Written by Leonard Wamalwa
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A section of Marinda primary school in Kwanza Constituency that has a population of 1280 pupils. The school is one of the many that books have been stolen. [Photos | Leonard Wamalwa | West Fm]
Schools in Kwanza division of Kwanza constituency have experienced a series of robberies by thieves leading to loss of text books worth over Kshs 4 million.
A comprehensive spot check by journalists has revealed that over twenty schools have been affected in the theft that has gone on for one year with two night guards in two primary schools brutally killed.
According to stakeholders in the education sector in the area, the perpetrators have been targeting new textbooks alone hence paralyzing education in the area.
Goseta and Marinda primary schools were the most affected because despite the books being stolen; their guards were killed in cold blood with Marinda primary losing the entire consignment of all books bought this year at a cost of Kshs 260,000.
“We lost books worth Kshs 263,000 that we had just bought from Mita Bookshop in Kitale and our watchman killed and his body hit in my office on May 11 this year,” Pamela Masika the deputy head teacher of Marinda told reporters in her office.
In Goseta primary the deputy head teacher Enock Omonya (right) said that books worth over Kshs 100,000 were stolen before their night guard was killed by the thugs in May last year. The school had experienced three attempts of theft but only one succeeded.
Impact on education
Following the continuous theft of the books that has become rampant in the first half of this year, the schools have now been forced to improvise on ways of the pupils sharing the books as the ratio of pupil to book currently range between 5:1 and 10:1 whereby five pupils to ten pupils share one text book.
“Like here in Marinda where we have over 70 pupils per stream we are having 10 pupils sharing one text book and we are also forced to go back to the old stocks of the course books to enable our pupils access the relevant access the relevant syllabus,” said Mrs Masika at Marinda primary.
Stakeholders have noted a decline in educational standards in the area that has initially been affected by child labor, early marriages, and defilement among other vices that have negatively impacted on the sector before the text books syndicate came into place.
School managements have now resorted in hiring more security guards including the Kenya police reserves famously known as KPR which now require the school boards and parents to incur extra costs of paying for the extra security services.
At Marinda primary two KPR officers have been hired at Kshs 2000 per month each while at Goseta, two extra watchmen have been hired to beef up security at the institution.
Kwanza district deputy education officer Kimani Njoroge told journalists in his office in Endebes that the ministry had advised the school administrators to include the KPRs in their security measures to safeguard the schools.
He said the administrators have also been advised to distribute all the textbooks to the pupils so that they reduce the risk of the schools being targeted by the thugs as proper measures are being sort.
Southern Sudan Syndicate
As all the criminal activities continue taking toll on the school libraries, virtually all stakeholders including teachers, parents, education officers point fingers at the new South Sudan market of new books.
Kwanza DEO Kimani Njoroge
The deputy DEO Njoroge, deputy head teachers at Marinda and Goseta primary schools and Kitale police boss Lucas Ogara confirmed to reporters that there have been claims that the books are being ferried to the new republic of South Sudan which is said to be doing a similar education system to that of Kenya.
“We have been hearing from other affected schools that the books stolen are being taken to South Sudan even though we haven't proved that yet,” Marinda teacher said.
Other teachers affirmed the claims pointing out that the likelihood of the books being sold within the country are slim bearing in mind that most of those books bear rubber stamps of the names of schools and location hence they could be easily be traced.
The DEO also confirmed that South Sudan is yet to put up its own educational structures and thus still uses the Kenyan system that has seen high demand for the Kenyan text books shortly after the country stabilized and attained its full independence barely a year ago.
Area police boss confirmed the incidences and also acknowledged that they have also been hinted of the Sudanese syndicate of the books but police are yet to come up with substantial evidence to prove the allegations.
Kitale OCPD Lucas Ogara
The police chief further said that police are also investigating as to why the thefts are only happening in one division of Kwanza district whereas neighboring divisions are safe.
Police have also launched investigations to establish whether there are accomplices from the affected institutions or residents or even the suppliers of books to the schools involved.
Kwanza division is along the border with West Pokot and Uganda and had in the past years been severely affected with cattle rustling which seems to be simmering now and paving way to another racket targeting the education sector.
Among the schools affected with the thefts in the area include: Murram primary, Kapkoi primary, Keese secondary, Kapomboi, Ndalala, Zea and Chesarati primary schools.
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