About 70,000 police officers are assigned to man schools during the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) and the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) every year. However, some experts now believe that their presence instills more fear than safety.
They argue that uniformed officers are likely to intimidate candidates; others believe their presence boosts security, but another different group suggests it is a mix of both. The Kenya Parents Association (KPA) chairman Nicholas Maiyo, says the presence of police is more important especially in schools located in areas prone to insecurity.
“Take for example places like Mandera and Lamu that are prone to frequent terror attacks on account of bordering Somalia and Baringo, West Pokot that experiences banditry, the presence of police provides standby response in case of an attack,” Maiyo said.
However, he says it is unnecessary to subject the learners to the display of uniforms and guns. “It would be ideal if the police were dressed in civilian clothing like the security detail of high-ranking officials and elected leaders,” Maiyo said.
He explains that this would guarantee the security of examination centers as well as ensuring children do not feel intimidated. Mr. Maiyo now says that the parents’ caucus is going to invite reforms on the use of uniformed and armed police in schools.
Another psychiatrist and former head of the Mathari hospital Mr. Njagi Kumantha stated that the presence of police in schools during the exam may be significant should an urgency that requires security attention emerge. According to Njagi, the men and women in uniform carrying guns and patrolling around during KCPE and KCSE exams could affect the students’ performance negatively.
He however stated that since no conclusive evidence has been given on both opinions it would be difficult to give precise answers on the matter.
He believes that students who encounter police at school are more likely to be criminally charged for breaches otherwise seen as “normal adolescent misbehavior.” A researcher in juvenile justice and schools, former prison warden, and an advocate says criminal acts in schools are occasional and police appearance is just a cautionary measure.
The program began in the 1980s and expanded throughout the 1990s and 2000s with the Ministry of Education demanding at least two police officers to be stationed in every examination center.
A study carried in Pennsylvania on the impact of police presence in the wake of mass shootings in schools in the US proposes that the presence of police is linked with heightened student arrests and referrals to authorities. The study associates police appearance in schools to significant negative results including school drop-out and increased likelihood of future engagement with the criminal justice system.
The Star reports that more than 200 students in Kenya have been arrested in the last 5 years due to examination malpractice. Some of those arrested either carried mobile phones to the examination room.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) secretary-general Wilson Sossion said that police may take action on offenses that would otherwise not be deemed criminal. He added that students are arrested at higher rates for reasons that would have been ordinarily dealt with by school administrators.
In the ongoing KCSE examination, a student is reported to have refused to be frisked before entering the examination room. The candidate hit the police, destroyed their vehicle and escapes exam.