Schools in Kenya’s northeast Boni Forest, on the border with Somalia, resumed classes this week, after seven years. Learning was suspended because teachers were unwilling to work in the region following deadly attacks by the militant group Al-Shabaab.
DW’s East Africa journalist Mariel Müller and a co-worker from the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel got rare entrance to the volatile area of Boni Forest near Lamu Island and a team toured one school.
Sea is the only means to access the remote villages near the Somali border. The journey by land is extremely dangerous: Improvised landmines are scattered at the only road, set by Al-Shabaab.
At the end of Boni forest, Kiangwe Primary school has eventually resumed. Pupils are back and excited to resume their studies after seven years of closure following the Al-Shabaab attacks in the area.
Farid Kale is the headteacher and additionally the only teacher in the school. Kale was the only teacher who attempted to return there. With around 100 pupils, he switches classrooms every half an hour, taking up to 3 classes at the same time.
He has to teach everything on his own. The learners are years behind in their education. But they have learned how to respond and react when they hear gunshots, they understand what Al-Shabaab is.
Many parents in the region could not afford to transfer their children to another school. Most of them had to stay at home.
But just 20 kilometers down this road this week an Al-Shabaab explosive device blew up a militant vehicle and killed at least two Kenyan soldiers.
The threat is so great that a military camp has been established up next to the school.
Sixty (60) border patrol officers guard the school and its learners. The officers are concerned that the security state is worsening. Lately, the military protected a larger base from an attack by the terrorists.
These gentlemen put their lives at risk to guard this school against raids.
Seven years ago, Al-Shabaab attacked a nearby village, looted hospitals, and burned down schools.
Then they began rounding up young men for recruitment. Some were spared because of his faith. Presently, with the military base in place, locals feel safer.
The military has even begun helping the kids. Border patrol officers such as Samuel Gitau from next door are walking in as part-time teachers. Gitau studied as a teacher before joining the army. He believes that educating the next generation will intensify the fight against terrorism.
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