Schools remain closed on fear of violent protests

Empty classroom at Moi Avenue Primary School Nairobi County in this picture on Tuesday, July 2, 2024 due to the ongoing anti- finance bill protests in major parts of the country. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Many schools across the country remained closed as parents kept their children at home on Tuesday amid fears that the anti-government demonstrations could turn violent.

While some schools sent messages to parents on Monday that they would remain closed, some parents opted not to take the children to school.

Learning resumed on Monday July 1, 2024, after the mid-term break last week.

“Due to the planned demonstrations Tuesday July 2, 2024, there will be no school as a precautionary measure. We shall resume classes on Wednesday July 3, 2024,” reads one such message sent to parents.

“We are planning to have physical classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then use the online platform on Tuesday and Thursday to cover more subjects. We would not want the children on harm's way,” another message from a school in Rongai read.

Learners did not turn up at Moi Avenue Primary School which is within the Nairobi Central Business District, but the teachers reported for duty. They later left as tension gripped the capitals as police engaged protestors in running battles and lobbed tear gas canisters at them.

“We weren’t asked not to take children to school but I couldn’t have allowed my children to come to school under such circumstances. Last week, the police officers were throwing the teargas canisters even inside the school compound,” Chris Were, a parent at the school told Nation.

Jamhuri High School which is in the Ngara area has not reopened after the learners took the half-term break on Wednesday last week. A worker at the school said that learning is expected to resume Wednesday.

Only 10 learners out of 250 showed up in the morning at St Brigid’s Public Primary School along General Waruingi Road in Pumwani area. They were released to go home at 10.00 am. The teachers were also allowed to leave.

“We didn’t tell the learners not to come. It’s the parents’ decision, which is good because we don’t have power to protect them in case their safety is compromised. We can’t punish learners for absenteeism under such circumstances,” a teacher at St Brigid’s told Nation.
“The demonstrations are now affecting learning because even yesterday, only 50 learners turned up and we still don’t know what will happen tomorrow or on Thursday and next week,” another teacher said.

There were no learners at the adjacent Dr Agrrey Primary School as well as Muslim Primary School. At 11.45 am, the Nation found some parents at Muthaiga Primary School who had gone to withdraw their children. They said they feared that riots in the Mathare neighbourhood could spill over. Traffic along the usually busy Thika Road was light.

However, learning was going on in some schools like City Primary School in Ngara and Ainsworth Primary School along Muratina Street in Eastleigh.

In Homa Bay Town, many learners did not report to school for fear of being harmed by protesters. A few who went to school carried packed lunch to avoid confrontation with demonstrators when going back home for lunch.

At Shauri Yako Primary School, the head teacher, John Oguttu, said all teachers reported for duty and only a few learners did not show up.
“We are proceeding with our studies as usual, however not all learners are present,” Mr Oguttu said.

The same problem was reported at Lake Primary School. Schools that were to reopen today after the half-term break advised parents not to release their children due to safety concerns. Parents with children at Ogande Girls received a message informing them that the school will open its gate on Wednesday.

“Please note that due to planned nationwide demonstrations on Tuesday July 2, 2024, our resumption date from half-term changes to Wednesday July 3, 2024,” read the message sent on Whatsapp.

In Kisii town, schools have partially opened their gates amidst the ongoing anti-government protests. The reopening date for learners at Kisii High School was pushed to Wednesday.

"The opening day from half-term has been moved to Wednesday July 3, 2024. Release the boys early enough," read a message from the school to parents.

Some parents took their children to school early Tuesday morning, fearing that the protests may intensity during the day. However, some learners were caught up in the protests after the Kisii Hospital road was blocked by protesters.

"Good morning team, you all know that our Form 1 and 4 are reporting back tomorrow, the challenge is with Form 2 and 3. Given the prevailing circumstances, I urge that those who will manage to allow their girls report tomorrow we have no objection," read a message from Sironga Girls High School.

Some parents in Siaya Town also did not release their children to go to school for fear of the planned demos dubbed #occupyeverywhere. Most of town’s streets remained deserted and businesses closed.

“I don’t trust these youths. Last week, one person was shot dead and that means the safety of my children is not guaranteed. They will go to school tomorrow,” John Ouma, a father of three told Nation.

A senior teacher at Siaya Township Primary School who did not want to be named said that learners who reported to school were less than half of the enrolment.

“We had a relatively low turn-out. Majority of the parents feared that their children might be caught up in chaos,” said the teacher.

Schools located in the rural areas went on with their lessons as usual; Wang Chieng Primary School in West Alego, Upanda Primary School and Palpal Primary school had learning go on uninterrupted.

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