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Kenyan Students: Why we are torching dorms

Posted by African Press International on July 29, 2016

NATION TEAM -1 | Ijumaa, Julai 29, 2016

Students from across the country on Thursday explained, in their own words, why they have so far burnt 114 schools in one of the worst outbreaks of arson.

A Form Three student at Adega Mixed School in Homa Bay, whose dormitory was burnt last week, blamed the torching on the Education ministry for seeking to prevent exam cheating.

“At [this time] in the academic calendar, candidates would have started collecting money and organising how they are going to get the final examination papers, but this is not the case this year,” said the student, who cannot be named for his own security.

This would seem to support the views of Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, who says cheating cartels are fanning the fires.

The banning of third-term prayer days and limiting visits by parents and guardians was also a reason, according to a Form Four student at Homa Bay’s Samanga Mixed Secondary School.

“You cannot limit the number of times our parents and guardians should visit us, that is outright dictatorship. Some students come from poor backgrounds and we must have money for our upkeep,” he said.


When a Kaimosi Secondary School dormitory was torched on July 15, the administration said it was caused by seven Form Four students expelled for drinking while in the school.

Some students, however, said the fire was planned in advance and the administration was clueless.

Another student said: “The administration is too strict on us thus widening the gap between it and the students.”

He also blamed the headteacher’s frequent absence from the school, making it difficult for them to air their grievances.

“Insecurity in the school is affecting us greatly. People sneak into the school and steal our belongings such as mattresses when we are in class. This is also our cause of concern because the administration has not addressed it,” said the student.

Students from Muslim Secondary School in Kakamega County claimed the burning of dormitories by their colleagues had to do with the manner they were treated by teachers.

The students said teachers were to blame for failing to embrace dialogue.

“When teachers fail to listen to us and try to suppress our voices, we retreat to our cocoons and plan how to hit back at them,” said the student.

From various schools in Nakuru, Narok and Nyandarua counties, students also revealed the forces behind the incessant school fires.

At Nakuru County’s Rongai Agri-Tech Boys High School, whose 15 students were arrested for arson last week, a learner said that anger at the extension of the second term was the main reason for the discord.

The Form Four student said the protest was also sparked by a poor diet.

The dormitory at the Catholic-sponsored school and a top performer in the country was burnt earlier this month, with preliminary investigations narrowing down the cause of the fire to an electric fault.

A Form Four student at Narok County’s Ololulung’a Boys High School, which was closed indefinitely last week following student unrest, said several issues angered them, including being prevented from taking food to the dorms, watching TV and having tea on specific days. They were also angry about a demand that the principal and some teachers be transferred.

“The transfer of some teachers, increase in school fees by Sh3,000, introduction of caning and lack of medication and a trained nurse at the school dispensary annoyed us,” said the 18-year old-student.


According to a student at Narok High School, also affected last week by the wave of school fires, there is an upsurge in peer pressure, leading to torching of a number of schools in the area.

“Students from various schools in Narok County have been aping their counterparts to set ablaze theirs as a show that they were strong enough to resist school rules,” said the Form Three student.

Three students of Njonjo Girls’ High School in Laikipia County blamed the unrest in their school on caning by their headteacher and discipline master.

“We [live on a] poor diet where one loaf of bread is shared among six girls for breakfast. We found it unfair as the teachers eat well. As a way of teaching the principal a lesson, we decided to torch the institution.”

The more than 19 girls were, however, prevented from burning a dormitory and the staff room after the school administration got a whiff of their plot.

In Kisii County, a student at Itierio Boys High School said there was a political angle to the burning of his school.

“Yes we were denied a chance to watch a Euro Cup match, but I believe someone had incited a section of students to burn the dormitories,” he said.

The school lost seven of its 12 dormitories, the biggest number so far among the more than 114 schools that have been hit by fires across the country.

From Nyamache Boys, a student said bad food was to blame for the burning of two dormitories at the school.

The dormitories were razed hours after Dr Matiang’i left the school. “The management has refused to listen to our grievances and the burning of the dormitories was the climax,” he said.

In Murang’a, students from Iyego Secondary School yesterday said they burnt their school to send a strong message to the administrators for not addressing their pleas.

The students, who had been arrested while in possession of petrol, accused the teachers of treating students selectively, with a majority of them being too hard on boys and favouring girls.

A student at Kiambugi Boys, where a 64-bed dormitory was set ablaze, said the entire syllabus had not been covered and students felt strongly that they were not ready for the mock examinations.

Reported by Benson Amadala, Barrack Oduor, Derick Luvega, Eric Matara, George Sayagie, Steve Njuguna, Nyaboga Kiage, Nicholas Komu, Martin Mwaura and Agewa Wainaina.

Nation news Kenya


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