities.

This is all aimed at fighting the prevalent drug menace in the area.

The church faults the county for taking on such a project without their knowledge saying the land is private property.

“The church bought this land in 1958 and we have a title deed to that effect. Again, why initiate development on the land while there is a case pending in court,” presiding cleric, Reverend Augustine Tseko asks.

When we visited the school, graders from the county government were leveling the ground in an effort to create a smaller pitch.

The teachers said since the process started, learning at the school has been disrupted as noise from the chugging graders makes it impossible for them to teach.

“We were not made aware that such plans were in the works and the project caught us unawares. There is just so much noise such as communication becomes impossible and no learning can take place,” a teacher said.

Our efforts to reach area MP Rashid Bedzimba to comment on the matter did not bear fruit.

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