Boat operators in Lamu County will soon be forced to undergo an age assessment test in a move aimed at weeding out underage children who are said to be actively involved in the business.
Lamu County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri said his office will not seat back and watch school-age children loiter in streets while others work as coxswains instead of learning.
Lamu has over 5,000 boat operators working in the various islands of the archipelago. Speaking to Shipping yesterday, Mr Kanyiri said he had already instructed assistant county commissioners, chiefs and village headmen to ensure that only adults are involved in the boat operation business.
He warned chiefs of dire consequences if they fail to ensure that all children go to school.
The county commissioner said the age assessment test will also be extended to boda boda operators to ensure that only those of appropriate age work in the sector.
“Schools are open and I want to send a message to all parents to ensure that their children are sent to school.
“I am aware that many school dropouts are involved in the boat operation business. We will be coming for you. Even if it means conducting a massive age assessment test for all our coxswains, we are ready to do that so that those of school going age are taken back to class. The same will also apply to boda boda operators,” said Mr Kanyiri.
“Chiefs who are lax in their mandate, including ensuring that children in their areas remain in school, will be fired. The government’s stand is to have all children stay in school instead of loitering on the streets.”
He insisted that chiefs have the duty and mandate of ensuring that children go to school. He said education was the only redeemer that would bring down the high levels of poverty, crime and drug use in the region.
Mr Kanyiri urged parents to cooperate with chiefs, police officers and his office to ensure that Lamu develops to the level of other counties.
“Development can’t be attained if children are left to do what they want and skip school.
“This county won’t change if all that children can do is boat and boda boda operation, sniff drugs and cause mayhem by engaging in crime.
“Education is free and that’s why we will punish any parent who doesn’t send children to school. They have no excuse,” said Mr Kanyiri.
Lamu residents who were interviewed yesterday supported the idea, saying that it will ensure parents and children develop a positive mentality towards education.
“I support the age assessment test for our boat and boda boda operators.
“This will contribute to improved transport safety. The issue of parents to be punished for failing to take their children to school is also good since it will help them and their children to take education seriously,” said Mr Mohamed Omar.