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Classroom crush

Children in a crowded class at the Moto primary school, Molo town, Rift Valley Province, Kenya, February 2008. It is one of the few schools to have re opened in the area following the post-election violence in Kenya, and is having to deal with over-crowde
Children in a crowded class at the Moto primary school, Molo town (Allan Gichigi/IRIN)

With four or five pupils to a desk, the average class size at Moto primary school, in the western town of Molo, has jumped from 40 in the last term of 2007 to 80 this year since post-election violence hit the country.

"Look at the children, some are even sitting on stones in the lower classes; we have tried to sit at least three to a desk in the upper classes because the pupils are bigger but this has been difficult; we continue to receive more pupils every day," Beatrice Nyabuti, the deputy head teacher at Moto primary school, told IRIN.

By contrast, several schools in Kuresoi, a largely rural area which forms one of four divisions that make up Molo District, are silent. No pupils have reported to school this year because of displacement and continuing insecurity.

"We have remained here, sleeping at the school for security, because we want our lives to go back to normal; we want our children to go back to school and be secure," said Francis Mwangi, a local evangelist and coordinator of about 115 displaced people in Kuresoi. By day they go to their homes and farms but return to Temoyeta primary school in the evening. "If security improves, we hope our brothers and sisters who have fled to Molo will come back soon; in fact two teachers have returned and we hope to get the school re-opened."

Molo is a relatively new district, having been carved out of the larger Nakuru district in 2007, and one of the areas hardest hit by the violence that gripped parts of the country after disputed presidential elections. Moreover, Molo has, since the 1990s, experienced sporadic violence caused by inter-tribal skirmishes, which intensify during election years. In early December 2007, government and relief aid officials put the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Molo at about 45,000.

Since the post-election crisis, the numbers have increased, with Molo town alone, the district's capital, hosting at least 42,000 IDPs. Thousands more are scattered in tens of camps around Molo, Kuresoi, Keringet and Olengurone.

Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
Paul Muthungu Njaga, the deputy district education officer, Molo town

According to education officials in Molo, displacement has affected 6,861 primary school pupils and 546 secondary school students, as well as 243 teachers.

"All learning institutions in our district have been adversely affected by the violence; we have 300 primary schools in the whole district, 80 secondary schools, several tertiary colleges and one university [Egerton]," Paul Muthungu Njaga, the deputy district education officer, said. "Some schools were burnt and others vandalised and we have lost property of enormous proportions in the process. The greatest loss has been that of text books which were burnt."

Njaga said displaced pupils had been distributed in four main centres in Molo town, which are now grappling with congestion, inadequate learning materials and stretched physical facilities.

"In all these centres we have the problems of sanitation, inadequate food and lack of learning and teaching materials," Njaga said. "Toilets in some of the schools are now full and this poses a health problem; toilets that were designed for a few hundred students now have to serve up to 4,000 and this is rather worrying."

In a bid to ensure that examination candidates do not miss out on registration, education officials have set aside one school where displaced students can register.

Among the pressing needs and challenges facing provision of education in the district, Njaga said, were issues particular to special groups of students, such as trauma counselling for those who experienced violence, and the provision of sanitary pads.

"The ongoing movement of the displaced is another area of concern; children caught up in this process are often afraid and end up being traumatised; others end up at risk of abuse," Njaga said.


Nyabuti said they had sought the aid of four nearby churches to use as classrooms as their pupil population had shot up to 2,500 despite the fact that 700 of their former pupils had not reported to school.

Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
A deserted primary school on the outskirts of Molo town, Kenya

"Even our headmaster is affected, he had to flee his home and has not been able to come to school because of insecurity," Nyabuti said.

Laurence Achami, coordinator of Baringo B, an IDP camp in Kuresoi, said 96 of the 269 people at the camp were of school-going age but had not reported to any school due to continued insecurity.

"The people here have benefited from relief aid from the Red Cross and other charitable organisations but education for the children and access to farms by the children remain the key challenges," he said. "Availability of seed and fertilizer is the other issue; if people do not have access to seeds and to the farms I fear we could be headed for food shortages in the near future."

Regarding the violence, Achami said Kuresoi seemed to have been the "rehearsal ground" for the violence that hit part of the country.

"It looks like some of these people were being trained here as Kuresoi experienced a lot of violence way before the disputed elections and this violence continues," he said.

The IDP camp at Baringo B has remained because of the nearby tented police post, manned by four officers living in tents.

"This post has assisted very much because if it wasn't here there would have been no non-Kalenjins in Kuresoi by now," Achami said. "Now we have to find ways of having the children at the camp access the primary school nearby, even if we have to get the police to escort them there."


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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