Walala Primary: A school where pupils’ educational foundation is laid ‘under the rocks’
Written by West Fm Correspondent
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One is easily mistaken with a tourist campsite pitched at the arid region when approaching Walala Primary school in Kanduyi constituency in Bungoma County.
An enormous rock and scattered tents- turned to makeshift classes is the opening glimpse you meet culminating a compound of this seemingly deserted primary School.
When one meets pupils carrying chairs on their heads as they move out of school that signifies the end of the day at Walala primary school , ushering in a fresh day for the pupils to empower themselves again with the same paraphernalia besides their books to book their future in class.
The head teacher says that the school exclusively depends on the kindness of the parents to make learning of the children a success.
During rainy season, however, learning process at Walala is outlandish. Lessons are adjourned as pupils scuttle for shelter in the duo roofed classrooms.
Now and again, the school is compelled to close for the day because the classes cannot shelter all the pupils bearing in mind of the meager infrastructure.
Infrastructure deficit has compelled the school administration to convert recreational features of weathered igneous rocks into classrooms for a school with a capacity of about 430 pupils.
The school runs from class one to standard seven with Early Childhood Educational Classes.
And as other millions of novices in the country wake up to schools with their bags and lunch boxes, pupils at Walala in Sio Ward, have to further empower themselves with household chairs and sometimes stools to their classrooms to enable them have a smooth learning in a school with no desks.
The brave pupils have since adapted to inhospitable weather conditions of heavy down pour in the rainy seasons and the scorching ultra violet rays of the summer as well as time to time turbulent stormy windy conditions, to secure their future through attaining education; at all costs- they say.
At times the pupils are compelled to raise onto their feet as the drastic improvised chairs (stones) change temperatures- hurting their ‘sitting apparatus’.
“Sometimes the stones we sit on as our desks become hot to unbearable temperatures for the hind quatters to handle. During the cold seasons they sometimes cause the system to freeze,” Says 14 year old Teresa Khwaka, a standard five pupil.
The future life of the desperate hundreds of pupils in what is commonly termed as a ‘deserted school’ lies in balance as the overlapping rocks’ classrooms stare at innocent pupils’ partaking their classes daily not knowing when it will fall.
Pupils of Walala - sitting on a ‘time bomb classrooms’ are among the countless pupils in Kenya competing for education and equal opportunities as the country and the continent strives to realize Millennium Development Goals ,MDG- of giving better education to all of its populace.
Situated two kilometers from Bungoma Town, Walala Primary school faces a further acute shortage of teachers.
Murice Okello, school head teacher says that the school was started in 2010 by former Bungoma town mayor, Barasa Mbinga with an aim of relieving pupils from trekking long distances to the neighboring schools.
“Later on parents started construction of two classrooms that are yet to be completed,” said the headteacher, saying that the parents could not fund-raise further to complete the classes.
Walala sits on three-quarters of an acre contrary to the two-and-a-half acres recommended by the Ministry of Education.
The school has seven teachers poated by the government and five PTA employees.
Currently, the school has 430 pupils with running to Class Seven, with 42 pupils, under permanent roof. Class one, with 102 pupils, and Class Six are in mud-walled, iron sheet roofed classroom. The rest of the learners learn under tents, trees or rocks.
“In 2011, foundations of three permanent classes were laid and another in 2012. All these projects are yet to be completed due to lack of funds,” says Mr Omolo.
“Teachers in this school share toilets with pupils. We sometimes share the neighbor toilet,” revealed a teacher.
The head teacher and his deputy share the same office and table. “Here, there is no secret especially when one of us has to meet a teacher, pupil or parent,” adds Omollo.
Walala lacks the very basics including desks. Pupils are sometimes forced to write or even draw on their laps.
Some classes use ad hoc arm-chairs commonly known as Makaka in local Luhya dialect despite the hurdles the school faces in providing education to the needy pupils the school has an interestingly bigger population, approximately 500.
Questions have continued to flow from the country as to which government organ is answerable for the state of public schools in the country, and the funders of classrooms project with since the roll -out of the free primary education.
Unwavering quest for answers to this questions ironically, according to the Assistant Minister in the office of the Prime Minister and the Kanduyi legislature Alfred Khangati (pictured) avers that the problem lays in the rapidly growing population and just partly, on funding constraints.
National Civil society congress member and Jukwaa la Katiba chairman Bungoma county Allan Sitati says that its absurd that the local leader to pretend of the school situation and for worse equating it with the olden days of his time.
“That is a travesty of the whole truth. We should not hide under the shadows of reproduction to evade the single duty of raising educational standards in the region,” says Mr. Sitati who had initially put a court injunction to the construction of Mupeli primary school in the same constituency funded heavily by the Japan government.
Nairobi based Human Resource professional, Polycarp Kimeta argues that the rights of education for pupils should not amount to suffering or torture of that nature calling for the ministry to put necessary measures to avert the infrastructure gaps as the country looks forward to achieve vision 2030 dreams and aspirations.
The Sh. 70 million projects to upgrade slum schools faced controversy after the MP allegedly flouted the procurement procedure putting the Japan government on hold to date over the fund release.
In Mutula primary school in Turkana County children are forced to convert their classrooms into a dormitory at nightfall.
All this happens as the free primary educational funds lie in the treasury meant for the desperate pupils.
The deplorable conditions some children are facing is further putting the Education ministry in question as to why these schools are not being scrutinized and action taken.
Does the rights to education amount to suffering and abuse for the school going children?