Kisumu Boys relocation plan ill-advised

Kisumu governor Anyang’ Nyong’o. PHOTO | JAMES EKWAM | NMG

The Kisumu county government plans to expand the city and is looking at relocating both Kisumu Boys and Girls to the outskirts of the city. The schools sit on 105 acres in the central business district and the county government sees this land as prime for the expansion.

This proposal has sparked mixed reactions from officials, stakeholders and the public. Kisumu Boys Alumni Foundation says it plans to stop the relocation of the school in court if it happens.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has stated that the schools will not be relocated and sought to assure learners, parents and teachers that government has no such plan.

But the county governor, Anyang’ Nyong’o, has remained adamant saying that the school is sitting on prime land that doesn’t bring economic value to the city and that the 105 acres would be more useful for the development of an integrated urban centre.

Before we get into the argument that the school has no economic value, what is shocking is the attitude the governor has displayed in relation to this matter.

In addition to pushing for the relocation of the school, the governor proposes that the two schools should share facilities when relocated to avoid extravagant use of government land.

Currently, each school has a field, a swimming pool and other amenities which the governor finds unnecessary. This is a very condescending statement from the governor and passes as an upper deck elitism — that the less privileged don’t deserve good services from the government.

To start with, the county government is not the custodian of public school land, meaning the governor cannot pronounce himself as the ultimate decision-maker.

But even if the county was the ultimate decision-maker, the management board of the school, the parents-teachers association together with the alumni association would be involved because they are the main stakeholders.

This is a school that has a history that dates to the early 1920s during the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway line.

If the county government came up with an expansion plan that was premised on relocating the school, then that was poor and costly judgment from the planners because such a move isn’t within the gambit of the county government.

Also, moving a school that has been in existence from 1920 to a new location will be to disrupting the social setup (access to public schools) in the area. Therefore, the community who are the biggest stakeholders of the schools have to be greatly involved in making such a decision.

For the governor to act like he is the sole decision-maker in the plan to relocate the school is to be dramatically high-handed.

Coming to the issue of the school having no economic value, the governor says that the city should be commercially oriented and therefore run as a profit-making entity whilst the school provides very little returns to the city. It is reported that the county government plans to build a mall and a hotel when the school relocates.

It’s surprising that such a comment is coming from someone of the stature of Prof Nyong’o because that is completely misleading. There is no city that is run as a profit-making entity unless it’s privately owned.

Social services have to be provided by government authorities. The more social amenities are provided, the more habitable the city is.

The mistake the governor is making is to directly compare returns from a mall and hotel to the county government in the form of land rates, business licences and other payments. Investment in schools has indirect but far greater returns to society and accelerates economic growth.

A society that can deprive children of their right to easy access to education for the love of malls and hotels is doomed.

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