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Fury over family’s bid to retake land it donated to school

WESTERN
By John Shilitsa | January 4th 2021

Parents of Vikutsa Primary School in Shinyalu, Kakamega County demolish structures erected at the school compound yesterday. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Parents and learners yesterday pulled down structures and a barrier constructed at the Vikutsa Primary School’s entrance to lock out pupils.

They accused a family whose kin donated an 11-acre piece of land to the school in Shinyalu Constituency in 1972 of trying to repossess the property. 

“A local by the name Zacharia Amuhanda donated this land to the community for construction of a school and a church 46 years ago. He was a missionary who cherished education,” Benson Shibuli, a parent and former pupil at the school, said.

“We were shocked when strangers erected a barrier at the gate, ploughed the school playground and planted crops everywhere, claiming to have reclaimed the school land,” added Mr Shibuli.

The community claimed that the grandchildren of Amuhanda (who died in June 1987) sought to repossess the disputed land without involving the school management and locals.

The community, led by area MP Justus Kizito, vowed to continue protecting the school and the land. “This is a public school that has been in existence for many years. The individuals claiming ownership of this property were once pupils in this particular school,” said Mr Kizito.

He added that they were prepared to go to court and seek orders to overturn an earlier ruling that awarded the grandsons of Amuhanda ownership of the school land.

“Where were they all this time only to emerge 46 years later claiming ownership of a school property? We have invested CDF money here and there is no way we will let individuals grab a school at the expense of our children,” Kizito said.

Zacharia Amusala, 78, said he was there when Amuhanda donated the land to the school. “A nursery school was built in 1972 and it later gave birth to the primary section in 1974. We have a secondary school coming up, and it is shocking that some people, who don’t even reside here, can gang up to steal the school property,” he said.

Amusala has many grandchildren studying at the same school. 

Mary Nelima, an Early Childhood Development (ECD) teacher at the institution, pleaded with the government to rescue the school. “Where will we take our children when schools reopen on Monday,” she posed.

David Monyo, the school watchman, said he had been living in constant fear after the school was fenced off.

“I have worked here for 16 years,” said Mr Monyo.

A letter dated December 19, 2016, addressed to the Land Registrar, points at the genesis of the protracted land dispute that leaves the fate of more 600 learners at Vikutsa Primary and the teachers hanging in the balance.

“In 2010 or thereabout, the grandchildren and daughter-in-law of the late Zedekiah Amuhanda initiated the succession of the land without involving the school and the community,” reads in part the letter signed by school headteacher.

The letter indicates the school was only made aware “upon obtaining a grant of administration, setting in motion the transfer and demarcation of the land without considering the school.”

In the letter, the school accuses a former area chief, a relative of the family currently claiming ownership, of getting involved in the matter.

Court documents seen by The Standard show High Court in Kakamega granted administration of the disputed land to Moses Abwoba and Sabeti Muteku.

The family insists that they would like to distribute the property, including the land occupied by the school, afresh. “We wish to leave the school with five acres at a fee and take away six. We want the matter to end in peace,” said Sabeti Muteku, one of the family members.

But Kizito dismissed the family’s demands, saying he would not compromise a school within his constituency for anything. “We cannot pay for a land donated to the school many years ago,” he said.

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