It should worry us all that in 2019 public schools in Kenya still face the risk of being dispossessed of land through grabbing, encroachment and never-ending court battles. Demand for land is high and continues to grow which has increased value exponentially. This makes public school land often in prime areas a target for grabbing and conversion to serve private interests.
The process of titling of public-school land is picking pace with 9,556 schools titled over 2018. A Multi-Agency Working Group was gazetted in 2018 to fast-track titling of all public schools. This initiative could benefit greatly from robust public participation.
Here are the five things you could do to support the initiative;
1. TAKE AN INTEREST
Take an interest in finding out whether the public school in your neighbourhood, on your work route, or where your children or relations go to learn has a title deed. Other than walking into a school and speaking to school administration on whether they have title deed, you can write directly to request the status of titling for any specific school in Kenya. Article 35 of the Constitution and the Access to Information Act of 2016 empowers you to file such a request.
You can file such a request to the National Land Commission, ministries of Land and Education at both national and county levels.
In its East Africa Bribery Index of 2017, Transparency International – Kenya found that only 10 percent of Kenyans reported incidences of bribery. In other words, only 1 in 10 people reports an incidence of corruption. The successful incidences where schools have been protected from grabbing have come from whistle blowers sounding the alarm that leads people to act.
One can choose to report to the police, National Land Commission, the ministries of Lands and Education, County government offices, media and to the public through social media. Civil society formations also offer channels for reporting.
For example Shule Yangu Campaign (for the protection of public-school land) maintains a 24 hours hotline: 0707 087 070. One can also use the twitter @shuleyangu for reporting. The Action for Transparency (A4T) mobile app, is effective for making anonymous reports for schools in Nairobi and soon Kiambu County.
3. PARTICIPATE IN ORGANISED FORMATIONS
School alumni associations, resident associations, religious groups, professional associations are some ways through which one can be part of an organised formation. Support from such associations have been known to be invaluable in supporting schools get title deeds and protect school teachers and pupils targeted for reprisals as they protect school land.
They can also be instrumental in fencing of titled public schools to ensure safety of learners. Through such organisations, one can participate in efforts to support with fundraising to build fences, providing professional services such as legal, surveying and media for advocacy around school land protection.
There are several ways through which one can volunteer to support a school in need Professionals in different fields have expertise than can be very helpful in titling and fencing of public schools. Physical planners, lawyers, journalists have volunteered their time and skills to support schools protect their land.
Offering pro-bono services or subsidising their fees to survey for instance can go a long way in offsetting the costs related to school titling process.
5. SUPPORT DEMONSTRATIONS, PICKETING AND RELEVANT PETITIONS
Did you know as a Kenya citizen you can petition any arm of government on a matter of public interest? Article 37 of the Constitution gives you this right. As such, you can petition the National Assembly, the Senate, County Assemblies and Executive offices. Online petitions that can be shared far and wide over emails and instant messaging apps are useful in getting petitions to the attention of duty bearers. Social media has proved able to mobilise citizens to demonstrate and picket against grabbing of public school land.
This list is in no way exhaustive. The goal here is to have all public schools titled, fenced and secured for use only as intended, provision of holistic quality education for children. Additionally, we need to free teachers and pupils to focus on the task of learning.
Morris Maina, Shule Yangu Campaign