Over 100 Kenyan schools have been burned to the ground over the course of a year – 98 last year and 68 since January – by students who are frustrated with their education system according to Education Secretary Fred Matiang’i.
Matiang’i told the Senate Education committee that there have been 317 arson attacks on schools since 2007, a report from The Star Kenya mentions.
The reason, he claims, is that the affected schools suffer from ‘poor governance’.
The Education Cabinet Secretary will introduce a ‘governance and management’ programme for school leaders in order to combat the rising of delinquency amongst students.
The particulars on these heinous crimes are however unclear. The only observable reason thus far being that the government has reformed its education policies in an effort to crack down on cheating in exams, amongst other things.
Students have had their holidays shortened by two weeks due to the reforms.
St Theresa Bikeke Girls Secondary School and Tabaka High School are two schools that were burned down just last week, a BBC report notes.
According to the reporter, one of the boys accused of arson was told by a pupil from a neighbouring school that he was already on holiday because his school had been burned down, leading the Tabaka High School student to take action himself.
Moses Ongesa Ombari, parent of one of the children who attends Tabaka High School, had this to say regarding the incident:
“When you speak to them they don’t have good reasons for why they set fire to the school.
“As a parent, I think that some of them do it because they fell like they want to be known, for the fame. Others are doing it because of ignorance, and some are doing it because of drugs.
“The idea that this is a protests against a high work load and a lack of holidays is silly because they come to school to learn.”
In another case of Western Kenyan arson, pupils in Kisii torched 7 of the 11 dormitories in their school after a teacher told pupils that they couldn’t watch a Euro 2016 football match due to it being passed their bedtime, an article from The Times surmised.
It may sound trivial and petty at times, but in some schools equipment and belongings worth millions of Kenyan shillings (tens of thousands of pounds) have been turned to ash.
Even more alarming is the danger of death that students are putting their fellow classmates in. Although the death toll has in recent times remained low regarding students killed in school fires, there have been several reports in the past which estimate that at least 76 students have been burned alive since 1998 in separate incidents of arson.
The Nairobi News recounts the tragedy of 2001 in Kyanguli Secondary School where 58 students were killed in a fire that started in a dormitory:
“It happens every other month especially when exams are about to start. The fires start in the dormitories when everyone is asleep. It is rare to hear that a classroom caught fire.”